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Musical Chairs – Office Seating Allocation

There are very few things that will capture the interest of every staff member in an office more than the allocation of offices or work spaces. The task is an extremely difficult one, and people are very adept at finding flaws in any new layout.

Orbit Systems has developed a software package that can take all the stress out of assigning work spaces to be sure you have everyone in the best possible place.

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In any new office seating layout, we think the main challenges are these:

  • Have each person sit in a place that that reflects their relative status in the organisation.
  • Sit people close to each other when that closeness will generate “synergy” in the workplace.
  • Have people sit in locations that are especially suited to their function in some way.

Mathematically speaking, it can be really difficult to get a good solution because an office layout of just 20 people generates a huge number of possible seating arrangement combinations to consider and may take a very long time to solve. With each additional person the complexity increases exponentially.

The problem is difficult for people to solve manually as well, and suggested layouts are generally far from ideal. So when you plan your office layout, whether it is on one floor for a dozen people or multi-level for many people, you may put in a lot of effort but get a poor solution. The consequence is that staff are going to be less happy, motivated and productive than they would otherwise have been.


Orbit Systems’ Musical Chairs software has been developed specifically to calculate the allocation of people to work spaces, or work spaces to people, based on a range of criteria that are entered into the system.

We’ve added some innovations that make the solution more user-friendly, including:

  • We allow some people to be “seeded” into locations so that their team will naturally flow into locations around them.
  • We can allow synergy to be defined based on team membership, by function, or specifically between people.

The data is easy to set up, and results can be gained in just a few seconds.


Computers are very good at creating an initial plan, but it is normally impossible to encapsulate all possible personal interactions into a system. We therefore suggest a hybrid approach where we work with your business advisers to customise the computer model to generate a series of good seating plans and, through an iterative process drawing on knowledge within your company, make improvements to get the best solution.

We suggest:

  • Set up the model as well as possible.
  • Use some different starting “seeds” to create some alternative plans.
  • Introduce further synergy associations or change seedings to improve the plans.
  • From those plans, pick the best one.

This process need not take a long time. Because the computer program will come up with very good starting solutions, the process of improvement should be reasonably simple.