CIOIT Best PracticesIT Staff & Team Building

Want to Be More Productive? Sit Next to Someone Who Is

A pretty common practice with new hires in a business is that you sit them wherever there is an open seat. It is not the most eloquent solution, but it works. New data is revealing that there are benefits to getting eloquent though. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Jason Corsello and Dylan Minor share their research that shows how the seating chart can be leveraged to improve employee productivity.

Areas of Influence

Corsello and Minor examined two years’ worth of data from over 2,000 employees in “a large technology company” located in the U.S. and Europe. They uncovered this:

… we looked at “spillover,” a measure of the impact that office neighbors had on an employee’s performance. … We looked at the performance of … coworkers along with their distance from [a specific] worker, and through various data modeling techniques we measured the average spillover of their performance on the worker.

We saw that neighbors have a significant impact on an employee’s performance, and it can be either positive or negative. In terms of magnitude, we found that approximately 10% of a worker’s performance spills over to her neighbors. Replacing an average performer with one who is twice as productive results in his or her neighboring workers increasing their own productivity by about 10%, on average.

Another intriguing piece of data they uncovered regarded “toxic workers,” which in the context of the study referred to employees who were ultimately fired for various “toxic” behaviors. The authors found that toxic workers ultimately produced negative effects on the workers around them, making those people more likely to become toxic themselves. The goodness of non-toxic workers had no power to scrub out the toxicity of the bad workers.

Of course, most seating charts are pretty set in their ways, but this is all food for thought the next time there is a big seating shake up. You can view the original article and further details on the research here:

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