Seating arrangement in Offices


Introduction


Most companies around the world, regardless of their specific field, one of the top priorities that exists within their offices is productivity.Productivity is what allows offices to optimize efficiency in order to accomplish as many objectives relating to their work as possible.

Ultimately, it inspires great work and is the lifeblood of any well functioning business.Managers have taken this into account when designing their office operations by developing a multitude of different strategies to encourage their team to achieve this goal.

However, one exceptional method that can be used is the implementation of a well thought out office seating arrangement that inspires creativity and furthers productivity.This can be developed in many different ways so that a plan that specifically targets the needs of the manager’s business and staff can be created.

For years, the majority of workplaces were organized using the same techniques: mundane cubicles, rows of desks that defeated interconnectivity, and a general uninspired feeling within the office that, in a lot of ways, stunted innovation.This has been combated through the use of new, modern ideas that have revitalized what an office space can look like.

A major example of this has come in the form of the popularity of open floor plans.Open floor plans are based around the idea of collaboration and an unrestricted flow that improves interaction.These seating designs assist in making a more welcoming environment possible that comforts the employees and gives them the resources they need to function in a manner based solely around productivity.It is a layout that is based entirely upon the free flowing of ideas between those who are part of the company.

The barriers of a cubicle are literally brought down to inspire a true community that is able to bounce ideas off of each member and receive instant input from their peers to fulfill their individual needs as well as those of their coworkers.




Significance of Seating arrangements in an office


Seating arrangement plays an important role in the general values of the office and also can be treated as one of the factors to determine the culture of the office. Employee seating arrangements can be planned according to Departments in the office, Flexibility required in the seating arrangement and work  processes, Systems of working, Procedures, etc. All these factors are also based upon the type of company. Therefore there is always a connection between the planning of seating arrangements in an office with its culture. A seating arrangement in a Law firm can not be similar to the arrangement in a design firm or a Tech company. An example of planning of a bank can be considered as a Procedure based arrangement, whereas a tech company’s planning can be based on flexibility of moving around and changing desks. Hence, there is not one determinant of the planning of an office.

There are different spaces in the offices and each space has a different function. So there cannot be one system. Every office has a unique culture and the seating arrangement accordingly but there can be one unique solution to every function.


Types of office setups


Cubicle / Cellular layout


No matter how small or big your company is, incorporating an efficient office layout such as a Cellular plan always has the potential to influence your employee's performance. A Cellular Office is one of the most popular layouts in which the entire floor space is divided into individual spaces or cubicles for one or more employees. It is sequentially arranged areas that give employees their own private space.  


Cubicle style setup


Pros of Cellular Office

  • Foster Autonomous Work

The chances of enhanced productivity become higher when an employee gets an apt workspace where he/she can manage their own work without any hindrance. 

  • Improves Focus and Concentration

Cellular offices offer a peaceful environment for both the employees and employers with the sole aim to let them focus on their respective jobs.

  • Ensures Privacy

In individual cubicles, one will get a high level of security and privacy. It means your confidential documents, and other relevant papers will remain safe as nobody has the permission to enter into your private working space.

Cons of Cellular Office

  • Consumes a lot of space

Cellular office layouts take extra space as compared to any other design plan. Since you are dividing your entire floor plan, you will need additional space for each cubicle. Even the passageways and doors in cellular plan consume a huge space.

  • Lack of Communication

In the cellular offices, the mode of face to face communication among employees is lacking because of separate workspaces.



Open Office Layout


Under this plan, an entire floor area is divided by low partitions where employees may have their own desks or may share a table with other employees. However, each employee will be given a separate chair and a computer, but the overall workspace will remain non-territorial.


Open office setup


Pros of Open Commercial office plan

  • Enhances Verbal Communication

Since open office plans don’t have doors or any other physical barriers, there is a good chance of improved communication among employees.

  • Cost-effective

Open office plans are more economical as compared to cellular offices. Instead of constructing separate workstations for your employees, you can provide more workspaces in this office plan.

  • Makes supervision easy

From an employer’s point of view, open plan offices are great. The design structure makes it easier for administrators to supervise their teams in an effective manner. 

Cons of Open Office Plans

  • Leads to distraction and noise

While open office layouts make supervision powerful, on the contrary, it also leads to noise and distraction due to the undivided workspace.

  • Lack of Privacy

This is also one of the biggest disadvantages of open office plans that have emerged these days. It not only reduces the privacy aspects of employees but also makes them uncomfortable. It also affects their concentration power and restricts them from making most out of their potential.


