Connecting with peers and coworkers is a vital part of boosting morale in the workplace.
Seating arrangements are essential in setting the tone within the physical space that fosters intentional connection.
Whether it be round table seating, where eye contact and discussion are the main focus for strengthening teams, or the more traditional theater style in larger venues to draw focus to a speaker, there are numerous ways to design a workspace based on your specific needs.
Here are some of the most popular seating arrangements to help your business encourage communication, inclusivity, and productivity.
Everyone gather round’
People are working remotely now more than ever, changing how we understand productivity and the future of work. Due to this significant shift away from office culture, companies recognize the value of company retreats, conferences, and regular opportunities to promote building and trust in the workplace, especially for those businesses that have gone fully remote.
Round table seating is a way to bring people together in a way that cultivates intimacy. Ideal for small to mid-size teams, this type of seating arrangement can be done in places with limited space, giving you more venue options.
- Round tables don’t take up much space
- They promote spontaneous conversation
- Intimate setting breaks down hierarchical structure within teams
- Close proximity seating encourages participation
- The limited surface area makes it challenging to accommodate large teams
- Round tables can be cramped if there are too many people
- There is a lack of surface area for presentation materials
- It can be uncomfortable for less social team members
Banquet seating for encouraging cross-connections
Banquet seating, like a round table, provides an intimate setting, but in this case, there are numerous tables instead of one central seating area. Banquet seating consists of tables set up in close proximity, making it possible for larger companies to break into small groups, ideal for meet-and-greets and encouraging cross-connection.
Banquet seating also lends itself to celebration. This seating arrangement is a comfortable and efficient way to bring teams together to present awards or honor the latest professional achievements.
- Banquet seating provides enough seating for larger teams
- Numerous tables allow workers to break into smaller groups
- An ideal setting for workshopping and small team-building exercise
- The banquet setting enables teams to rotate
- Small groups promote intimacy
- A perfect setting for food and drinks to be served
- It may be difficult for large companies to all fit comfortably
- Numerous groups can take away attention from the central speaker
- Seating arrangements can be cramped if there isn't a large enough venue
- It can be noisy during group conversations due to the proximity of tables
Cabaret for awards ceremonies and parties
Suppose you’re hoping to host an awards ceremony or honor your employees in a festive setting. In that case, a cabaret arrangement is ideal, as it provides a comfortable and informal environment that can accommodate a speaker or presentation. Like banquet seating, this arrangement focuses on round tables and draws focus to a main speaker or presentation while bringing teams close.
Instead of having groups fully enclose the table, cabaret seating requires one end of the table to remain open towards the focal point of the presentation or speaker. This type of arrangement can accommodate mid-size groups by efficiently using space.
- Banquet-style seating is great for events that serve meals and drinks
- Numerous tables accommodate small groups, allowing for meaningful interaction
- Tables nearby allow groups to switch tables, enhancing networking and connection
- Banquet seating can provide an intimate setting that isn’t ideal for large-scale conferences
- Depending on the number of tables, banquet seating can require a lot of floor capacity and space
- Banquet seating brings people together and can be potentially loud
Boardroom seating for business
Boardroom seating is a great way to combine a formal set-up with the chance for conversation and discussion. For small to mid-size meetings requiring an entire company or team, the boardroom focuses on those leading the conference while also allowing for close physical proximity, perfect for Q&A sessions.
If your company is planning an off-site meet-up, the boardroom seating arrangement is an excellent setup for mini-conferences and workshops.
- Boardroom seating emanates professionalism without being restrictive
- Seating centers focus on the speaker while keeping participants close
- It is easy to have group discussions and Q&A sessions
- The boardroom utilizes tables, providing space for laptops and presentation materials
- The seating arrangement has the potential for limited visibility if seating in a far corner of the table
- Social interaction can feel limited unless promoted by the speaker
Classroom style to focus on learning
It might feel like you are back in school with this setup, as the classroom sets values, focus, and function. Classroom seating is an excellent setup for small presentations.
If your company is setting up a retreat that is focused on team building but also needs to address important announcements, such as end-of-the-year figures or policy changes. In that case, the classroom can bring focus and space for attendees to socialize afterward.
