Office Seating: Who Sits Where And How Does It Matter?

You don’t need a business coach or productivity expert to explain how seating the right people within proximity impacts work quality, innovation, and collaboration. You might be surprised to find out the amount of impact it can make when some people sit next to others, how to shuffle seating, and how to do it in a way that starts improving productivity. Experienced professionals and research data both suggest a thoughtful seating arrangement has significant value for employees and employers alike.

But how to jump-start optimized seating around the office in a company that is a complete newbie? What should be their first move? Of course, it depends on the company’s size, cultures, and the objectives it will set, but there are a few tips any brand can apply to start noticing instant differences.

Minimize Disturbances

There’s something peculiar about employees with similar working styles in close proximity, and it needs to be discussed. For instance, assume half your team members come in early and leave early, while the others prefer to come in a little later and stay late. The early-comers are bound to be disturbed when the latecomers arrive in a stampede. On the other hand, those who stay back later will be disturbed when the early-comers leave before them. Organizing to seat such groups together makes sense when setting up a seating plan that works for as many of your employees as possible.

Function-Based Layout

Grouping people based on their department is also an essential factor for office productivity and is also the reason analysts sit next to analysts and developers sit next to developers. Although this sounds like basic common sense, it’s not that easy because departments are not the only functions that teams are divided based on.

Teams are dedicated to a single vision, and a few similarities here and there is all it takes for a team to learn from one another. It can be described as a form of professional cross-pollination that pays dividends in the long term. Couple the marketing team with customer service or pair the sales team with finance and see what innovations and collaborations float to the surface.

Anticipate Needs and Innovate 

Karen Gately, the founder of HR consultant firm Corporate Dojo, says that it’s crucial to be mindful of the different personalities and preferences of employees. While some would prefer an open-plan environment “where so much is going on” around them with people chattering constantly, the introverts are bound to be at a significant disadvantage. Companies must create an environment that serves everyone’s needs, even if they can’t satisfy everyone’s preferences. “An environment that’s conducive to everyone’s working styles, with places to escape to, quiet areas and meeting spaces, so people aren’t all talking at other people’s desks.”

The best solution, according to the HR guru, is blended office spaces with private areas for sensitive discussions and open plan areas as well as team pods.

What if Companies Don’t Do It

If companies are rigid and insist on existing infrastructure, there will be minimal productive and creative evolution within the office. For instance, with the lack of a rotational seating plan or flexible working, seating positions will always be strict. There will be someone who’s always in a good spot by the window, someone who’s next to the water dispenser, and some unlucky ones by the bathrooms.

You’ll also see people who find the office too cold, hot, or humid, and then there are those who bring a shawl or duvet to make their stance very clear.

Nonetheless, remember that there are some immediate benefits and drawbacks for companies if & when they implement a comprehensive seating plan:

  • Optimized seating can result in financial savings. Saving companies real estate costs and preventing daily expenses from adding up quickly. 
  • The right way of placing employees will have a significant impact on productivity since preferences differ in terms of social activity and ambient noise.
  • Strategizing a seating plan will set in motion a cross-pollination effect through which employees will pick up several skills, work habits, and best practices while sitting alongside people from people of departments and expertise.
Viveka Batra

Viveka Batra

Human Resources Business Partner


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