People are people, after all, and can only cope with adverse circumstances for so long before it impacts their work efficiency, and ultimately, their desire to continue in their present job.

We’ve devised the following tips to assist in finding the optimum seating arrangement for members of staff. There is no one perfect office seating plan template, but the points below are all worth serious consideration in regards to the organisation of your workplace:

Operate within the limits of company culture

It’s amazing how many businesses try and force their seating plans to resist their existing company culture, to the detriment of everyone involved. For example, an open and collaborative marketing agency benefits most from a similarly social seating plan, with desks facing and adjacent to the desks of colleagues, so that team work and cooperation are available with relative ease. Trying to force isolation, out of a misguided attempt to boost productivity, is therefore likely to have the opposite effect in this situation.

At the same time, companies with a culture and output that are more dependent on concentration and individual completion of work, such as software or sales companies, will benefit from a comparatively less open office layout; facing colleagues away from each other, or utilising the careful placement of office partition screens. This should reduce the compulsion for distraction, though collaboration is still easy when necessary.

Identify the preferential positions in the office, and delegate them fairly

Whether everyone is aware of it or not, work colleagues quickly formulate an idea of where the ‘best’ seating in the office is located; the specific attributes of the ‘best’ seats will differ from office to office, depending on the nature of the company and office in question. For example, an office located high in the skyline of London is likely to find that window seats are the most sought after; in others, the ideal place may be close to canteens or food machines, or even be the closest to the office door, for an uncomplicated exit at the end of the day!

It’s important to identify from staff members where the best seats in the house are located, and devise a method for sharing them out in a manner that isn’t necessarily fair, but is least likely to cause unhappiness or dissent amongst employees. The ideal placement will vary from company to company, though in most cases the allocation of the best seats can be used to mitigate existing rifts within the company, or alternatively, strengthen a hazy hierarchy. In companies with a large division between the executives and lower level employees, it may be best to randomly allocate the best seats, so as to minimise ill-feeling. On the other hand, in companies where all levels of employee mingle and collaborate freely, it may be a good idea to allocate the best seats to the executives, in order to remind perhaps overly familiar employees of the pecking order; so that the business is kept running smoothly.

Ensure that the right people are sat next to or near each other

Once again, there is no one overall solution to this; the best placement of colleagues in regards to one another is best decided in direct relation to the existing culture and organisation of the company in question, as well as in regards to its overall size.

While impractical in larger companies, it’s often a good idea in smaller companies to sit the most experienced members of the company next to or close to the newest and most inexperienced members; so that wisdom and advice can be easily shared, bringing neophytes up to speed in no time at all. In larger companies, this tactic can work on a team or departmental level, but is less likely to work on a companywide level.

Equally as important as the easy sharing of experience is the meshing of personalities; if two desk and pod mates are completely incompatible on a social level and spend all their time antagonising each other it doesn’t matter how much they could be potentially learning from each other, they’re going to be ruining each other’s productivity regardless.

Manage access to key office resources

Of course, one of the more practical considerations that you really shouldn’t forget is that each desk and work station needs to be able to access certain office amenities and facilities; power sockets, proximity to internet connection (either wired or wireless), phone connections, air conditioning… access to all of these amenities ideally needs to be open to all employees. For obvious reasons, this necessity may well supersede the other points in terms of deciding the placement of office desks and office seating.

(originally published by Online Realty 11/12/14,