Open Office Setup


Co-working Office Layout


Co-working simply approaches a first-come and first-serve policy that encourages individuals to operate wherever they want to within the premises. In fact, you are free to choose your own space as per your requirement. Being an employer, you can assign particular desks to your workers according to their assigned job. If you are a young businessman and want to promote social interaction within your organisation, then this one is best office plans for you. The flexible working environment increases the possibility of collaboration while making employees  (even freelancers) comfortable. 


Co- working office setup

Pros of Co-working Layout

  • Professional Networking

Co-working space layouts promote an environment that boosts social interaction with same intellectual individuals. Under this, you will get an opportunity to share space with the people who are enthusiastic about their work and would love to share their business ideas or plans with you.

  • Interact with customers and clients

One of the best things about Co-working spaces is that it allows self-employed individuals to meet with their potential clients and customers for their current or upcoming projects. 

  • Saves Money

If you are a new entrepreneur and don’t have enough money to set up your own workspace, you can opt for a co-working office layout.

Cons of Co-Working Office Layout

  • Zero Privacy

In co-working spaces, you won’t get a higher level of privacy as many other co-workers will be working with you in the same premises. In fact, most of the layouts have a semi-private office where people share space with one or more persons.

  • Lack of Security

Usually, cloud servers available in Co-working office layouts don’t provide wired access to the internet. It means you have to use WiFi if you have stored something in the cloud server. This can be a serious problem if you need secure access, especially if you keep your client’s file in the cloud server. The hackers can easily gain access to the secured documents via wireless internet. This is a serious issue.


Combination Office Plan


If you want both the open and cellular layouts, then a combination office plan is perfect for you. In this specific office plan, you can design your office in an individual or separate cubicles but use smaller space as compared to the cellular layout. 

Pros of Combination Office Plan

  • Improves productivity

This type of office layout encourages employees to focus on their specific work while increasing their productivity. They can interact with their seniors whenever they are stuck in the middle of their operational process. That saves productive hours and encourages employees to work in a better way. 

  • Ensures Smooth Communication

Communication becomes easier between teams and departments when you adopt a combination office plan.

Cons of Combination Office Layouts

  • Leads to distraction

People passing through the working space could distract you, and in closed office layouts, it really annoys when someone passes through you. That leads to distraction which is not at all good for both the employees and a company.

  • Difficulty in maintaining standard operating system

It becomes quite difficult in introducing and maintaining a subsequent operating system for all employees in combination with the office plan because all employees are partitioned by smaller cubicles.


Combination style office setup


Types of Meeting 



One to One meetings




1-on-1s are known to strengthen relationships between managers and their team members (sometimes coaches, mentors, and peers too). They also encourage frequent performance check-ins and conversations between managers and their direct reports. The concept is fairly straightforward: meet regularly to discuss progress on goals, engagement, professional development and more.



Resimercial meeting rooms


A comfort and creativity-inducing hybrid between the traditional workspace and a residence, resimercial merges the flexibility of home with the functionality of an office.

Warm, inviting furniture, with residential elements, are providing an atmosphere of comfort that can lead to different kinds of interactions, whether during a collaborative brainstorming session, or during one-on-one meetings with a client.


Lounge style seating arrangement

Formal meeting rooms


Executive office cabins and cubicles in the conventional closed office layout enhance a formal one to one interaction"For management meetings, formal client discussions and confidential sales and target conversations, we have meeting rooms that are designed with a more conventional approach. These rooms are closed off with glass walls to afford a higher level of privacy.


Formal meeting room seating arrangement


Phone booth/ Meeting booth


For face to face meetings involving more people, employees can head to the stylish meeting booths. Larger than the phone rooms, these open booths can seat up to 4 at a time and are ideal for quick brainstorming sessions or casual catch ups with one’s supervisor.


Small cabins/cubicles for private discussions 


Step seating


Stepped seating is one feature in the office that allows you to connect with your colleagues in a casual and a relaxed way. Sometimes, colleagues get chatting and come up with a brilliant idea, or hit upon a creative solution to a problem. To enable and encourage such impromptu interactions, a stepped seating can be a perfect place. It’s juxtaposed with different seating that enables conversations with between a couple of people even though in a cluster format. It can also be used as One to Many interactive setup as It looks playful, occupies people in large numbers.


Stepped seating in an office space


One to Many


One to many meetings can be the Manager addressing the staff or the Team leader or line managers addressing their subordinates. Any discussion involving many people being addressed by a single person.


