Deciding where to sit in relation to your staff depends upon several factors: the amount of square footage and shared space, the number of cubicles versus offices, and, of course, the nature of your business. Some companies have done away with the corner office altogether so that everyone, including the CEO, works in a cubicle. Other organizations are more traditional, and have held onto a more hierarchical seating arrangement.
Certain key factors should be considered no matter where you are located, whether it’s in a cube alongside your staff, in an office down the hall, or on another floor altogether. Wherever you sit, accessibility is key — can folks get to you easily if they need you? Your ability to observe and gauge productivity is also essential, as is the tone that your staff placement sets.
Here are some specific questions to ask and points to remember as you consider which office layout and culture is right for you and your people:
- What message do you want to convey? Do you want to create an atmosphere that embraces each employee as an equal? Or do you prefer an environment that stresses a top-to-bottom organization? Do you want people — staff and customers — to know that you’re the boss by having a lavish office that says, “I’m in charge”? Your office layout should support your corporate philosophy, so if it’s important for you to set yourself apart from your staff, think through your options carefully. If you’re trying to accentuate the team approach, however, occupying a luxurious corner office while the rest of your staff sits in cramped quarters may not send the best message.
- Do you want your layout to promote or discourage interaction? If the success of your operations depends upon regular communication between you and your employees, then you must create an environment that fosters interaction. If you separate yourself from the people you lead, you may discourage them from discussing their concerns — both large and small. If you’re finding that people are not coming to you with their concerns, take a look, among other things, at where everyone is located. This is particularly important when people are constantly pressed for time. If it takes too long to get to you, or if getting to you interferes with their efforts to complete their work, then maybe you’re simply too far away.
- What about privacy? If you need to discuss someone’s performance, do you really want your neighbor listening in, especially if it entails some kind of reprimand? If you’re going to sit near your staff, make sure you’ve got space elsewhere that can be used for private conversations. If this isn’t possible, then you need to consider conducting certain meetings off-site, or sitting apart from your staff just for privacy issues alone. The smallest, most innocuous-sounding comment can be misinterpreted by one person and then passed along until your entire staff is privy to something that was intended for only one person’s ears.