Where You Sit In Your Office Impacts Your Productivity

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Bad behavior in the workplace is contagious. But a new study suggests that pairing workers together can boost productivity and profits.

Your office seating chart may hold the key to how happy and productive you are at work. Harvard Business School suggests that rearranging desks or sitting next to someone with a complementary work style can be a cost-effective way to inject energy and efficiency into the workday.


We may be more satisfied with our jobs than we were a decade ago but employee engagement and retention continue to be among the top challenge companies face around the world on global human resource trends. That’s because disengaged workers come with a hefty price tag. It is recorded that U.S. economy loses up to $550 billion per year when productivity flags as a result of unhappy employees.

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According to research done in the US, seating the right types of workers together led to increased productivity and profits. The proper proximity, they write, “has been shown to generate up to a 15% increase in organizational performance. For an organization of 2,000 workers, strategic seating planning could add an estimated $1 million per annum to profit.”

The study looked at three types of employees: “Productive,” “Generalists,” and “Quality” workers. The researchers defined productive workers as very productive but lacking in quality. Quality workers produce superior quality but aren’t as productive. And generalists are average in both areas.

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Spillover was ranked as either positive or negative, depending on the distance between two people. “Workers have different strengths, and . . . while spillover is minimal for a worker when it occurs in an area of strength,” the report’s authors write, “the same worker can be greatly affected if the spillover occurs in his or her area of weakness.”


Michael Housman, a workforce scientist in residence for HiQ Labs and one of the authors of the study, points out that positive performance seems to have a much stronger spillover than negative performance.

“If you sit a strong and a weak performer next to each other, the weaker employee performs much better, and the stronger employee’s performance doesn’t decline much at all,” Housman tells Fast Company. He advises lower performers to try and sit next to strong performers.

Conversely, Housman notes, “If you are a strong performer, you shouldn’t avoid those that aren’t as good as you. It’s not a zero sum game. The performance of both employees can be better when you put them together than if they were left alone.”

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Asides of the performance, there are another ways on how to discourage you in the office – for instance a bad boss that is not willing to let you shine, they make sure they outshine you. Or colleagues that try to backstab you from the back. All of these issues can lead you to stress and resulting a low performance in the office.

t turns out that not only can bad behavior spread, it can also get “infected” people fired. “If you add a toxic worker to within a 25-foot radius of a focal worker, the chance that the focal worker becomes a toxic worker themselves more than doubles (112.5% increase),” Housman explained in an email, adding, “Employees are 150% more likely to be terminated for toxic behavior when sitting in a toxic employee-dense seating area.”

The important–and encouraging–thing to remember, says Housman, is that good performance has a much stronger spillover than bad performance, and strong performance is more contagious than bad performance.

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By owning ergonomic chairs proven able to increase productivity | On frame is HAG Capisco

Why? “This could be because people have a competitive nature and want to perform at the level of those around them,” he says. It may just take a bit of musical chairs on employers’ parts to tap into that.

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