Classroom


This style reflects the seating found in a school or lecture theatre, with chairs and trestle tables aligned in consecutive straight rows. This setting in an office can be used to give training and seminars in an office.


Classroom style seating arrangement


U Shaped

The open end allows for a focal point or presentation area. Allows the presenter to approach and engage with each audience member. Audience interaction is enhanced, with audience members facing each other. and normally used for interactive meetings and information sessions.


Figure 6.  U shape seating arrangement


Theatre

A favorite for corporate events or very large groups, theater layouts put the attention on the group to the front of the space. With or without a stage, this layout is great for presentations, lectures, and product demonstrations.


Formal meeting room seating arrangement


Cabaret


This style is similar to Banquet style, however there is an open end, with the audience seated in an arc facing forwards. The open end allows for a focal point or presentation area generally can be used for events and training in the office.


Cabaret or banquet style seating arrangement


Many to Many


Many to many meetings can be the meetings of departments or the whole office where multiple people address each other or discuss the focus is not on the addresser but the whole team as a part of discussion.




Semi radial

 Ideal for small group discussions, it's a variant of the U-shaped seating layout. Can infuse a casual debate or discussion or a brainstorming session.


Semi radial seating for casual discussions



Clusters

Clusters are another layout that’s ideal for getting guests to mix and mingle. Use high top tables scattered throughout the space with or without chairs. Arrange the tables in such a way that they create a main path for traffic to flow through.



Cluster arrangement for many to many meetings


Boardroom

This style is a smaller version of the Hollow Square or U Shape, however there is a large elongated table, with the audience all facing inwards. Encourages audience interaction as they all face inwards.


Boardroom seating for board meetings



Collaborative


Collaborative space can be an informal space with multiple discussion tables or seating arranged in such a way that an informal discussion can happen with multiple people occupying various spaces. 


Radial


focused attention toward the center of the table rather than on the kingmakers at the periphery. In effect, the table became a gigantic idea basket into which ideas could be tossed and hashed over cooperatively. People felt like they belonged. Everyone saw themselves as equal, rather than constrained by title. Creativity thrived.


Casual radial seating arrangement 


Lounge


To refresh the formal vibe and encourage networking, event planners are opting to include a new seating arrangement in their mix – introducing the Lounge Zone. Add sofas, chairs, coffee tables, bar tables and ottomans in clusters to form this creative space.


Lounge style seating arrangement


Hollow Square


This style is similar to U Shape, however there are four sides and no open end, with the audience all facing inwards.Audience interaction fully enhanced, with audience members all facing each other.Allows audience to consume plated food and beverage easily.


Hollow square seating arrangement


Pod Seating


They offer a flexible meeting space for private conversations, encourage a collaborative and focused approach, and facilitate extra productivity when it comes to structured team-work.


Pod style seating arrangement


Design Plan 

The seating arrangement has a great potential in boosting the efficiency and productivity of the workforces. The office design layout of any workplace is a prominent element in influencing the outcomes of the organisation. A good physical structure allows things to flow seamlessly whereas a poor structure makes for a slippery stage.


The Closer


For critical one-on-one discussions, informal interviews, sales meetings and more, having two large chairs facing each other makes for the perfect seating arrangement. With this kind of seating office design, you can simply reduce the external distractions. And don’t be amazed when you are able to seal close deals more quickly and efficiently in this seating arrangement.


The Focus Group


At times when meeting the deadlines seem impossible, such a kind of seating arrangement will enable a small group to decide, plan and execute the possible next steps in the right manner. Have strategically designed and placed couches, cosy chairs and work tables. A small meeting place for a group of four to six employees will help the team in creating spur-of-the-moment creativity and problem-solving ideas.

The Soloist


A seating arrangement in your office design that takes you away from all the interruptions and disturbances is rare to find but easy to create. Don’t miss out on the opportunity and implement the Soloist seating arrangement in your modern office design plan. A Soloist is a seat such as a chair that provides privacy armours by means of acoustic flaps, walls or enclosures. Believe it or not, it is one of the truly desired luxuries in a workplace.

Benefits of Changing Workplace Seating Arrangement


On Collaboration and Interaction


Workplace Seating Arrangement experiments are usually risky and small companies usually attempt it. Companies that attempt Workplace Seating Arrangement experiments are usually successful in improving productivity and collaboration between employees. Micromanaging of the employees – deciding who will sit with who helps in getting the best out of the team, engaging in collaboration and increasing the output.


