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I have a project to assign seating space for contract hires(employees), employees on internship and direct hires in an office space.

What would be the most important questions to ask their managers in order to properly allocate seating to all that work in the office without creating an inconvenience, and without having cases of employees coming on board a few months later and not having seats available to work from?

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Is your assignment to assign where they are going to be sitting? Or just to make sure there is space available? Two different functions, though complementary.

Who keeps track of what spaces belong to who? If there is someone with that task, go to them and figure out what is available. If there is nobody, maybe that is a job you should assign yourself (with the permission of whoever is authorized to give that permission). Then you will need to draw yourself a map of all spaces and who they belong to. If they aren't labeled, go talk to people. Find out who they work for and with. Managers and teams. Add that information to your map; you'll need it later.

Once you know what is available, the next step is to find out who is rolling down the pipeline. Do you have a list of people who will need seating? Or is your task a general "you are in charge of making sure new hires have space". If the first, easy enough to figure out who each new hire will be interacting with and assign them a place as close as possible to their team.

If you don't know, your job is going to take a lot more effort. You will either need to find a way to be sure nobody is assigning spaces but you, or you will need to keep checking your "empty" spaces to make sure they are still available. Again, each time a new person is hired you need to find out who their team is and assign them as close together as possible. The new folks need access to more experienced teammates more than the old-timers.

You might be able to get a few extra brownie points by mapping out all the seating for all the teams and if they aren't together you might suggest some space-swapping to move teams closer together. Be sensitive to the fact that some spots are more "choice" than others; don't ask a guy with a window seat if he wants to swap with the kid who they put in the tiny cube next to the bathroom :)

If people aren't open to that, nothing lost but if they are you might be able to impress more than just your boss.

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Points to take into account:

  • People who has to stay focused (e.g. software developers) should be put in a quiet area. Having private offices so to avoid the visual noise is a plus.
  • Teams should sit together. A private office for each team is a plus.
  • People whose work benefits from talking to each other should be sit together.
  • People who will cooperate should be sit next one to the other so they can move without having to get up (e.g. an intern and the senior who supervises her work).
  • People who need to have frequent meetings should be put apart (e.g. Purchasing Manager should have her own office). If not possible, they should sit next to the aisles so not to disturb the people next to them, each time they need to get up or someone comes to talk to them.

Besides, depending on the expected growth rate of each area, you could leave a percentage of spare seats, so you don't need to move everyone the next time a newcomer arrives.

Regarding software companies you could find some more info in Office Space Calculations and Bionic Office, by Joel Spolsky. They are old but some advice could still be useful. You could also benefit from reading part II, Office Environment, from Peopleware, by De Marco and Lister.

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