When I was still a business coach to start-up founders and CEOs, I always asked for a list of priorities beforehand. I usually see the usual entries—productive employees, great outputs, and a comfortable workspace. And I ask them in return: how could you achieve these things without prioritizing a well-planned office seating?
So, how do you plan an office seating arrangement? Planning an office seating is a team effort. A good boss should integrate their employees’ inputs and opinions on their office seating. But more importantly, utilize office space to increase productivity in the workplace. Companies can plan office seating through a meeting or the use of software.
But there is more to office seating. A properly planned office isn’t just about promoting productivity. Good seating has numerous benefits, from interpersonal relationships to a comfortable work environment.
7 Steps in Planning a Good Office Seating
You may find a lot of sources telling you how to plan good office seating. But there are so many steps and materials involved that the instructions become confusing. So, for your convenience, we consolidated these into seven, easy tricks.
1. Know When You Need a Plan
You wouldn’t need an office seating plan If you’re starting with a small team. According to Ben Sheen, senior manager of workplace and facilities for Namely, you’ll need to have a seating plan once your team occupies one floor or reaches 150 members. However, it doesn’t hurt to prepare an office seating plan as early as now.
The key to properly planned office seating is planning not for the present but the future. You should design your floor plan to build continuity, improve employee experience, and promote engagement. It should also reflect solutions as your team grows past 150 members or occupies one or more floors.
2. Read About Different Floor Plans
Before you can start planning for office seating, it helps to read more about floor plans and how companies apply them. One of the most discussed floor plans is the open office floor plans versus its closed counterpart. The closed office floor plan is the usual choice for companies, but the open office floor plan is gaining traction for its benefits.
Private conference rooms and cubicles divided by high walls characterize the traditional closed office floor plan. Each cubicle lines the four walls of the floor. A closed floor plan’s benefits are increased privacy and limited distractions, which facilitate greater concentration among employees.
On the other hand, an open floor plan is the opposite of the traditional floor plan. In this setting, low walls divide the cubicles. and Bench-seating also replaces the hard walls. In addition, this open setting has more collaborative spaces and conference rooms made of glass walls.
Companies favor open floor plans for their small real estate costs. This floor plan is also flexible and promotes employee collaboration.
So, which one do you pick? Whether you need to have a closed floor plan or an open one depends on your work culture and the employees’ needs. If your employees need a space for privacy like conference rooms, then a traditional closed office floor plan is best. But, if you are looking for reduced expenses and employee collaboration, then open spaces are the way to go.
3. Talk to Your Employees
Your employees are the ones who should benefit from the office seating, so their inputs are important in your plan. During your planning stage, you would need to talk to your employees and determine their specific operational needs: for example, their furniture and equipment. If you have a sales department, you’ll need to consider phones and extra monitors for your designer department.
Other than identifying their operational needs, it may help to know their seating requests. There may be employees who prefer to sit near windows or walls. Some employees may even request to sit near their friends or acquaintances at work.
Whether you heed these requests or not, your employees’ inputs will greatly benefit from your office floor plan design. After all, they will be the ones who will utilize this space the most.
4. Put Similar Employees in One Spot
You should design your office seating plans to improve productivity and employee collaboration. For this reason, you need to be strategic in assigning locations for each of your employees is a must. Employees who belong to the same department should be grouped while departments who work together should be seated together.
Other than sticking the same employees in one spot, you should consider grouping highly productive employees to those who might need more encouragement. Normally, companies group similarly performing employees together for productivity, but one research study begs to differ. According to this research study, highly productive employees induce a “spillover effect” on other employees.
So, if you want to increase productivity in the workplace, your seating plan should mix highly productive employees with average employees. And if you are worried about prolific employees performing less effectively than average employees, don’t be; the research study shows that it is a less likely possibility.
Of course, the research study comes with a warning. “Toxic” employees—gossipers and mischief-makers—can influence highly productive employees and decrease company productivity. So while planning your office seating, it is important to determine these employees and avoid grouping them.
5. Work with an Office Coordinator
Planning an office seating is not a man’s job. It is important to hire a specialist to evaluate and determine any flaws in your office floor plans.
An office coordinator (or a facilities manager) is an integral part of your office seating plan. During the planning process, you’ll need to orient your office coordinator with some context about your company. Your office coordinator will need to know about your employee headcount, list of departments, foot traffic information, machinery information, and even ancillary spaces.
Once your office coordinator knows the basics, then he or she can do his or her part. However, don’t expect that your office coordinator will do the work. Working with your office coordinator is like a two-way street. Your office coordinator will consult with you to ensure he or she meets your office needs while you, the boss, will need to check in with your coordinator. A good harmonious relationship between you and the coordinator will lead to a properly designed floor plan.
6. Utilize Technology
With the age of modern technology, you can generate office plans with the help of specialized software. You can draft office floor plans with the use of a simple and common program called Microsoft Excel. Your office coordinator should be able to draw one in Excel, upload it on Adobe, and share it as a PDF file.
However, Microsoft Excel isn’t the usual program of choice for office coordinators when there are other, more sophisticated programs in the market. Office coordinators—or even you, if you have sufficient experience—could utilize facilities management software to produce a floor plan design. Using this kind of program is convenient as it does the following:
– Tracks the usage of floor square footage
– Tests furniture and equipment placements
– Views heating, electrical, and data systems
Other design programs may offer additional features such as a vast inventory of design elements or pre-designed templates. If you are interested in using these kinds of applications, it is best to know which are the best and the easiest to use.
