On Moving Offices

One thing I’ve noticed in larger organizations is that there would be a seemingly sporadic initiative to move employees into different office spaces. Most recently, I left my office to go to a meeting. During the meeting, I received a message telling me that my office had been moved – all within an hour! Yikes! It has taken me several weeks to get used to NOT opening the door to the previous area, interrupting someone else who was moved.

It always frustrated me and seemed like a waste of space and effort. While I can appreciate moving offices when roles or projects change, the idea that companies should simply switch offices seems a bit off.

And then, I read this article. At the risk of copying perhaps too much, I always worrying about dead links so the highlights from research by Sunkee Lee are:


“The idea is to encourage people from different worlds to mix and match ideas so that you come up with the best from both,” Lee says. “That boosts both individual and collective performance.”

 When Steve Jobs was planning a new headquarters for Pixar, he famously located the large central bathrooms in the building’s atrium, requiring employees to walk some distance to use the facilities—but creating unplanned “collisions” meant to spark innovation

the area containing more teams sourced 25% more deals from new suppliers, on average, than all merchandisers had sourced before the move. The deals weren’t the result of collaboration; they marked a change in the quality of people’s work.

Lee offers this explanation: “Once you’ve learned enough about the area you specialize in, exposure to new people will make you more creative. In particular, physical proximity promotes trust and the exchange of valuable and novel knowledge between newly met peers. Given the ability to do so, you will recombine this new knowledge with your own to innovate.”

I’m not sure this makes every move around a single area justified, but at least it does offer some explanation.