The people we sit near at work inevitably impact our day. They may brighten our mood or drive us crazy.
What's more, our work neighbors can actually change how well we do our own jobs.
Researchers looked at the 25-foot radius around high-performers at a large technology firm and found that these workers boosted performance in coworkers by 15 percent. That "positive spillover" translated into an estimated $1 million in additional annual profits, according to new research from Dylan Minor, an assistant professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at the Kellogg School.
Of course, the flipside is that bad eggs impact their neighbors, too. Negative spillover from so-called toxic workers is even more pronounced — sometimes having twice the magnitude of impact on profits as positive spillover. Yet, while this toxic spillover happens very quickly, it also dissipates almost immediately once that worker is either fired or relegated to the far physical reaches of the company.
Which means that companies potentially have a very cheap way to boost productivity — simply shift some desks around — as opposed to relying on expensive training and recruiting, Minor says. In an era where companies are experimenting with open floor plans and other nontraditional seating arrangements, the stakes can be high. Minor's research provides tangible takeaways for leaders thinking about how to group their staff.