Why office seating matters
The layout of your office may seem insignificant, but it actually plays a major role in workplace performance. Employees work best when they feel physically and mentally comfortable. Workers also need mental stimulation to prevent depression-inducing burnout and a lack of creativity.
Your office seating can make employees miserable or create a pleasant work environment. Chairs should be adjustable to reduce back and neck pain, and desks should be a height that works well for each employee. Workers can sit near each other and share ideas, but placing employees too close together can make them uncomfortable.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for office seating because every workplace has different needs. Ideally, your layout should promote creativity, encourage collaboration and reduce cliques. It may take some trial and error before you find the perfect layout, but rotating desks throughout the year can help.
When you create office seating arrangements, consider the following factors:
Are your employees physically comfortable? Equip your office with furniture designed to protect workers’ well-being, such as adjustable-height chairs with lumbar support and ergonomically friendly desks.
Do employees have enough room to work on tasks and walk through the office, or are desks crowded together? The goal is to place coworkers close enough for collaboration, yet give team members enough space to work independently when needed.
Is it too cold or too hot in your workplace? It’s difficult to please every employee when it comes to thermostat settings, but there are some things you should keep in mind. For example, an employee who gets cold easily should not be stuck under a fan or near the air conditioner. A worker who wears shorts year round, even when it snows, may not appreciate a spot by the heater.
Light impacts performance, so make sure artificial and natural light meets your team’s needs. Take a look around the office—are the lights too bright or too dim? Do you need blinds or curtains for any windows?
Research indicates that employees are most productive when a room is illuminated with cool-toned lighting. This includes natural sunlight and lighting with temperatures of 4,600 Kelvin or higher.
Some tasks aren’t appropriate for group settings. Where can workers go if they need to discuss confidential data with a client or colleague? Employees need access to a conference room or meeting area when discretion is important.
What if an employee is tackling a solo project and prefers to work in a quiet environment? Make sure you provide a quiet workspace, such as a private office or corner of the room, for projects of this nature.
Pros and cons of rotating or changing seating assignments
It’s easy to get stuck in a routine at work, especially if you have long-time employees at your company. Rotating desks may irritate your team at first, but tweaking an office seating arrangement can have numerous benefits. Review the pros and cons below so you can decide if revamping office seating is right for your team.
- Exposure to new employees can boost creativity and inspire unique ideas
- Workers can make new friends instead of just mingling with familiar faces
- Teams can collaborate throughout the day
- You can place recent hires near experienced workers so they can learn the ropes
- Your office may become more organized, so you can find supplies faster or access equipment easier
- Employees may become interested in other company functions and pursue opportunities, such as a promotion or leadership opportunity, they would have originally ignored
- Employees who don’t like change may struggle with a new layout, at least initially
- Workers may find the new layout distracting
- Conflict may arise if team members seated together end up disliking each other
- Adjusting to a new layout takes time, even if your team is in favor of the change
- Moving furniture and supplies can be a time-intensive task, which may disrupt the flow of business
If you decide the advantages outweigh the drawbacks of a layout change, make sure you execute your new seating arrangement correctly.
How you should handle moving employees
Expect some arguments against office seating rotations if you haven’t changed your layout in a while. Some employees may fear change could disrupt their performance, and this is a valid concern. Plan a meeting so workers have a platform for their thoughts, and use this time to review the advantages of seating changes as well.
Here are some other actions you should take when moving employees:
1. Announce changes in advance
Don’t just walk into the office one day and declare that it’s time to rearrange office seating. This destroys trust, and your team may lose respect for you. Announce changes as soon as you can, and better yet, schedule routine layout swaps on a shared calendar.
2. Swap everyone
Avoid playing favorites when you change office seating. Everyone should move to a new spot, even workers in leadership roles or long-term employees. This may upset some workers, but it’s important to switch things up sometimes. Changing the layout helps prevent office cliques from forming and gives everyone a chance to get to know each other better.
3. Keep teams close
Place workers near team members who are handling the same projects, but make sure they also have exposure to other departments. This may inspire new ideas for products or services and also show workers different methods for task completion.
One option is to group team members within similar departments so they can collaborate on projects. For example, you may find it helpful to place your product development team near your marketing team. Marketers understand the needs of your target demographic, and this knowledge can benefit product developers. If the two teams join forces daily instead of just sharing ideas at meetings, imagine what they could create together.
4. Enlist help
Moving can be a hassle, whether you’re buying a new home or rotating desks in your office. Don’t leave your employees with the burden of implementing a new office seating arrangement during the workday. Offer overtime for workers who are interested, or consider hiring an outside team to move furniture and supplies.
It’s OK to shake things up a bit sometimes, even if your team is initially resistant to change. Cultivate a creative work environment and boost productivity by rearranging your office seating as needed.