Over the past year, multiple studies have observed that employees who work in close proximity to high performers tend to do a better job themselves, generating a lot of interest in the concept of “strategic seating,” or maximizing performance and collaboration merely by rearranging employees’ desks. It’s also one of many attempts by companies to help employees adjust to a new work environment.
This notion has led the mobile payment company Square to post a job listing for a “capacity coordinator” for whom workplace seating management” will be a full-time job, according to Quartz. The piece quotes the job description in saying the role is, “equal parts project manager, data analyst, and relationship builder.”
And, as Quartz points out, “Square, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story, will be far from the first company to agonize over the optimal placement of its employees (and managing a large seating chart can be a thorny challenge, as anyone who has planned a wedding can attest). But it may be one of the first to need a full-time worker to tell people where to sit.”
Lessons in Company Culture
This role may look silly at first glance, but there seems to be a valuable lesson here about how Square is approaching the development of its organizational culture.
Most companies look to the symbols of a more innovative culture — such as free lunch or an open-plan office – to encourage collaboration, and conclude that putting these in place will automatically create the culture they’re looking for. However, cultural symbols derive their power from the ingrained behaviors and mindsets that they represent. That’s why they’re symbols: only when they’re taken away can they fully be appreciated as having worked or not.
This is what makes Square’s approach so interesting. The company is actively managing the symbolism of the office floor plan and now even using the floor plan as an active management tool to foster certain behaviors. It’ll be fascinating to see the results. Here’s to their success.