What is the relationship between the places we work and our ability to innovate? From the layout of your office to the business tools you use each day, our work environments play a key role in our ability to think critically and creatively about unexplored avenues for future success.

In an age where technology is so wholly integrated with our work processes, many businesses have turned to emerging tech solutions to help them convert their manual, physical workspaces into digital alternatives. This can help you streamline your business process and pinpoint areas of inefficiencies where you need innovation the most.

To get you started on the path toward integrating technology into your office’s workspaces, we’ve listed a few primary strategies that will best promote innovation culture across your organization.

Automate Daily Tasks

In the year 2020 and beyond, artificial intelligence technology will have a monumental impact on the speed at which companies are able to innovate. Many businesses have adopted AI in the form of robotic process automation to autonomously execute on a wide range of tasks, from sifting through customer data to assembling your product on the factory line. By identifying replicable patterns in your workflows, robotic process automation (RPA) can recreate what previously required manual labor to complete—usually at an expedited pace and without inconsistencies caused by human error.

With some organizations earning up to four times in returns on their RPA investments, it’s no wonder why so many businesses, regardless of size or industry, are looking for opportunities to automate. But how, exactly, does this return on investment translate to improvements in innovation culture?

Think of it this way—if you’re constantly bogged down with the same daily assignments, you’ll never have time to step back and consider how you could complete this work faster and more accurately, which is an essential part of the innovation mindset. Constant busyness at work may help you get through your to-do list, but you also won’t have the opportunity or mental bandwidth needed for brainstorming and creative ideation.

De-wire Your Communication

Whether you own a three-person operation or lead a franchised establishment, effective communication among your teammates is essential to innovating with others. Great organizational innovation derives largely from collaboration, idea sharing and tearing down informational silos, all of which is impossible without proper communication. And since nearly 70% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with the employees who report to them, creating workspaces where communication is clear and concise is a top priority if you’re looking to promote innovation culture.

To provide better avenues for communicating, modern offices have started to “unplug” their communication tools, or use services that can fully operate over broadband internet. In part, this is to accommodate the growing demand that employees place on their employers when it comes to better utilizing technology—74% of employees in a recent poll stated they wanted workplace tools that would allow them to work from anywhere, while 36% of those surveyed said that the right collaboration applications were extremely influential during their employment search.

The solution for many is to de-wire their communications through an internet-based unified communications plan. Often abbreviated to UCaaS, these tools help businesses develop online workspaces for their various communication channels, as everything from phone calls to team chats operate through the cloud. UCaaS and other modern communication devices can help your workforce by allowing them to communicate from where, when and by what means they prefer—be it at home on your work laptop or in the office on the phone set.

Update Your Flex-Work Policy

The days of the cubicle and 9-to-5 shifts are coming to an end as both employers and employees have discovered more accommodating, productive environments through flexible work benefits. On top of creating a happier employee experience and reducing the costs of renting and maintaining a physical office (nearly six out of ten employers have noted lower overhead costs), remote work promises to become a significant driver in a business’ ability to innovate.
An article on the HuffPost website outlines some of the primary factors that make remote workspaces a hotbed for innovation. One core component is the reduction of traditional meetings that remote teams need to attend. In-person gatherings are, contrary to popular belief, debilitating to collaboration and creativity, and they generate $37 billion in misused resources. Independent thinking on your own time is alternatively much more fruitful when it comes to generating ideas. Remote work is also great for innovation because it, by its very nature, encourages autonomy and accountability. When managers aren’t able to visit you at your desk to see how work is going, employees are held to a higher personal standard to own the projects that you assign to them.

If you’re interested in offering flexible work opportunities to your employees but aren’t quite sure where to begin, consider first migrating to a time-tracking project management tool. Digital project management workspaces give team members who are either working outside of your communal office space or outside of normal work hours a place to connect with their team members and see how their personal tasks align with larger objectives. Virtual project plans are simultaneously an effective virtual space for innovation, as you’ll be able to visualize the entire scope of your project and pinpoint where work could be accomplished more quickly or at a higher quality.

Modernize Your Office Layout

If flexible work environments aren’t an option for your company, it’s still quite possible to revamp your current office space for optimal innovation. According to WeWork, everything from color temperature to the structural layout of your building can affect an employee’s wellbeing and their happiness at work. One business in such a study observed that bringing plants into their workspace resulted in a 15% boost in concentration and worker satisfaction.
Innovative office spaces take the science of our attention spans, our ability to focus and our motivation to be productive and translate these attributes into a feasible work environment. Perhaps the most significant example of this is your desk arrangement. Cubicles were once the optimal design for a business until offices began to notice lower levels of collaboration and communication within their workforce. At the other end of the spectrum, open floor plan offices have risen in popularity in the past decade, though their team-centered design has come at the cost of noisy workplaces and distractions from others.
Instead of settling for one or the other, your business should consider moving toward a mixed-use workspace. Mixed-use spaces take the best features of the cubicle and the open office and fuse them into a single environment. This ensures that your office tailors to the work needs of every personality—from the quiet individualist to the animated team leader. Regardless of what your office currently looks like, you can easily migrate to a mixed-use workspace by delineating areas for concentrated focus and other spaces for collaborative brainstorming. This will help ensure that everyone in your office has their ideal environment to improve, innovate and contribute to overall company goals.