The Design Hack That Makes for Friendlier Offices

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

It’s never a bad idea to find yourself some work pals — after all, research has shown that people learn more on the job when they have fun at the office — but actually making those connections between the hours of nine and five is often easier said than done. If your job requires you to spend the bulk of that time typing away in a cubicle, there’s not much opportunity for organic socializing; unless you happen to catch someone on line for the kitchen microwave around lunchtime, your options are kind of limited.

But as Daniel Krivens, who heads up the design firm Krivens Partners, recently wrote in Quartz, there’s a fairly simple way for offices to foster conversation social interactions between colleagues (one that, thankfully, doesn’t involve goofy icebreakers or team-building exercises): Put them higher up off the ground, whether that means standing desks or just taller sitting desks. Krivens explained:

In bars, the counter and stools are placed at a height that puts those sitting and standing at the same eye-level. The height of the counter and matching stools is so well established at between 40 to 42 inches that it’s known as “bar height.” Eliminating this 12-inch difference naturally engineers conversations between strangers who are now both sitting and standing face-to-face …

Yet so many workplaces are designed to be a divided plane between those sitting, standing, and walking. When someone is sitting down, they are roughly 12 inches below the eye height of someone walking by—and this elevation segregation means everything to workplace productivity and conviviality.

What it means, essentially, is the difference between intentionally seeking someone out for a chat and just happening to fall into conversation. We’re all sloths at heart; the trick is to use that laziness to your advantage, whether that means keeping the healthy snacks within easier reach than the junk food or learning a new language simply by listening to the words being spoken around you. Similarly, you may not make the effort to block off a chunk of your schedule for some face time with a co-worker, but catching their eye as they walk by your desk may achieve the same end. Think of it as the lazy person’s networking — or, at least, the lazy person’s incentive to finally try a standing desk.

The Design Hack That Makes for Friendlier Offices