Playing Musical Chairs at Work: The Case for Shuffling Your Cubicle

Have you ever felt stifled in your spot? That is, not so much in the job itself but more like its location? Maybe you’re staring at a wall instead of a window or maybe office chatter is unbearable close to the water cooler.

Well, according to a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, companies say by shifting employees’ desks around every few months they’ll boost productivity and collaboration.

Ben Waber, chief executive of Sociometric Solutions, told the newspaper, “If I change the [organizational] chart and you stay in the same seat, it doesn’t have much of an effect.” He added, “If I keep the org chart the same but change where you sit, it’s going to massively change everything.”

In fact, Waber indicated your work neighbors account for 40 to 60 percent of every single interaction that you have during the day. Proximity is key since there’s only a five to 10 percent change you interact with someone two pods away.

And per a recent study, employers need to strategize their seating. Although departments sitting together may boost focus and efficiency, technically grouping them apart and mixing them into other departments can foster innovation.

For instance, the co-founder and chief technology officer at Kayak relies on new hires as a reason to switch around the existing floor plan. Per the piece, he takes a variety of factors into account such as employees’ personalities to political views. He stated, “If I put someone next to you that’s annoying or there’s a total style clash, I’m going to make your job depressing.”

In another case, a product designer at Kayak was specifically moved to a quiet area to get them to be more vociferous. A “loud” person herself, after two weeks she got the group to become more open and conversational. Mission accomplished: Soon after that she was moved to another section of their office.

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