Google is famously obsessed with data. The company used number crunching to improve its hiring process, isolate the key attributes of its highest performing teams, and even understand what makes an exceptional manager (at least one key takeaway will probably surprise you).

But recently Google's re:Work blog took this fascination with number-driven improvement in an unexpected direction -- a new post discusses research into what data reveals about how best to furnish your break room.

The bigger the table the better the performance?

The study was carried out by people analytics company Humanyze and involved tracking the lunchroom behavior of employees at an online travel company using wearable badges. By monitoring who sat with whom and comparing that to data on employee productivity, Humanyze came to a simple but surprising conclusion -- if you want your people to collaborate more effectively, you should probably invest in bigger tables.

"We found that increasing the size of lunch tables... significantly improved performance by over 10 percent, as measured by peer reviews," writes Humanyze CEO Ben Waber on re:Work. "The most productive programmers were eating lunch in very large groups. The exact people in those groups changed day to day, but group size remained constant: around 12 people. The least productive people were eating in smaller groups of around four," he adds.

Dining with a large group, the research found, help employees build a stronger network, which allowed them to get more done. Simply moving in some larger tables encouraged more team members to get sociable over their sandwiches, leading to stronger connections and that impressive ten percent performance boost.

But sorry, the data doesn't support free beer

This was far from the only finding to come out of the project, but alas, the other takeaways aren't so immediately actionable. For instance, Waber is sad to report that offering free beer on Fridays had no marked effect on team cohesion. "We're not against free beer, just don't do it in the name of team cohesion," he says. (If you're looking for a rationale, say it's for increased creativity. Thanks, science.)

Could your lunch room accommodate a bigger table or two?

Published on: Mar 2, 2016