Leadership, Managing people

An inconvenient seat

Andrew Sadauskas /

taskmasterAs long time readers will know, there have recently been some renovations at Taskmaster Towers.

 

As “nice” as it would be to use the extra space by having larger lunch rooms, meeting rooms or even a spare John Deere combine harvester, the aim of the building works has been to create more office space for desks with enough room for future expansion.

 

That leads to one of the really tricky questions of office management: Who sits where?

 

Window-side seats have been claimed, pleaded and begged for. Esoteric layouts have been proposed by team leaders. Some place such a high emphasis on line-of-sight contact between employees that Walter Burley Griffin would no doubt blush.

 

The most esoteric plans come from the sensible team leaders who want to either go back to the “underrated good ‘ole days” of the cubicle farm or move forward to a bean bag-based hot-desking “utopia”.

 

Meanwhile, the team leaders with less robust egos are clamouring for the corner offices. Of course, outside being an office status symbol, the whole concept of the corner office is quite overrated.

 

Many aeons ago in school, Taskmaster was told to sit in the corner quite frequently – more than enough for one lifetime. A room with no view and no interruptions is a much better option than a seat in the corner.

 

Aside from saving some fragile egos by relinquishing a corner office and not filling it with useless furniture, there is another worthwhile step that has made the task of organising seating at Taskmaster Towers a lot easier: A staff questionnaire.

 

A couple of weeks ago, all the staff were given a confidential questionnaire asking three questions: Who they most commonly need to work with, who they would ideally sit near if they could choose to sit next to anyone, and who they would least want to sit next to.

 

You would be surprised at what you can learn from such a simple questionnaire. Hardworking but technically illiterate Old Cratchit from accounts and the Gen-Y Tech Master are apparently keeping each other in jobs, so – as counterintuitive as it might have seemed at first – the accounts team and the techies need to sit near each other.

 

The second question highlights who probably should not sit next to each other, at least if you care about productivity. Lunch rooms are there for socialising and desks are for work.

 

Staff who have to walk halfway across the office to gossip are easier to monitor than staff who sit next to each other and constantly distract each other from their work.

 

Finally, the third question is perhaps the most interesting of all. The truth is that it has little impact on who sits where – the first two questions have already decided that. Instead, it has highlighted a few office rivalries the team leaders and yours truly will have to keep an eye on in the future.

 

Have you sent your staff a seating questionnaire recently? If not, you probably should.

 

Get it done – today!

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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