You’ve heard the maxim “Where you stand depends on where you sit.” Apparently, how well people work together depends on where they sit, too.

This insight comes from a recent study by researchers from Northwestern University and Spain’s Universidad de Navarra.

Seated for sight
The study found that teams work best when their members are seated so that they can physically see each other.

Specifically, the researchers tested workers sitting in rows, where they could see only those to their right and left. The result: People on the ends of rows, who had only one neighbor they could see, took more personal credit for team tasks accomplished; those in the middle, who could see two neighbors, gave more credit to the team.

The researchers say this means circular or rectangular seating plans – or open-plan arrangements with clear views – favor teamwork more than linear ones like rows or cubicles.

If you, as a manager, have some say over the physical arrangements of your department, these findings might move you to action. But remember that privacy, too, is important. You need to strike a balance.

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