Is arranging your office space by department still beneficial?

Three in five of business leaders say their office can be best described as being arranged by departments, according to new research.

A new report ‘Agile Ways of Working: The Great Leadership Disconnect’ from digital consultancy, Red Badger, finds more than nine out of ten (94 per cent) senior decision makers believe project efficiency would significantly increase if enterprises simply re-arranged their office seating plans to promote cross-departmental collaboration between team members.

Despite these views, just less than two thirds (64 per ent) of the 751 senior executives surveyed indicated that their offices are still structured on a traditional departmental basis.

Not only do these senior decision makers believe in the promotion of collaboration, but four out of five (81 per cent) digital leaders in organisations who were additionally surveyed, strongly believed that an inflexible office layout actively led to delays in launching a product or service into the market or to customers.

“Waterfall” ways of working (62 per cent) and teams working on multiple projects at once (51 per cent) were also among the most cited reason for delays in the past. To further demonstrate this point, those whose offices are arranged by departments are more likely to strongly agree that the current lack of flexibility in the office layout leads to delays in getting projects out of the door, than those whose offices are arranged in project teams (33 per cent vs 17 per cent).

However, despite this, the median length of time before organisational changes are expected to take place is a substantial two years and eight months from now.

With these organisational structure changes predicted not to take place for almost three years, the difference in opinion between digital leaders and senior decision makers are interesting to note:

Some 44 per cent of general business leaders who did not expect to make organisational changes in the foreseeable future attributed their reluctance to ‘a lack of skilled workers’ and just more than a third (35 per cent) were concerned that this shift would be too difficult to implement.

A lack of suitable employee skills and willingness among teams were much less significant barriers for digital leaders. Instead, the number one perceived obstacle of the digital leaders was a lack of senior management buy-in (42 per cent), followed by waterfall ways of working (39 per cent) and thirdly, a lack of flexibility in seating arrangements (38 per cent).

Cain Ullah, founder and CEO of Red Badger says, ‘Departmental silos, and arranging offices in this way, feel like a hangover from a time when industrialised workers needed to be closely supervised to ensure that they completed tasks efficiently. In today’s economy, where skilled workers have more autonomy, these seating plans are outdated and as our research shows, are actually slowing organisations down.

‘This puts organisations at significant risk; they are only as fast as their slowest moving department. With more and more companies looking to disrupt the larger organisations, transformation is needed much sooner than in three years’ time.’

Further reading on office space

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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