You cannot expect all the employees to get promoted and get a change in Workplace Seating Arrangement, but you always have the option of changing Workplace Seating Arrangement of all employees and this change can do miracles. Recent studies from retail, pharmaceutical and finance industries have shown that employees engage with colleagues who sit in the same area either by directly interacting or via chats and emails. The chances of interacting with distant neighbors are less.


Workplace Seating Arrangement experiments with accountants and the advertising agents resulted in better transfer of information between the teams. There was a decreased requirement of manpower in accounts department and increased work efficiency. This happened in MODCo Media, a New York advertising agency. Although the accountants were at loss but the company as a whole had gained.

On Energy Levels


Office interior design has a large impact on the energy levels of employees. Low dull lights, boring colors and unattractive interiors decrease productivity. According to experts, changes in office interior design and Workplace Seating Arrangement plays a major role in defining work psychology.



On Productivity and Innovation


Office seating plan and workplace seating arrangement can be made innovative by mixing people from different teams. The team seating together can be productive but mixing teams increases the creativity and innovation. A study by Christian Catalini, an assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that when the workplace seating arrangement of scientists was shuffled they invented breakthroughs.

Workplace Seating Arrangement experiments can also help develop new products. Many times the employees can understand the strengths and weaknesses of the existing products by overhearing the conversation between other teams. Regular changes in workplace seating arrangement also help in training of new employees.


On the Emotional State of Employees


The emotional state of employees influences the work environment in any office. There are three types of employee groups. One is the group of Calm and relaxed employees or cheerful employees. This group performs better and passes-on this emotional state to the co-workers. The other group is the stressed out and frustrated employees. Their mental state can be a result of short deadlines or complexity of projects or personal issues. They can create a negative environment. The last group is made up of sluggish employees who do not interact much and believe in keeping to themselves. They do not have any impact on the energy levels of colleagues.


Changing Workplace Seating Arrangement frequently may not always have a positive impact on employees as there may be a loss of privacy and ownership of space.


The Open office layout plan has usually been a success as it abolishes hierarchy and increases collaboration within and between teams. Different teams can discuss the pros and cons to increase productivity of the organization.


Case studies

Office for a digital product agency Work & co.  in New York City by interior design studio ‘Casework’. 


Interior design studio Casework has transformed  a 20th-century building in Portland, Oregon, into a collaborative hub for a digital product agency. Occupying an 80-year-old structure in the city's Chinatown, the office is the new outpost of digital product agency Work & Co, which was founded in New York City five years ago and has since expanded rapidly.

Work & Co teamed up with local interiors firm Casework to design the space on the city's 5th Avenue to accommodate its growing team. The aim was to create a flexible space adapted to the agency's working habits.

"Transparency and collaboration are top values for our company," said Work & Co design partner Casey Sheehan. "Because we sit in project teams and don't have permanent desks... it was critical the office was modular, and offered ample spaces to gather."


White-painted walls, exposed concrete flooring and maple wood details run throughout to bring continuity to a mix of gathering spaces, workspaces with desks, and meeting rooms.


Partitionless, open  desks foster better employee  relationships and eventually increase productivity  and affability among the individuals improvising the office culture.


Privacy corners for private discussions, and One-on-one meetings.


Lounge seating for casual employee conversations and a hangout space. Can also double up for a casual meeting with a client.


A canteen space with an arrangement for all types of seating. A large table for a large group, a bar ledge for individuals looking outwards for a view, a private space for 2 people.


A multidisciplinary design studio in Melbourne by  GroupGSA + Artillery


View of the open planned office space


GroupGSA + Artillery created their own workspace within a 1920’s former concert hall in Melbourne’s CBD. The end result is a uniquely versatile, open-plan workspace that champions collaboration, with a focus on wellness, sustainability and connection to nature. 

GroupGSA+Artillery Principal Sonja Duric explains ‘our company culture celebrates the freedom to think differently, promoting a barrier-free attitude to problem-solving’. The design of the studio reflects these ideas, offering flexible, open-plan spaces which encourage collaboration and creativity.

The fit out was designed by the team collaboratively, and hand-built by GroupGSA+artillery designer and furniture maker, Nick Leong. It features movable furniture and A-frame writing boards to nurture great ideas. Large layout benches provide areas for standing collaboration, brainstorming with materials, and opportunities for more fluid client meetings. A meeting room pod (complete with lush vine growing on the roof) can adapt to a standard roundtable meeting, or tables can be flipped and moved away to accommodate more chairs for the company’s regular educational ‘FEASTs’. 


