How an office seating plan can affect the bottom line

How an office seating plan can affect the bottom line

Office seating plans may generally be decided on a practical basis, but a new study has found that where staff sit can have a serious effect on morale and productivity.

Researchers at Cornerstone OnDemand and Harvard Business School uncovered how the distance between two employees’ desks affects various performance measures, and how placing the right type of workers in close proximity to each other has been shown to generate up to a 15% increase in organisational performance – Business Wire reports.

The report analysed data from more than 2,000 employees over a two-year period and concluded that who an employee sits next to can have a significant impact on their performance, for both positive and negative situations.

Research uncovered three types of workers: Productive, Generalists and Quality. Productive workers are very productive but lack in quality. In contrast, Quality workers produce superior quality but lack in productivity. All the while, Generalists are average on both dimensions.

Seating Productive and Quality workers together and seating Generalists separately in their own group shows a 13% gain in productivity and a 17% gain in effectiveness. In short, symbiotic relationships are created from pairing those with opposite strengths.

The study concluded that, for an organisation of 2,000 workers, strategic seating planning could add up to an estimated $1million per annum to profits.

“Until now, not much has been explored on how the physical location of an employee and proximity to others can impact their productivity and performance,” said Dylan Minor, Visiting Assistant Professor for Harvard Business School.

“These results suggest that companies can develop a framework to maximise organisational performance simply through the physical placement of workers. Physical space is something organisations can manage relatively inexpensively, and it should be viewed as an important resource in increasing the returns to human capital.”

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