How Office Design Impacts Socializing in the Workplace

June 18, 2022

By Workspace Resource

As all employers know, many employees are reluctant to return to the workplace after getting into the habit of working from home. As a matter of fact, the majority of workers no longer want to return to the office.

While workers are more than capable of being productive at home, many employers would like to return to the status quo, or at the very least, a hybrid model. Employers know that there's one thing that employees can't get at home: socialization with other employees in person.

Socializing in the workplace is a perk that many people don't consider until they no longer have it.

Did you know that office design can impact workplace socializing? We're here to discuss changes that you can make to your workplace design to encourage or deter socialization. Read on to learn more.

First: How Does Socializing Impact Workplace Productivity?

Many employers falsely believe that allowing employees to socialize will negatively influence their productivity, but this isn't necessarily the case. While excess socialization could cause problems, standard socialization is healthy for employees, and it can even be good for the employer's bottom line.

Let's talk about a few upsides and downsides of encouraging socialization and communication in the workplace.

Benefits of Socializing in the Workplace

As we mentioned, socialization in the workplace can be beneficial when it comes to workplace productivity.

Greater socialization leads to greater employee happiness and better mental health. It may also enhance memory and cognitive skills (both important for the average workplace).

It's common knowledge that employee happiness correlates with employee productivity. Happy employees will work harder and be more likely to remain at their workplaces. Unhappy employees may look for work elsewhere.

Socialization also encourages collaboration. When employees collaborate, they're able to innovate (which is good for the business as a whole). Two brains are better than one.

Downsides of Socializing in the Workplace

Excess communication can be problematic, though you can curb it if necessary.

While socializing is good for productivity and collaboration, too much can be distracting. Employees who like to chit-chat may lose track of time and their work can suffer.

If you have employees who gossip, it could impact your overall workplace culture.

These are results of excess communication. Employers shouldn't try to deter all socialization, only negative socialization.

Creating Spaces for Connection and Collaboration

So how can you create spaces that encourage healthy levels of socialization? How can you make your workplace friendly to people who thrive in collaborative and social environments?

Here are a few ways that you can go about it.

Flexible Seating

Employees sitting at individual desks can't socialize. While this model may seem to work for standard office workers, we think that employers should take a more creative approach.

While you can provide private desks for employees (more on that later), you should also provide options.

Try out flexible seating.

Flexible seating means that employees can sit where they like. They don't have to stay with their departments. There are no pre-assigned desks where employees have to work.

Instead, you'll create seating pods. Large tables (preferably round ones) foster communication. Smaller tables create good spaces for small group projects or pairs.

We also recommend comfortable seating pods. Use comfortable ergonomic seating options to create calming collaborative spaces for employees.

Meeting Rooms

Meeting rooms (preferably with clear walls, but that's not necessary) are also great for socialization in the workplace.

Meeting rooms allow employees to have quiet spaces with other employees. They're free of distractions. Clear walls allow you to keep an eye on employees without intruding on their hard work.

Make sure that meeting rooms contain everything that employees might need. For example, if you have artists on your team, you'll want to have a large table where they're able to lay out their ideas.

Break Areas

Don't neglect break time for employees. While breaks may not seem good for productivity, employees actually work better after short breaks.

Some employees prefer to take breaks alone. Others who are more extroverted get more energy from socializing.

Break areas should be comfortable. There should be room for employees to sit and chat together while snacking or getting coffee.

Some employers choose to allow brief fitness activities during break time. Creating a space for yoga, stretching, or light exercise can be great for this. Brief bursts of activity are great for productivity and employee wellness.

Controlling Socialization in the Workplace

So what if you're worried about employees socializing too much? While this shouldn't be a huge concern for employers, we understand that sometimes you need to curb socialization when you have deadlines approaching or to protect more introverted employees.

As we mentioned, flexible seating means that employees have choices. Sometimes employees may choose to work alone. In this case, you should provide quiet places for them to do so.

These can include individual seating pods, quiet rooms, and individual desks. Some employees, even social ones, need this private time to get work done.

Consider setting specific "quiet times" where employees have to stay in one place (even a collaborative place) for a set number of hours or until they finish their project.

If collaboration between departments isn't necessary for your workplace, you can allow flexible seating only between people in the same department.

The Workplace Is a Social Environment

Socializing in the workplace is good for your employees' mental health and your bottom line. While you don't want employees to over-socialize, you should foster an environment that allows communication and collaboration.

Employees have become used to flexibility. Use flexibility in your workplace to keep them happy.

Are you ready to upgrade your office space? At Workplace Resource, we can help. Contact us to set up an appointment with our design professionals today.

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