Three Ways to Make Office Layout Networking Friendly

Networking benefits employers because a workplace where everyone has a networking mentality, helping each other routinely, is more productive and has less conflicts. But often the physical layout of buildings makes networking difficult because there are few spaces where people can interact.

Redesigning your entire building to make it network-friendly might be out of reach but there are still many smaller initiatives that can be done to make interactions more frequent and more fruitful. Here are just three:

Create social spaces. In some companies the only common areas are luxurious sofas in an elegant lobby area, but they are meant mainly for show and employees are afraid to sit there. Create comfortable spaces around the building where people can sit and talk. If you are not sure what welcoming looks like visit a coffee shop. And make sure there are varied seating options. Some people like sofas, others like high tables, others like benches. Variety is the key.

Encourage mixing between departments. You might have some meeting spaces inside a department but most if not all should be between departments in neutral spaces so that you encourage more interaction. Lack of cross connections in an organization leads to polarization of positions and conflicts. People who work in different areas should be encouraged to meet to break down these barriers. Ideally there should not be any barriers between different departments.

Design lunch area to encourage interaction. Arrange eating areas with different sized tables to accommodate groups of two, three or many people. Prefer tables that are round or oval rather than long straight ones that make conversation difficult beyond your immediate neighbors. Install sound absorbing panels so that people can talk without stress. Designate an area primarily for lunch “singles” who didn’t come with anyone else but don’t want to sit alone.

There is much more you can do but if you can make just one of these changes you have made a step in the right direction.

2017 Edition of Payforward Networking.  There's more about this and other networking techniques in the 2017 edition of Payforward Networking, available in both paperback and Kindle editions. You can get it from Amazon here:

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