How to Build Thriving Notion Workspaces for Large Companies
The easiest Notion workspace to set up is for a one-person team.
Why? There’s one decision-maker, a clear set of objectives, and no consequences for exploring different ways to organize information.
But when you scale up to a 100+ person company, building and launching a Notion workspace that minimizes friction and maximizes focus is exponentially more challenging.
And more often than not, workspaces at larger companies unravel, become too hard to navigate, or worst of all, get abandoned.
The good news is not only is this avoidable, but Notion workspaces (especially with the Enterprise Plan) have the capacity to organize large amounts of data, while still controlling what content is presented to employees, and for what purpose.
Building and maintaining an effective workspace for large teams definitely takes more consideration than for individuals or small teams, but with the right framework and resources, it can be a seamless process.
Why are digital workspaces so valuable for larger companies?
Digital workspaces are crucial for large companies (even more so for remote or hybrid companies) because they can provide several key advantages.
🤝 Enhanced productivity and collaboration
Digital workspaces can centralize information, tools, and communication, allowing employees to access the resources they need quickly and easily. This can lead to increased productivity and efficiency, as employees can find the information they need without having to search for it across multiple systems.
Ever opened Google Drive or OneDrive, searching endlessly for the right file, only to find there’s a newer version out there that you missed? Yup, this is what happens when there’s no clear digital workspace strategy, and the cost — in hours, energy and attention — is too high when accounting for all employees.
Additionally, digital workspaces can facilitate collaboration by providing a shared space for teams to work on projects together.
💬 Improved communication
Digital workspaces can provide a central hub for communication, reducing the need for email overload and silos of information. Employees can share files, messages, and updates in real-time, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Additionally, digital workspaces can integrate with communication tools such as video conferencing and chat, further enhancing communication capabilities.
I’m a big proponent of consolidating communications in Notion, as you can have smaller, micro-interactions at the page level, but this may not be suitable for some organizations. Which is why workflow audits and comprehensive planning ensure what’s built is optimized for employees (but we’ll get more into that later).
🏃🏻♀️ Increased agility and responsiveness: Digital workspaces can help companies adapt to changing needs and market conditions more quickly. By providing a centralized platform for information and communication, companies can respond to emerging challenges and opportunities more effectively. Additionally, digital workspaces can support innovation by providing a platform for employees to share ideas and collaborate on new projects.
For example, I love the way teams can set up OKRs in one database, and seamlessly relate them to projects & initiatives. Pulling data from various areas of the workspace gives teams the opportunity to design focused dashboards with only the most actionable information.
🙋🏽 Improved employee engagement and satisfaction
Digital workspaces can create a more connected and engaged workforce.
This is huge for remote teams, where the only interaction is via virtual conferencing. This also goes beyond organizing information, including customizing the look, feel, and overall vibe of team spaces, which can help build a healthy culture.
By providing a user-friendly and personalized experience, companies can make it easier for employees to find the information and resources they need to do their jobs. Additionally, digital workspaces can support employee development and recognition by providing opportunities for learning and feedback.
💸 Reduced costs and improved IT efficiency
Digital workspaces can help companies reduce IT costs by consolidating multiple systems and applications into a single platform. This is where tools like Notion shine, as you can track meeting notes, execute projects, and manage interactions in one place.
Is Notion perfect at all of these? Definitely not. But the benefits of consolidating work into less tools saves time and energy, not having to jump back and forth between tools.
Again, this definitely varies by organization, and it’s always useful to weigh the costs & benefits of consolidation vs. using multiple specialized tools.
Sidenote; Notion Enterprise recently had a few big updates, helping admins control permissions, access, and security across team spaces. Notion has invested heavily in features that appeal to larger organizations, and the latest updates are a huge step forward.
🔒 Enhanced security and compliance
Digital workspaces can help companies improve their security posture by providing a centralized platform for managing access controls and data protection.
If you’re in operations (or have colleagues in ops), you’re aware of the dizzying number of accounts, platforms and security permissions that need to be managed for each employee.
Less tools equals less to manage. 🙂
Additionally, digital workspaces can help companies comply with regulatory requirements by providing audit trails and tracking user activity.
How to Set Up Effective Workspaces for Big Teams
This can feel like a daunting task, but like any big project, we can break it up into smaller, more manageable action items. There’s surely a lot more to consider when 100+ people are using one shared workspace, but getting regular input from employees, getting feedback on prototypes, and setting aside time for training and support can help organizations get ahead of 90% of the issues that can come up when adopting a new digital workspace.
There are four key phases of setting up a highly-effective digital workspace, which are as follows:
🎯 Start with Clear Goals & Objectives
On the majority of discovery calls with bigger companies, there’s typically one issue that causes workspaces to slowly unravel: a lack of clarity around goals.
It seems basic, but companies tend to skip over three fundamental questions:
Why are we setting up this workspace?
Why do we need it?
How will we measure its effectiveness?
I get it. With the pace of work today, it’s hard to carve out time and energy to discuss these broader questions, instead opting for quickly hacking together templates to build out an ad hoc workspace.
But this almost always leads to more confusion, disorganization and frustration for employees, especially for new hires.
Setting clear goals also doesn’t have to be a drawn out process. Answering these three key questions is enough to get started, as every decision around file management, databases, or teamspaces can refer back to the company’s larger goals.
