If you’re gearing up to leave your WFH desk and head back to the office, if you get the chance to pick where you sit, then science may just be able to tell you which desk will be the best one to make sure you feel productive and happy.
Researchers from the University College London visited the HQ of a large global tech company in the capital to ask them about their experiences working in an open-plan office, documenting the results in the scientific journal PLoS One.
It may not surprise many people that window desks and more intimate, grouped desk layouts were greatly favoured and that sitting in a row with your back to lots of people made them feel unsettled.
The researchers say that businesses should pay attention to the results of the study as Covid restrictions ease and more people transition from home to office-based working.
172 workers took part in the survey, which was conducted before the pandemic, and their responses revealed some interesting trends:
- Workers at window desks felt more productive and focused
- Those sat facing the room but with relatively few desks in their line of sight rated themselves more focused and productive, and their teams as better bonded
- In contrast, workers facing the room but with lots of desks in front of them rated their work environment less favourably
- Least liked was for desks that faced away from the main area of the room with many colleagues sitting behind them
While the study sample was relatively small and was only of one workplace, it does provide some hypotheses to put to the test.
Lead researcher Prof Kerstin Sailer, from the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL, said that one strong effect that was found was how many people were in your field of view, and to what degree those people were behind or in front of you.
“We all like a protected back. If you were facing away from the room, so there were loads of desks behind you but not so much in front of you, you would rate the environment as unfavourable,” he said.
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