Workplace expert warns of possible impact of new workplace setups on employee productivity

As some workplaces prepare for the gradual return of employees and overhaul office layouts and seating plans, research has shown this could also have implications for employee productivity and company performance.

“We will not be returning to the workplaces as we knew them. But more than just changes in physical workspaces, this could also have a wider effect on how we work. Keeping employees safe and well comes first, but when many businesses are struggling to keep their head above the water, it’s vital to also keep employee performance front of mind,” said Geoffroy de Lestrange, Product Marketing and Communication Director EMEA, Cornerstone OnDemand.

Research performed as a collaboration between Cornerstone OnDemand and researchers at Harvard Business school in 2016 uncovered that where employees sit at work can have a big impact on employees’ performance. When the research was conducted, the analysis showed that placing the right type of workers near to each other can positively affect productivity and has been shown to generate up to a 15 percent increase in organisational performance. With employees now having to keep their distance this could decrease any possible positive effects.

The research, which included analysis of data from more than 2,000 employees over a two-year period provided by a large technology company with locations in the U.S. and Europe, identified three types of workers: Productive, Generalists and Quality. Seating Productive and Quality workers together and seating Generalists separately in their own group showed a 13 percent gain in productivity and a 17 percent gain in effectiveness. In short, pairing together employees with opposite strengths has the biggest and most positive impact on performance. Their strengths are little affected but this positively effects performance measures for employees’ weaknesses.

At a time when businesses are under pressure following the Covid-19 pandemic, gains in operational performance will go a long way for recovery. For an organisation of 2,000 workers, analysis showed that strategic seating planning could add up to an estimated $1 million a year to profits, indicating the importance for businesses to still ensure close collaboration between these workers.

“We’ve all become accustomed to collaborating digitally but as we head back into the physical workplace, this will again shift – and people having to keep their distance from one another could impair workplace collaboration. Just because we’re physically in the same room with one another does not automatically mean we’ll be working better and closer together, especially when we have to keep our distance, and businesses will need to keep an eye on that. If employees who positively impact others cannot be seated near to one another, then companies will need to look at other means to ensure they work closely together, continuing to make use of the digital and communication tools used when working at home,” concluded de Lestrange.

Author: Editorial Team

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