Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Where you sit versus the organisation chart

The Wall Street Journal says that, never mind the hierarchy in the organisation chart, who you sit with at work has a huge impact on how well an organisation functions.

They report that "By shifting employees from desk to desk every few months, scattering those who do the same types of jobs and rethinking which departments to place side by side, companies say they can increase productivity and collaboration.

"Proponents say such experiments not only come with a low price tag, but they can help a company's bottom line, even if they leave a few disgruntled workers in their wake.

"Aspects of a worker's disposition can, in fact, be contagious, according to Sigal Barsade, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. 'People literally catch emotions from one another like a virus,' she says. Her research has found that the least-contagious emotional state is one marked by low-energy and sluggishness. The most contagious is a calm, relaxed state—which she nicknamed 'the California condition'.
"People with similar emotional temperaments work best together, Ms. Barsade says. But if a manager is trying to get a stressed-out worker to brighten up, the best strategy is to surround her with lots of cheerful, energetic people.

"Constantly shuffling people around has its consequences, however. Ms. Barsade says that moving from desk to desk can make workers feel like they have little control over their environment. And some seating experiments can cause a backlash.

"For about four years, employees at HubSpot Inc., a marketing-software company based in Cambridge, Mass., switched seats randomly every three months. The seating strategy was meant to reflect the lack of hierarchy at the company, which HubSpot says was especially helpful in recruiting Millennials. Eventually, the company added some structure to the arrangement, splitting workers into loud and quiet groups.

"But when HubSpot decided to group its executives in one part of the office, the employee feedback was negative. The executives felt more efficient and liked being able to chat without having to arrange formal meetings, but the employees felt the higher-ups were too far removed. The setup was reversed after six months.

"Employees now have the moving process "down to a science," says HubSpot Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Dharmesh Shah, unplugging their phones and rolling file cabinets to their new spots swiftly.

"But having grown to more than 600 workers, the company is facing a new problem: no one can remember who sits where."
Who would have thunk that changing where you sit in the office would make so much difference?
  • Reference: Feintzeig, Rachel (8 October 2013). The New Science of Who Sits Where at Work. USA: Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 10 October 2013 from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304441404579123230310600884


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