🗺️ Planning & Implementation
Think this is the most intensive part of the process? Think again. We’ll get into why in the next section.
Planning starts with expanding on the three questions above. This is also the perfect opportunity to involve stakeholders from as many teams/departments as possible. It’s critical to get as many ideas as possible on the following questions:
What do we intend to do in Notion vs. other platforms?
What reservations do we have about implementing Notion?
What is everyone’s familiarity level, and how do we ensure everyone’s prepared to use the workspace effectively?
Large companies are bound to have employees on different ends of the spectrum when it comes to Notion familiarity and openness to new workflows.
Conducting a workflow audit also helps to map out exactly what teams are doing, managing and referencing in Notion (you’ll find a free resource below).
The audit can feel tedious, but it’s not only helpful for workspace implementation, but to understand company hierarchy, goals, and the suite of tools used by department. This type of clarity is valuable for remote employees, helping gain context as to what workflows look like across departments.
While energy and optimism are high (hopefully), it’s also important to discuss the common pitfalls with workspaces that are not build and launched with intention. The frustration and friction that can come from ad hoc teamspaces, dashboards and pages can linger for months, not to mention the worst case scenario: employees leaving due to disorganization.
🙌🏼 Getting Buy-In to Ensure Adoption
This is actually where the bulk of the work happens. Surely, defining how workspaces are set up is important, but it’s meaningless if employees are not only on board with the transition, but excited to organize and consolidate work.
Remember, the meta goal for building a shared digital workspace is to make work easier, and to maximize time and energy for deep, creative work.
Buy-in starts with inviting stakeholders from different departments into the fold, having an open line of communication, and encouraging feedback throughout the process. These stakeholders will be the champions of the new workspace, and if they’re not on board, you can be sure their teams will not be either.
By structuring conversations, brainstorms, and feedback sessions around the original three questions, these conversations stay on the rails, and prioritize the actionable items.
In addition to stakeholders playing a critical role in the building process, it’s as important to make sure they have a foundational understanding of Notion workspaces, including managing page structures, databases, permissions, and communications. This is a long-term investment that decreases the company’s reliance on outside consultants, as internal employees can train and support employees and new hires.
🎉 Sharing Goals with All Employees
Once the workspace is readying to launch, this is a good time to provide updates to all employees. There are bound to be questions about the process, which is why there needs to be an easy way for employees to ask questions. This can happen in a Slack channel, or using a lean form like Tally to track questions.
Opening avenues for feedback helps the transition feel more collaborative, and less like a top-down, mandatory change that everyone is required to adopt.
If everyone is aligned on implementing tools and workflows to minimize distraction and maximize deep work (which they should be), launching a new workspace is on firm footing.
🧪 Beta Testing
This is where stakeholders are actively building, testing, and optimizing what will make up the final workspace. Beta testing takes a UX-focused approach to make sure assumptions don’t lead to more friction, and pages are easy to navigate.
Some questions to consider when setting up databases and dashboards:
Are we presenting the most essential information?
Is this the easiest format to navigate?
Can employees brand new to Notion navigate the workspace effectively?
What questions are likely to come up?
Above all, beta testing ensures spaces are optimized for employees’ workflows. This sets custom workspaces apart from generic templates, and is a big factor in employees continuing to use the workspace effectively.
🚀 Time to Launch
Once the workspace, teamspaces, and associated databases are ready to launch, there are a few key strategies to make sure there’s still buy-in, and employees have the support they need to thrive.
For each database and dashboard, having a clear description of what information is managed, and what the expectations are for usage decreased confusion significantly
Whether via a Notion page, Slack channel, or form, it’s imperative employees have the opportunity to share questions or concerns. This is useful for the optimization phase.
These can be hosted by either internal Notion champions or outside consultants, but office hours encourage employees to bring in their own questions, and make for a productive use of time, as the focus is responsive to employees questions and concrerns
🔄 Optimize with Intention
Companies are made up of individual employees. There are bound to be opinions, new ideas, or concerns that, if reviewed thoroughly, can help improve the workspace, making for a smarter, more intuitive experience.
Teams can decide to review workspaces and workflows on a monthly or quarterly basis, but the important thing to note: avoid minor tweaks or changes to how the workspace is structured. This can be extremely confusing for employees, especially without proper documentation outlining the changes.
These reviews are also good opportunities to revisit the original goals. Are they still relevant? Are there any workflow changes that should be reflected in the workspace? Goals are bound to change as the company mission evolves.
There are many more ways workspaces can unravel for large teams, but it’s by no means inevitable. This process can also be led by an internal team, an outside consultant, or both. When sufficient time and energy is invested in building a workspace that’s optimized for the company’s day-to-day workflows, companies are set up for success.
Workflow Audit Template
If you’re rebuilding your team’s workspace, or curious about how we conduct workflow audits, check the link below to get access to the resource for free! Get the Workflow Audit
If you’re new here, Hey! 👋🏼
I’m Dave de Céspedes (aka The Notion Coach), a Certified Notion Consultant. I build high performance Notion workspaces for teams, and I’ve helped launch over 30 workspaces for creators, startups and 500+ person companies.
Does your team need help maximizing Notion? I’m here to help. Schedule a quick discovery call to see if your company is a good fit.