Why do we strike up more spontaneous conversations with people in bars than we do in the workplace? The answer isn’t alcohol—it’s the eye height you engage with people at.

In bars, the counter and stools are placed at a height that puts those sitting and standing at the same eye-level. The height of the counter and matching stools is so well established at between 40 to 42 inches that it’s known as “bar height.” Eliminating this 12-inch difference naturally engineers conversations between strangers who are now both sitting and standing face-to-face. That 12-inch difference makes casual conversations much more likely to happen. (And not just because you’re two glasses of wine into your evening.)

By this logic, in order to facilitate communication and collaboration, we should make our workplaces more like bars. Without the drinking.

Eye-to-eye, face-to-face connections are critical to workplace success; they are the basis for building common ground, trust, and facilitating the flow of ideas. Yet so many workplaces are designed to be a divided plane between those sitting, standing, and walking. When someone is sitting down, they are roughly 12 inches below the eye height of someone walking by—and this elevation segregation means everything to workplace productivity and conviviality.

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