The humble desk; it's flat, monochromatic and frequently underappreciated. However, that’s all about to change as we return to the office and move away from hot-desking. The importance of the humble desk is going to be re-defined and become more important than ever before.

Carol Brown

Furniture Manager

04th Aug 2020

41% of office workers surveyed felt anxious about the prospect of a return to work, with shared workspaces and collaboration areas a key area of concern. Yet we benefit on so many levels from being with our co-workers: we collaborate and exchange ideas, we learn and we relax into a social hub.

Do we really need a dedicated desk?

Activity-based working encourages teams away from being anchored to a single desk; instead choosing where to work in the office depending on the task at hand. Pre-lockdown, banks of unassigned hot-desks or ‘neighbourhoods’ provided space to work in, alongside other flexible, non-traditional workstations like pods or bleacher seating.

For many people, the choice of where to work will always enhance wellbeing and increase productivity. But we also need to consider those that don’t thrive in spaces like this, especially now.

Restoring confidence

Post-lockdown is a whole new ball-game. Businesses need to deliver a combination of furniture solutions to help rebuild employee confidence, minimise the risk of viral transmission, and harness the power of collaboration. Over 70% of survey respondents said that a dedicated desk would be their preferred working environment on return to the office. This may be the same for your teams and direct communication will reveal how each person feels. It’s likely that they will also derive comfort from having dedicated personal zones and providing this could be the carrot that tempts them back.

Looking ahead

In time, our need for individual boundaries will reduce and desk densities will increase again. Offices will be reimagined as destinations that promote collaboration, boost wellbeing and bring staff together. Flexible furniture will allow individuals and teams to configure the workplace to suit their tasks and requirements.

The desk will no longer be a tethered space. Maybe we’ll be able to change its purpose, drawing banks of desks together for family-style collaborations or breaking them down into individual workstations. We’ll choose whether to surround our desk with acoustic privacy panels or open it up to collaborate with the rest of the office.

Our ergonomic and physical requirements will be met by simply adjusting its height. The humble desk will become part of our agile office toolkit again and this will benefit our teams and re-invigorate our creative and innovative capacity.

Making activity-based working your reality

The journey towards activity-based working should be incorporated into your workplace design strategy. Practical planning and smart investment now will reap future rewards.

Flexible furniture

Combining multi-purpose furniture will enhance productivity: high-backed ‘plug and play’ booths with power and data; pedestals on wheels; moveable walls that create different zones; ‘huddle’ rooms; and sofa units alongside flexible desks, will all be part of your activity-based working office.

Storage

Providing lockers and appropriate storage for personal and work items will mitigate the need for ownership of personal space. The increasing number of cyclists will ramp up demand for changing facilities, while an increase in wellbeing brought on by self-catered lunches will see a rise in the need for kitchen storage.

Technology

In addition to basic power and data requirements, teams will need more video conferencing facilities; enabling employees to work flexibly around the office, and even remotely – whether that’s off-site, at another office or from home.

Etiquette

Confidence and harmony can be achieved in flexible workspaces through simple etiquette guidelines: cleaning and clearing workplaces after use, clarity around noise, room or breakout space bookings, and restrictions on monopolising spaces.