The office space in Melbourne features movable furniture and A-frame writing boards to nurture great ideas.


A meeting room pod complete with lush vine growing on the roof.


Pod seating for short brainstorming session



At Workamp Spaces


Functional zoning not only provides us with the capability of designing an office for the current operations of the company but also an office that would be equally functional when the company grows or scales up. We promote a workplace design that Engages your workforce and  Provides opportunities for team bonding while designing an office with employees’ needs in mind. The idea is to allow a healthy level of communication and interaction between employees to bounce ideas off of in a one on one arrangement, discuss projects or perform team-related tasks in one to many setups. The comfort level between employees increases with the increase in collaboration with the other departments.

This method makes it easy for people to shift quickly between modes of work. For instance, a worker may need to focus deeply while preparing for a meeting, move to a nearby project room to collaborate, and afterward break away with one other person to concentrate on a task. Physical proximity of these spaces facilitates quick switching between work modes.


Cogoport


Cogoport, being a start-up logistics and tech freight-forwarding company, had a design brief of a combination of social spaces and work spaces. The properties had open seats, meeting & conference rooms as well as open and dedicated break out spaces over a span of 2 floors. Container Meeting rooms were inspired by their core company functionings and was developed as small Huddle rooms with radial setup to enhance more interactions and brainstorming. Small cluster seating were proposed to develop more casual one on one discussions. 

Throughout the property, there are various types of seatings at various levels that promote interactions inter and intra departments. 


Formal Board room setup for CEO and investor meetings.


Resimercial meeting rooms for informal discussions.

workstations along the side of standing desks for deep work


Zilingo


Zilingo, an ecommerce fast fashion startup, wanted an open, premium space with themed elements that represent their brand. 

Speaking about the design plan, Zilingo has no dedicated cabins for senior staff, nor follows a hierarchy in the designation of individual workstations. The setting includes various dedicated zones, conference rooms, huddle rooms and a showroom for their interactions within the company and external parties.

Their conference rooms are spacious and filled with vibrant yet subtle colours making it an aspirational area to brainstorm and hold formal meetings. The huddle room here is the resimercial meeting room type, with comfortable seating, TV and natural lighting. This setup helps them hold informal meetings between the management and employees. The setup not only ends with meeting rooms spread across the space but there are multiple breakout rooms, individual and collaborative phone booths. 

Collaborative phone booths are built in with writable tables for people to discuss and jot the information down. The U shape setups promote face to face discussions and also gives a chance to hold video calls with a group of 3 - 4 people. 

 Themed spaces, vibrant colours and the additional natural elements such as plenty of sunlight and green plants make this an aspirational working space in coherence with their own brand. 





Multiple breakout spaces 



Infra.Market


Infra.Market is a tech company that is trying to change the way construction and real estate companies procure material for their projects. They wanted a design plan that expresses the hierarchy, elevates interaction within departments and promotes their brand. 

Their floor plan includes multiple workstations, cubicles and cabin all spread out in a way that each department is supervised by the department head. 

large hallways, workstations divided by casual pod seating surrounded by natural light and plant that helps employees engage and unwind. The 14,800 floor plan has multiple breakout spaces and nooks for private discussions. Large conference rooms for formal meetings within the company and external clients; and a luxurious boardroom setup with exclusive marble tiles and Sauve table finishes for Board meetings.





Conclusion


There are a lot of nuances involved with the creation of an ideal seating plan. Everything from the industry you’re into the specific job tasks an individual team member completes and even the unique personalities of each employee can have an impact on the “ideal” seating arrangement for your needs. Versatility and flexibility are important, but they can’t be the only goal. Some degree of stability and reliability will be helpful for allowing employees to feel grounded and to settle into a work environment that really brings out their best. 

Offices that toe the line between open and private make it possible for workers to move around the space. There are two different types of arrangement, the ones for working and the other one for meeting and discussions. 

So the seating arrangements of the workstations can also be categorized based upon the department, employee working methods, productivity and interconnectivity. There can be numerous other methods to plan the seating arrangement of the workstations. The parameters change from company to company. The most commonly used seating arrangements are Open office and  Cubicles. 

The seating arrangement of meeting spaces are decided based on the function of the space, footfall requirements decide the size. These meeting spaces in a company are very important; they can range from being a small discussion table, to large boardrooms where major collaborations happen. Casual as well as formal meeting spaces should be an integral part of an office to increase employee collaboration and relationship building. 



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