- Classroom seating can accommodate small to mid-sized teams
- The forward facing-seating promotes focus and learning
- There is space for laptops and note-taking
- The classroom setting is ideal for discussion outside of answering questions
- The forward focus can feel restrictive during long meeting sessions
Enhance engagement with the chevron setup
Much like the classroom setup, the chevron seating arrangement prioritizes the speaker and is a great way to bring the whole team together for a small conference of announcements.
Chevron seating is often two columns with several seats in each row at an angle toward each other. Larger companies can utilize space efficiently and promote productivity using the chevron style.
- Chevron is spacious and well-suited for larger teams
- The angle and direction prioritize focus by physically facing the speaker or panel
- Chevron seating provides an excellent way to bring larger groups together
- Chevron is suitable for training and onboarding meetings
- Chevron seating isn’t ideal for spontaneous conversation
- To have a chevron setup, there needs to be designated entrances and aisles to access seating
- This arrangement can be restrictive depending on the space
Hollow-square setup for all hands on deck
The hollow square seating arrangement is like a boardroom setup, except by incorporating an open shape, it has the potential to feel less formal or restricted. This setup works well if your company is organizing a workshop that isn’t dependent on group work and brings small to mid-size teams together. Hollow Square can also accommodate large teams depending on whether or not the room is large enough to fit large tables.
- Hollow-square makes attendees face one another, which brings a sense of intimacy to the group
- This arrangement provides plenty of space to take notes or work on your laptop
- In this setup, attendees can see one another, and it encourages people to ask questions
- Hollow-square seating requires a lot of space
- If the room isn’t spacious enough, this arrangement can’t accommodate large groups
- Some attendees may have difficulty seeing if placed at the far end of the room or table
- This arrangement does not have a designated space for a speaker
Horseshoe seating for informal meetups and events
Think hollow-square seating with an open space without a table, allowing for more fluid interaction from presenters or designated speakers.
The horseshoe seating arrangement does require a fair amount of space but can fit a medium-sized team without compromising openness.
- Horseshoe seating lets speakers walk in between seating to pass out materials or documents
- Attendees can freely ask questions and foster communication
- This seating arrangement lets neighbors discuss when needed
- Horseshoe seating typical requires ample space
- This seating style has no surface area to place belongings or work-related materials
Open format or lounge setting
Drawing inspiration from the open-plan office and coworking spaces, lounge-style seating allows people to mingle freely, encouraging serendipitous conversation and intimacy among workers.
An open-format breaks down the hierarchy and is an ideal seating arrangement for introductions and company retreats focused on team-building.
- The open setting allows people to spark up a conversation
- This arrangement encourages teams to break out of their comfort zone
- A lounge setting is perfect for promoting informal relationship building
- The open format is excellent for parties and cocktail hour
- Open-plan meeting spaces can be potentially uncomfortable for less social attendees
- It can be hard to establish a structured meeting because of the fluid setup
- A lounge setup requires a lot of space to allow people to move comfortably
Traditional conference or theater setup
For large-scale meetups, the most popular arrangement is the conference room which is similar to theater-style or auditorium-style seating. Participants often face a stage or platform where speakers present or give small panel discussions in front of the audience.
The traditional seating arrangement is one of the most commonplace setups, as it can accommodate teams of all sizes and aims to provide focus.
- Because the traditional setup requires an auditorium or similar space, enough room for attendees is often not an issue
- Conference settings provide focus and encourage learning
- Traditional seating excellent for conferences, speeches, and presentations
- It could potentially be more comfortable for employees who are less inclined to socialize
- Traditional setups don’t encourage discussion or spontaneous introductions
- Depending on the venue, it can be challenging to hear the speaker
- Conference settings don't foster intimacy and are not ideal for team building
The right seating arrangement for your next event or company retreat can play a significant role in how employers interact with one another and can be a strategic way to evoke productivity and connection, ultimately bringing workers closer together.
If you’re unsure whether or not any of the setups mentioned above will suit your specific needs, we can help you figure out what type of venue and seating will be the best fit for your particular event; The Surf Office offers a meeting room capacity calculator to help you figure out what will work best for you and your team.