Location matters in workplace communication


When my Davis & Company colleagues visit client sites, we almost always notice the key reason workplace communication isn’t effective: It’s in the wrong place. For instance:

  • An electronic screen is hung 10 feet high in a sitting area outside several conference rooms. You have to stop and crane your neck to look at it.
  • Posters are placed on easels in the hallway leading to the employee cafeteria. If an employee pauses to read them, he or she would be rear-ended by colleagues racing to lunch.
  • A video monitor is mounted on the wall near a large open-plan work area. Because the audio would disturb people, the sound is turned off. That means you have to be a lip reader to understand what people onscreen are talking about.

I’m not making any of this up. In fact, I have never been on a formal site visit (where we evaluate workplace communication as part of an audit) or even casually dropped into a client site without seeing workplace communication that violates the first rule of real estate: That’s right, location, location, location.

What’s the problem? Most offices, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities weren’t designed for workplace communication. So placement is usually an afterthought. Decisions are made based on such factors as where there’s room to install cables, not on the L (location again) word.

The solution is simple. Start by spending time observing how employees behave in the workplace and how they interact with current communication.

Then build a plan for how you’ll relocate workplace communication to take advantage of:

  1. Places where employees stand and wait, such as in the cashier line in cafeterias, at the credit bureau, outside and inside elevators and near the time clock.
  2. Ways employees move around the facility. Do they sprint down a hallway, but move more slowly near a coffee kiosk? Large-format posters and banners can work in high-traffic areas as long as employees are facing the area.
  3. Unusual spaces. Take a page from retailers and consider nearly every surface, including floors and windows. Ceilings probably can’t be used very often and, although bathroom stalls are interesting, I can never get over the “ick” factors.

A simple change—moving workplace communication to a better location—can make a big difference.


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