How office seating arrangements affect the energy and efficiency of your business
Published May 8, 2015, updated February 15, 2022
Summary - It pays to spend time figuring out who sits next to whom in your office. Judicious desk placement affects everything from energy levels to your ability to develop products that respond to your clients’ needs.
Last week, I talked about how the way a company functions changes as it grows, and how the relations between employees change as more people are hired.
That got me thinking about how we organize ourselves physically.
How you organize your office space should never be an afterthought. In fact, I think the layout of your workspace is a major factor in influencing outcomes. Have a good physical structure and things just flow; have a poor structure and you stumble.
At Klipfolio we have organized our different areas of responsibility into teams.
As in most companies, we have a general and administrative group that includes finance, human resources and IT. The marketing group includes digital, communications and product management. And so on.
We operate almost entirely from an open-office concept. None of the management have offices - or anything special, come to think of it.
One of the issues we grapple with is: Which groups fit together best? We’ve recently expanded our offices. With the help of our architects, HOK, (who were great), and co-founder Peter Matthews, we spent a lot of time working with a key group of employees to decide who sits where.
Should the people who need quiet to perform best be grouped together at one end of the office so they can work in peace?
Should the people who thrive on energy and creativity (sales and marketing, for example) be physically separate from teams like customer service and finance that need process and structure?
And how do you organize things so that if you have a problem, you can spin your chair around and talk to a colleague best-placed to help you out?
Consider, for example, product management. Should that team sit with our product development people? With sales? Marketing? Or should it be off on its own?
We decided product management needed to sit with marketing.
Because the folks in marketing hear what customers ask for. And having marketing people work with product development people means you create an efficient feedback loop. That does not preclude product management from also seeking input from our support and sales teams, or from working with our user experience researcher. Those are all inputs, and it’s important that the physical design of the office accommodate efficient information transfer.
We also felt it was important that our product management team not be overly influenced by what development can or cannot do.
Above all else, our product has to be useful to our clients. It has to work with technology, but it must not be dictated by technology.
We’re also in the process of bringing our sales and customer support groups under one banner: the ‘customer success’ team.
Both sales and customer support are 100% inbound. In other words, they react to calls and emails from customers and potential customers. They also have similar goals: acquiring new customers, making them successful, and then retaining them by nurturing and supporting them along the way.
Both the the sales and support teams now work very closely together. And in helping each other, they are much better equipped to help our customers.
To organize your office in the most productive fashion, you have to give a lot of thought to how your business works and where you want it to go.
If you are a small company, it may make sense to have different teams sitting together simply to create a critical mass of people that generates energy.
How you feel about hierarchy also influences internal structure. Do you want your managers all together, in closed offices? Or are you comfortable with them sitting in among their teams?
At the end of the day, there has to be some kind of logic that dictates who goes where. Physical placement can’t just be random. We’ve found that having the right teams working next to each other produces great results.
If you were to walk through our office, starting at one end, you’ll find our developers sitting next to our Dev-ops and quality assurance teams; then our growing user experience group, followed by marketing (communications, digital, product management, alliances), our brand-new customer success department (documentation, customer support, sales), then our finance and administrative group, which I call home.
Allan Wille is a Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Klipfolio. He’s also a designer, a cyclist, a father and a resolute optimist.
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