Whether it’s a bright, bustling space that encourages brainstorming, or a cosy quiet spot perfect for crunching numbers in peace, everyone has their do’s and don’ts for their ideal working environment. Now throw those two polar opposite working styles into a room together and try to please them both with one office seating plan, sounds pretty impossible doesn’t it?
If you’ve been put in charge of the dreaded office seating plan – you’ve certainly got your work cut out for you. The key to creating a more productive work environment for your team is strategy.
Believe it or not, where you sit at work makes an exponential difference and according to a University of Warwick study, a happy work environment makes people around 12% more productive.
So how do we achieve a happier and more productive workforce simply by moving a few desks around? There’s a lot more that goes into an office seating plan than you might think – for example, seating quality workers together, and seating generalists separately in their own group showed a 13% rise in productivity and a 17% gain in effectiveness.
If you’re not sure where to begin, fear not, we’ve got a few hints and tips from our years of housing small businesses to share with you.
Remember those 90s cubicles that felt more like a prison cell? That’s really not the message you want to send to your staff, so should steer clear of cubicles and high partitions where possible. Having a hybrid office that is mostly open plan with quieter areas when needed is best where productivity is concerned as it promotes a more inclusive workplace with fewer barriers between teams – but still allows a quieter space for those introverts in your team when necessary.
You basically should aim to create a bright, collaborative and barrier-free environment for your team. Generally speaking, if someone has a reason not to do something, even if it’s as minuscule as walking round to their side of the cubicle, they will be less likely to ask the questions they need to get on with their day.
Additionally, from a management perspective, an open office seating plan also means you’ll be able to keep an eye on your team more, so you can rest assured your team aren’t playing a crafty game of Candy Crush on your time.
Time your move well
It might sound really obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people underestimate how long an office move can take. Moving your seating plan around is a pretty labour intensive task, and you won’t want to do this while people are in the office so as not to disrupt their work.
The ideal time to give your office a reshuffle is over the weekend, or if coming in during your precious downtime is a no go – you could always let your staff work from home for the day to give you room to create their new environment.
In the case of some of our clients, if they’re a really small business of 5 people or less, it’s not uncommon for them to enlist their team to help out as it’s a lot to try and sort out on your own.
You’ve only got a certain amount of space to work with, so choose carefully when it comes to selecting how to lay out your desks. It’s a good idea to refer back to your team’s structure when planning your office layout – do you want teams to have their own cluster of desks or should everyone be connected on a large bay of desks? Have a think about how you’d like your team to work and think of how you can encourage this through your desk layout.
Be mindful of how various aspects of your office environment could affect your team members, for instance, have you inadvertedly placed a desk in front of the radiator or air con? Does the sun shine directly into your colleague’s eyes? Is there too much footfall in a certain area for a person to work there comfortably and without distraction?
The best way to see whether your new seating arrangement works is to test it out with your team for a week, let them fill out a questionnaire at the end and be open to tweaks and changes.
To assign or not to assign?
It’s up for debate whether assigned seating is the way to go at all. While you’ll know better than most whether assigned seating will be a good fit for your business, generally you want to have some say in who sits where.
For instance you might want to seat newer employees next to more experienced members of staff so they can show them the ropes, on the other hand it may make more sense to seat your employees together based on their teams rather than experience as they’ll be interacting with each other more. Alternatively, you might want to opt for an unassigned office seating plan and encourage a more fluid environment, although this may not be popular with the routine-loving introverts in your business.
These days, sitting at a desk in one spot for 8 hours a day is becoming a thing of the past. Creating comfortable areas in your office means that your team has a change of scene to help them work through that mid-afternoon slump we’re all so familiar with.
So what do we mean by comfortable areas? Think sofas, armchairs, benches and even beanbags if you’re a quirky bunch. It may sound silly, but simply getting up and going to another area of the room for meetings or brainstorming sessions can really give your team a second wind when they’re feeling swamped.
Go the extra mile by utilising outdoor areas if you’ve got the space to, for instance our Branston Court courtyard is used by our tenants, particularly during the summer months, who often sit and have their lunch and chat with colleagues. Giving your team the option to get outdoors when they need a breather will make all the difference to their overall happiness.
While you’ll want to keep a handle on seating arrangements, you’ve also got to allow for a bit of movement if your team aren’t fans of their new seats. Also accept that you might need to shuffle people around depending on their needs to perform better. Some people may need a quieter spot to concentrate and give it their all, while others will prefer to be in a more chatty environment so they can bounce ideas around their team.
Then there’s new starters, if you’re a growing business the chances are you’ll be adding to your team of specialists in the near future. You might want to future-proof your seating plan by adding in some spare desks that new starters can have but in the meantime could be used for hotdesking purposes.