Including full time staff and contractors we have 21 people in our office. The table and seating layout is probably similar to the majority of small businesses in the UK, it’s very departmentalised.
We have a group of desks where the marketing team sit, one for support and two for the developers/design team. This has an impact on the group dynamic and the organisation becomes departmentalised.
In our company there is naturally a lot of overlap between our departments with everything from training to product development. The more structured the departments are, the the greater the likelihood that internal department barriers will be created.
The seating arrangement in the office also affects employee relationships. Day to day, people bond within their departments. If you sit next to the same group of people every day you are going to get to know them really well. Conversely, you don’t get to know the people on the other side of the office.
So, at the end of the day on a Friday a couple of weeks ago I asked the team if they were willing to experiment with mixing up the seating.
Not many people like change but after an hour of shuffling, the team was completely mixed up with marketing, support, designers and developers all mingled together. I’m getting stuck in too, hotdesking, making sure I get a chance to sit with everyone.
There are reasons not to do this. Marketing telephone calls will annoy developers, departmental teams will not be able to communicate effectively and developers won’t be able to program in pairs. Our experiment has proved that these are not valid reasons, they are excuses to avoid change.
Since the shuffle, I believe that we have a better understanding about what our colleagues do, better communication and improved help between departments.
So the question now is, how long before we shuffle everyone up again?