Orbach and her colleagues collected information via electronic, sociometric badges that links workplace design and employee communication. The data they gathered at their study indicates that “workers who were encouraged to utilize flexible seating arrangements in a remodeled space had a higher proportion of face-to-face [and IM] interactions with colleagues outside of their team. . . . We also observed that the likelihood of communication between employees was inversely related to the distance between their seating locations [i.e., more distance, less communication].” Orbach and colleagues conclude that “Organizations can no longer count on formal hierarchical structures as the primary tool for managing information flow. Informal tools, such as office layouts, group lunches, and chats by the coffee machine, are the management tools of tomorrow as the informal relationship that they enable becomes more and more meaningful than hierarchical formal procedures. While it may seem fantastic, it appears that the identity of your boss is less important than the identity of your neighbor.”
Maya Orbach, Maegen Demko, Jeremy Doyle, Benjamin Waber, and Alex Pentland. 2015. “Sensing Informal Networks in Organizations.” American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 59, no. 4, pp. 508-524.