You cannot mandate productivity, you must provide the tools to let people become their best. -Steve Jobs

Maintaining a motivated and productive workforce is a feat in itself, and as we head into the summer months, focus can dwindle even more.

You can't control how your employees work. But there are elements of your business you can control, like the environment you create to ensure productivity is not only enabled but even maximized.

This doesn't mean you need a utopian, Google-like campus to inspire; even start-ups on the tightest of budgets can create a collaborative, connected space that allows everyone to achieve their potential and become top performers.

As with most things in business, when it comes to office environments, you can never please everyone. No matter who your architect or designer --even if that designer happens to be you --there will be grappling about how loud/quiet/cramped/empty/fun/professional your space should be.

The good thing is, you don't need to create a space that will solve all of your problems. Instead, you can focus on creating a space that builds the productivity of your business, while supporting your unique culture.

Leaders on the topic of office design and employee engagement recently came together to share their insights on how to create a collaborative environment for the e-book Building a Connected Workspace. Here's all you need to know.

  1. Employee feedback creates employee loyalty. Your team knows the nuances of interdepartmental workings in a way no architect ever could. How would a designer know your salespeople tend to walk around on headsets, or that the legal team can't be bothered with the developers' NERF guns? Greg Besner, CEO of CultureIQ, notes, "I recommend collecting employee feedback before, during, and after making decisions about the workplace." Besides creating a space that works best for everyone, Greg adds, "Employees feel ownership over and respect for the space, which translates into loyalty...for the company."
  2. Acknowledge that we all have different moods -- and plan for it. Jacob Morgan, cofounder of The Future of Work Community and Forbes contributor, suggests, "Don't focus on open floor plans versus cubicles. Instead, focus on creating multiple modes of working." Fostering a collaborative space doesn't mean every wall is meant for group whiteboarding. Build a place for people to disappear into and work alone or in small groups. Or support a policy where it's okay for an employee to disappear into Starbucks for a couple hours if that works for them. We all have our own ways of getting things done, and to recognize this means you are closer to getting the most productivity out of your team.
  3. Don't let anyone hide from the business. You can't afford to have siloed teams that aren't in on company-wide goals. From accountants to sales people to designers, everyone should be able to communicate your vision to someone on the elevator (or just their moms) and be regularly exposed to different areas of the business. An easy way to do this? Tarek Pertew, Uncubed cofounder, gathers the entire company once a week to expose them to a different side of the business. This practice not only creates a more collaborative and united workplace, but it also accelerates product improvements as fresh eyes see them and new voices are heard. At my company, we're always looking for skills outside of an employee's primary position. Creating tiger teams assigned to specific projects can unearth a web coder's great campaign idea or a project manager with secret creative flair.
  4. What you stand for as a company should guide your employees. Let your core values be the thread that connect how your employees work together and with your customers from day one. Erica Stokes of Poppin says, "We're very transparent about the type of culture we support--even during the interview process." Being upfront with how you do business and your expectations will help you hire the right people and ensure consistency in how they work. Give them the tools to collaborate how you expect them to. At my company, we even created a guide about how to run meaningful meetings, which we expect our customer-facing employees to also implement when out in the field.

Collaboration is more than trendy open offices with whiteboard walls and lunchtime yoga. It's about a top-performing environment that allows every individual to contribute at their highest potential--and it's within every business owner's reach. For more insights and ideas, check out the Building a Connected Workspace ebook and share your own thoughts with me at @RobLoCascio.