Office design: two tips to get seating right

Edited excerpt from The Caveman’s Guide to Building a Better Office by Ron Friedman:

1. Our desire for safe locations explains why sitting with our backs exposed can leave us feeling tense. We don’t enjoy having others sneak up on us and seek to minimize potential threat. As environmental psychologist Sally Augustin points out, this is one reason that restaurant booths fill up more quickly than free-standing tables.

2. Having a view of the outdoors has also been shown to promote performance in the workplace. When views and plants aren’t available, even reminders of nature appear to help. Research suggests that access to aquariums and fireplaces put us at ease and open us up to connecting with others. Pictures of landscapes make us less anxious. Brief exposure to blue and green, colors ever present in fertile environments rich in vegetation, water, and nourishment, make us feel safe and improve our creative output.

Notes:
(1) There’s often a trade-off between “feeling safe” and light. The walls or cubicles which provide privacy and coziness usually block out light.
(2) Light, open environments can also lead to more interruptions and lower productivity. Cf. The problem with open offices.

4 thoughts on “Office design: two tips to get seating right

  1. I don’t think it’s a single solution. Rather, we should create the environment that’s appropriate for the job.

    Young analysts that need collaboration and interaction? Open office.

    Senior leaders who require privacy to take important conference calls? Private office.

    Our current office has a mix of open desks and closed huddle rooms that are away from major hallways. Seems like a good mix so far.

    • I like this distinction. Perhaps to tighten it up: it depends on the person’s job type more than their seniority. Lots of collaboration >> open office; lots of private calls >> closed office.

  2. Pingback: Startup office design: Time to reconsider cubicles? | A Founder's Notebook

  3. Pingback: The two key elements in WeWork’s better office environment | A Founder's Notebook

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