Companies are abandoning traditional cubicles in favor of more open and flexible workspaces, but that doesn’t mean you have to cast aside all semblance of structure. A seating chart is a great alternative for helping your teams stay organized and productive, even with an open floor plan. Whether you’re moving into a new space, redesigning your current one, or growing your teams, here’s how to create a seating chart that works.
How to visualize your seating chart
The first step in creating your office seating chart is visualizing your workspace. You can do this in a spreadsheet, using seating chart software, or even with a pen and paper (if you’re crafty!). Create a bird’s eye view of your space, working from the outside in. Start with any doors and obstructions (e.g. conference rooms, separate offices), then outline the desks or your company’s preferred work stations. If you’re working in Excel or Google Sheets, you can use each cell to indicate a desk or other object by applying a border or filling it with color. Keep it simple!
Once you have an outline of the space itself, you can begin to fill the space with your employees. Deciding on where to place each employee might seem like a difficult task at first, but we’ve got a few tips to make the process easier.
Consider department needs: Focus on the larger departments first, and the teams within each department, before you attempt to seat an individual. Think about if any of the teams have special needs—like Finance, who may need more privacy for handling sensitive information on their computers, or marketing and editorial teams who may need a quiet area for focus, or engineers and designers who may need additional space for multiple monitors.
Keep collaboration top of mind: It also helps to consider which departments regularly collaborate, so that you can place those teams nearest each other to make them more productive. For example, you might seat your product designers and engineers in the same area, as they are both heavily involved in bringing your product to life. Similarly, you could group your customer support and sales teams together, keeping the noise levels of regular phone calls restricted to one area of the office.
- Rely on personal insights: Now that you have a general layout of where each team will be located, we recommend turning to the department heads (or team managers) for advice on where to place each employee. They may have recommendations based on roles, responsibilities, or skill levels, as well as more personal insight into who needs to sit beside each other (and who doesn’t).
How to implement your new seating chart
Upload your completed office seating chart into a shareable folder, such as in a Google Drive, or into your Managed by Q account for easy access. It’s important to keep the seating chart accessible so that it can easily be shared or adjusted alongside any company changes.
Share your seating chart with department heads and managers to enforce and instruct their teams. If employees need to move desks, managers should schedule dedicated time for them to do so. Make sure your IT department is aware and available to help with any technology breakdowns and setups.
Once everyone is where they need to be, consider giving all employees access to the seating chart. The seating chart can serve as a map, helping them more easily locate their colleagues in the office to ultimately improve workplace efficiency.
How to address employee preferences in your seating chart
When organizing assigned seating, you’re bound to encounter requests and complaints. But not everyone in the office can have that prized window seat. You have two options to address these potential employee preferences.
One: illicit feedback before you design the seating chart, so that you can consider the needs of all staff. Send out an optional survey to ask about seating preferences you can control, or give employees a timeline to reach out to you if they have an important request. This may help ensure everyone is comfortable with their seat assignment and prevent problems down the line (and you from going back to the drawing board). Ask questions like:
- What equipment do you need to do your job effectively?
- What teams do you work most closely with?
- Do you work remotely? If so, approximately how many days a week?
- Do you have a special request?
Two: illicit feedback after you’ve rolled out your seating chart, or not at all. If an employee has an issue with their seat assignment—their desk is too close to a vent, it’s too loud for them to focus, or they can’t tolerate their seatmate’s dog—have them submit a request or concern to their manager, who can then evaluate the request and pass it along to your Workplace Team if necessary. Based on the number and nature of requests that you receive, consider reevaluating your seating chart until it makes the most sense for everyone in your workplace.
You might not be able to accommodate everyone’s requests in your final seating chart, and that’s okay! Instead, provide alternative solutions. If an employee needs a quieter space to work, for example, create comfortable retreats in other areas in the office where they can step away from the noise. If collaboration is the issue, incorporate larger tables or clusters of standing desks. Whether you choose to get employees involved in the seating chart design process or not, following these guidelines will help you create a plan that sticks.