By Matt Zajechowski
When you’re running a small business, you have a lot on your mind—your business plan, marketing strategy, employee management, and customer/client relationships are probably just a few of the weighty topics occupying your thoughts. It wouldn’t be surprising if you haven’t had time to think about seating in your office and at presentations—but this seemingly minor detail is something that’s worth spending some time on.
Where you, your employees, and your clients sit can affect everything from first impressions in an interview to the efficacy of a group brainstorming session. Many successful start-ups have put a lot of emphasis on seating, including HubSpot, which changes where employees sit every 6 to 8 weeks for better networking, and Kayak.com, which seats employees based on personality and work styles rather than department.
While periodically changing seats might help some businesses stay creative and energetic, you don’t necessarily need to do anything as dramatic as rearranging your whole office, especially if you have a relatively small staff to begin with. Instead, try implementing some of the handy tips from Seats and Stools shown in the business seating infographic below.
Sit directly across from an interviewee.
If you’re interviewing a potential hire, invite them to sit in a seat directly across a desk from you (sitting across the corner from one another may come across as too intimidating or too intimate). Before the interviewee comes in, make sure that their seat is level with yours so that they can comfortably make eye contact with you. If you’re going to be part of a panel interviewing one candidate, set up a chair in the middle of a long table directly across from the panel. This will allow the interviewee to make eye contact and devote equal attention to all of the panel members.
Brainstorm in a circle without a table.
In order to establish a more casual environment where employees can share their ideas freely, set up a circle of chairs with nothing in the middle (no table, no desks, no technology). Keep your brainstorming group relatively small in order to allow everyone to spontaneously contribute, and separate strong personalities across the circle to create the most collaborative environment.
Place audience seats in a herringbone pattern for presentations.
If you’re presenting to a dozen or more people and you have control over where the audience chairs go, set your seating up in a herringbone, or semi-circular, pattern and stagger the seats in each row for maximum viewing.
Try “banquet style” seating for a sales meeting.
If you’re presenting to a large group at a sales meeting and you have a big space to work with, group chairs around circular tables for “banquet style” seating. Give audience members chances to talk to one another at their tables rather than demanding that their attention stay focused on you the whole time.
Sit across the corner of a square table for a business lunch.
If you’re having a lunch meeting with a co-worker, try to get a 4-top table in a quiet corner of the restaurant to minimize distractions. Rather than sitting directly across from each other, sit next to each other across the corner of the table to facilitate a more intimate conversation. If you and your colleague are meeting with a client, subtly direct the client to the open seat next to you by inviting them to sit and gesturing when they arrive.
No matter what the business situation, pay attention to where people are sitting. Your seating arrangement can mean the difference between an unproductive environment and a cohesive, comfortable workplace.