How do we choose the best place to sit?

In the era of activity based working and the explosion of choice about where to work, and not just within a conventional office, it is worth reflecting on what influences our decisions about where to sit. brainybirdz don’t have a dedicated office, so in theory we could choose pretty much any publicly available space to meet and work from. But we noticed last week that we have got into this habit of always meeting in Drake & Morgan in King’s Cross and whenever possible always sitting at the same table. Now we like to think that, as well as being very data rational, we are willing to explore new ideas and be creative and innovative, but clearly our venue and table choice is not making it look like that.

View from our favourite sofa

View from our favourite sofa

So what is going on? We think there are two possibilities here. Firstly that Drake & Morgan is just a great place to hang out, end of. The second possibility is that we, like many others, can easily become creatures of habit. We go back to Drake & Morgan because we think it suits us, there might be somewhere else a lot better but why bother? We know this second phenomenon; it is the same sort of thing many agile workplace designers find when they try to encourage people to move to different work settings all throughout the day and not have ownership of a particular desk or space and we know that familiarity and habit are part of that.

But let’s go back to why Drake & Morgan seemed to us like a good choice in the first place. At one level that is easy to rationalise: it is in a convenient location in London close to transport links, it is never too crowded when we go, so noise is not an issue and we get served very easily and the corner sofa at our favourite table is of a design aesthetic we like and it’s comfy. But if you start to analyse the configuration of the available spaces and the location of our favourite table you discover something else. The bar and restaurant area is a large single floorplate and visibility across it is high. If we just wanted privacy we would go downstairs where there are private booths but when we sit in our corner table we maximise the distance between the door and our seats so are as deep as we can go into the structure but still maintain visibility of what else is going on in the whole, including being able to see through the adjacent window to the outside. No one can disturb us without us seeing them coming and that is important.

Obviously, there is quite a bit of research on the topic of seating choice. For example a 2004 paper from Cornell University which is specifically about seating choice in restaurants and how that impacts consumer spending. Maybe there is something to be said for taking a similarly analytical approach to understanding how people choose appropriate places to get their work done. This is particularly relevant with the rise of activity based working and the phenomenon of co-working spaces. There is a lot more research required to fully understand what people prefer, how they choose and especially with the seeming popularity of co-working spaces, what it is exactly about their design and layout that is so effective. We will certainly be exploring this further, starting with trying out meeting somewhere new ourselves and seeing how that compares.

3 thoughts on “How do we choose the best place to sit?

  1. Pingback: Proximity – Main Library Redevelopment Blog

  2. Pingback: Seeing and being seen: Visibility, intimacy and control in open plan workplace design | brainybirdz

  3. It’s always fascinated me how attendees always gravitate towards the same seats week after week in recurring meetings. Are we just conditioned to do this from when we had allocated seats at school, or is there more to it?


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