It's difficult to recommend one particular space management strategy that will work for all facilities managers in all offices. Let's face it: Every workplace is different. You may have general principles about how to align your buildings, who sits where and how the locations of different departments play off of each other, but generalities will only get you so far. The way you manage space depends on the specifics of the people in your building and how they work.
One potential facet of your office that might warrant your attention is its "cliquiness." Some workplaces are remarkably similar to junior high schools - people tend to band closely together with their groups of friends, and they stick with them day in and day out. This might have a positive effect on your workplace or a negative one - having groups of friends can bring people together, but it can also leave outsiders feeling neglected or ostracized.
Let's go over some numbers. According to a new survey from CareerBuilder, 43 percent of workers in the United States say their offices are populated by cliques. These groups tend to have some kind of common factor uniting their members - watching the same movies and TV shows (21 percent), disliking the same people (19 percent), having similar tastes in foods (17 percent) or sharing smoke breaks (9 percent).
Clearly, these groups vary in their influence on office productivity. If it's just a group of friends discussing last night's TV lineup, that's no big deal, but if a clique begins to harbor ill will toward another group, it might be a problem.
"Thirteen percent of workers said the presence of office cliques has had a negative impact on their career progress," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "While it's human nature to associate with peers who possess similar personality types and characteristics, cliques can be counterproductive in the workplace."
Much of the burden of monitoring office cliques falls on supervisors or human resources executives. But as a facilities manager, you can play a role as well. Here are a few ideas.
Allow for some socializing (but not too much)
If workers want to engage in healthy dialogues with their friends on a daily basis, there's nothing wrong with that on the surface. It's probably a good idea to give people open, collaborative work spaces that allow them to carry on conversations, as this will keep them happy and engaged throughout the day. On the other hand, if you let people socialize too much, it might make the office environment too loud and distracting. It's important to find the right balance here.
Provide suitable break rooms
If cliques of workers are becoming a distraction, it might be wise to give them break rooms where they can take a few minutes out of the day to socialize in another setting. This gives them a healthy outlet to speak without having to worry about impeding other employees' progress.
Where's the boss?
If cliques are too loud, or they lead employees to gang up on other co-workers (either socially or professionally), it might be necessary for a supervisor to step in and mediate the situation. Make sure your office layout is one that enables bosses to look over their subordinate workers.
Be willing to change
If the cliquey office culture gets to be too much, it may be time to make a major change, rearranging your office so that cliques don't become too much of a distraction. Keep an open mind about this possibility, but don't jump to conclusions too quickly, either. You only want to make a major realignment if it's absolutely necessary.