The Spacial Relationship: Who An Employee Sits Next To Has An Impact On Performance
In my previous corporate life, I spent about 3 years sharing an office cubicle with 2 other employees. All in all, we had a great relationship and although we did goof off from time to time, we made a great team. We were very efficient. Being that close allowed us to easily communicate and by proximity, we were always on the same page. I would have to say this situation may not be the best for everyone and if I weren’t so lucky to have worked well with my fellow employees, this “spacial relationship” would have been a disaster.
Recently, a study of 2,000 workers over the span of 2 years concluded that who an employee sits next to does have a significant impact on his or her performance, both positively and negatively. According to the findings, placing the right type of workers in close proximity to each other has been shown to generate up to a 15% increase in organizational performance.
The researchers separated workers into one of three groups: productive workers, generalists, and quality workers. Productive workers are faster than the average worker, but they produce lower quality work. Conversely, quality workers produce higher quality work, but they do so at a slower pace. Generalists are average when it comes to productivity and quality.
They also considered three measures of positive performance: Productivity (how long it takes to complete a task), effectiveness (how many times a worker needs to pass off a task to someone else), and quality (how satisfied the task recipient is).
They found that matching productive and quality workers together in one seating area and matching generalists together in another generates a 13% gain in productivity, a 17% gain in effectiveness, and overall up to a 15% gain in organizational performance.
What was also interesting, is that when you paired Productive workers with Quality workers, both groups increased productivity and effectiveness. This means that workers that may struggle with work output faired better when placed near high performing employees. The bottom line is that this study made it very apparent that with modern organizations shifting to open floor plans and flexible workspaces, there is actually a science behind employee seating charts. Where you place employees, matters.
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