Office Acculturation 107: The Signification of Seating Arrangements In Workplace Habitats

The culture of an office environment is full of nuance, as elaborated on in previous posts.  Today’s topic covers the rapidly evolving signification of seating arrangements in such offices. There is a distinct tradition with some differences depending on the industry or nature of the business than a specific office serves.

Here are some examples:
In a more traditional business workplace setting – one that isn’t typically engaged in a creative profession like design or brand strategy or the nebulous spaces of “creative” or “strategic” or “innovation” consulting, there is a standard hierarchy signified by seating arrangements.  In this case, junior employees are usually relegated to sit in shared cubicle or pod spaces with little privacy so that mid and senior level employees can drop by with a pile of work they don’t want to do at any time and pawn it off to the person who looks least busy.  Those employees who have paid their grunt-work dues but don’t yet have a VP or higher order set of initials next to their title typically get the dignity of their own personal cubicle or shared office with one other employee of equal rank.  This allows them a modicum of privacy to make client calls and prepare their expense reports.  Finally, more senior / executive employees are often granted private offices with doors that shut and windows to the outside world so that they can think, make important calls, have secret meetings with other senior staff members on who to cut during the next budget crisis and what kind of booze to have at the company Christmas party.  In theory there is also important work going on in there and because they can afford to eat out for lunch every day, there is likely also a lot of gas.

In the more creative professions, the seating arrangements are often far more open.  The head of the company usually still gets his own office…but it is likely made of glass and has an “open door policy” for people lower level employees to come and ask important questions or invite him to happy hour.  Typically speaking, the rest of the employees will sit in a giant workspace with no walls and desks arranged in “pods”.  This is to allow the creative juices to flow and minimize the need for meetings while sucking up as much productive work time as possible with idle conversation about insignificant details.  But here are less emails sent and typically everyone gets to stay in touch with the latest hipster music trends…usually coming from one of the senior creative team member’s Pandora stations or esoteric iTunes playlists.  These offices also typically have lots of mini basketball hoops, the odd video game console and a scooter or novelty bike for peddling around the office and generally enjoying playtime at work.  These things help the creative juices flow and bring you things like cat videos or clever blogs like this one.

In some offices, they also like to randomly and often switch up seating arrangements so “cross functional teams” can work together or employees have a chance to bond with one another over their seating-induced schizophrenia.  The more “progressive” offices, however, will allow for “flex time” or “telecommuting” that doesnt’ require you to be in an office at all…because space is really an illusion and the most important thing is that you answer your blackberry emails at any hour of the day or night…because that’s when the REAL productivity happens.

You are welcome.


Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Corporate Culture, Emerging Workforce, Ethnography, Participant Observation, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Office Acculturation 107: The Signification of Seating Arrangements In Workplace Habitats

  1. Thanks for an interesting article and for sharing our post! Keep up the good work!:)

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