7. Keep Your Office Seating Plans Flexible
Once you’ve drafted your office seating plan, it is time to put it into action! You may want to put a feedback system to observe if your plan is serving its goal. If your seating plan works well to improve productivity, then that’s good. But if your seating plan is not doing so well, then maybe you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.
Nonetheless, you should keep your office seating plans open to changes. A research study posted in the Wall Street Journal revealed that productivity increases when seating arrangements are “refreshed.” It means that you, the boss, should consider shuffling your employees’ seating arrangements from time to time.
Why Office Seating is so Important for Productivity
Office seating arrangements are one of the key factors in productivity. But other than that, why should you care so much about office seating plans? Here are three reasons why:
1. It Improves Your Employees’ Relationships
Employees tend to talk to people to whom they are seated next. So, if you keep employee seating arrangements fixed, then you are missing the chance for your employees to interact with each other. Office seating plans can promulgate good interpersonal relationships among your employees, ushering in a comfortable working environment and happy employees.
But do not expect that your employees seated next to each other will get along. Your employees may exhibit behaviors that would annoy rather than engage other employees. So, being strategic about your seating arrangements is a must. For example, if one of your employees hates the sound of chewing, then don’t sit next to an employee who likes eating.
2. It Puts Your Employees at Ease
Office seating plans are not just about putting cubicles and equipment. It is all about the balance of work and entertainment in the workplace. You will need a space dedicated solely for work and a separate area for your employees’ relaxation. And these spaces should not impede each other—a challenge that company leaders and company coordinators struggle with.
But if you plan your seating arrangements wisely, then it would help promote a comfortable working environment. And in turn, that will improve your employees’ experience and keep them satisfied.
3. It Avoids Inconveniences for Your Employees
Ever heard of complaints regarding being blasted by an air-conditioning unit or badly positioned overhead lights? That’s a badly planned office seating plan for you. If you carefully scrutinize office seating plans, then your employees won’t need to deal with simple environmental inconveniences like this.
Top 5 Office Seating Plan Software
While Microsoft Excel can be a good software for designing office seating plans, there are other software packages that better suit this. Here are the top five office seating plan software for your perusal.
AutoCAD is arguably one of the best office floor planning software in the market. It is a 2-D and 3-D computer-aided drafting software used to help create blueprints and architectural plans. This program can be used to create the blueprints of bridges, buildings, and, of course, office floor plans.
AutoCAD may not be specialized specifically to office floor plans, but it is considered the best software to use for it. However, the program is not for first-timers and is more suited for professional drafters. You may need a professional drafter to assist you in planning your office seating with this program.
If you want software specifically programmed for office floor plans, then you may want to consider OfficeSpace. OfficeSpace is a facility space management software. This program is actually made for companies who are relocating to another office space, but it can still be used to plan for office seating.
What does it have to offer? As its description suggests, this program helps you make smarter allocations of furniture and seating. It also lets you know how your floor space is being used and how you can use the area better. The program makes use of business intelligence for its report and analytics function.
Edraw is all about simplicity. Edraw is an office planning software that takes pride in an easy-to-use interface and professional-looking results. The program is similar to Microsoft Apps; it has 400 office floor plan templates and 6000 objects to choose from. You can drag, drop, click, and point objects into your layout without any difficulty.
Edraw also has several customization features. For one, it gives you the option to upload your own images for your office floor plan. And once you’re done with your plan, you can export it as a PDF and share it with your employees.
Grapholite is the alternative of Edraw. Similar to Edraw, Grapholite is perfect for beginners. It offers a myriad of pre-designed objects, which you can drag and drop into your floor plan. It also has smart tools to assist you and has the option to export your work as a PDF.
So, what makes it different from Edraw? Although this is a web-based application, there is a mobile version available for iPad and Android. It can be quite helpful when you’re always on the go and only have access to your mobile devices.
BlueBeam is another computer-aided drafting software that can help you plan for your office seating. BlueBeam is software designed for the design and construction of different infrastructures such as an office floor. But what makes it different from its counterpart, AutoCAD, is its collaboration features.
Unlike AutoCAD, BlueBeam allows users to share documents with others in real-time. You can easily edit and preview your work using easy-to-use markup tools at any time. This feature can be handy when you’re too busy to gather the opinions and comments of your employees one by one. Bluebeam can do it for you!
How do I balance the requests of employees when managing office seating?
It can quickly become overwhelming for any boss to heed their employees’ requests regarding seating arrangements. Employees may prefer to sit next to their friends; however, their seating arrangement requests may not be conducive to your company goals. Some may even clash with others.
In times like this, the choice is up to you on how to deal with your employees’ requests. Because they are your employees, you know them better than any other person. Follow your instincts without forgetting logic as you draft your office seating plans.
Can an office seating plan promote employee engagement?
Office seating arrangements foster a comfortable and welcoming working environment that will satisfy any employee. But office seating arrangements alone will not improve employee engagement. The best way to foster employee engagement is by spending time with your employees.
But how? You don’t need to organize fancy picnics or excursion events for your employees, contrary to popular belief. A simple “good morning” greeting or asking how they are doing is enough. By making your employees feel that you care, you incentivize them to do better in their jobs.
What are ways to promote productivity?
Incentives are quick productivity boosters. These can be in the form of pay, bonuses, or non-monetary motivators such as “Employee of the Month” certificates. However, you are free to think of out-of-the-box incentives based on your employees’ behavior and work ethics.
But a good way to promote productivity is to keep your employees satisfied and proud of their work. Encourage your employees to participate in company meetings or ask for their inputs in certain projects. By making your employees feel included, they are further empowered and motivated to work better.