There was a time when a workstation (or “desk”, as we used to call them) was a huge, unwieldy piece of furniture that took ten men to move. But things have moved on a bit since Alan Turing first adjusted his stool at his rolltop.

As space is an issue in most offices these days (unless you work in the middle of the desert), having dedicated IT areas can create enormous issues. In capital cities such as London, the cost of a desk per person per annum is somewhere between £12,000 and £14,000 so this space needs to be maximised, with desks functioning as IT workstations, charging units, communication areas and, sometimes, mini meeting spaces.

Moreover, as workplaces increasingly move towards balancing productivity and wellbeing, the modern workstation needs to be more than just a receptacle for papers and half-eaten apple cores. There is now a trend towards flexible sit stand desks fitted with sensors to detect who’s using the desk at any given time. This has become increasingly useful in the activity based workplace with shared workstations.

office workstations with natural light

Research from Statista shows that in 2015, 90% of people aged between 16 and 24 own a smartphone. Other research from early 2015 found that 74% of organisations are using or are in the process of adopting Bring Your Own Device. It therefore makes sense then that workstations are starting to include in-built chargers.

And they go further. You used to have to tidy your desk before you handed over to your colleague. Ok so today’s desks don’t quite tidy themselves but they do remind you when to walk away. For example, many office furniture manufacturers are now producing active worktables that include intuitive functionality enabling the worker to use an app reminding them when it’s time to stand up and work. These tables also allow the user to access their stored profile through a laptop, tablet or smartphone and adjust itself accordingly.

People working at smart workstations
Busy open plan workplace

Increasingly thin tech clients have meant that furniture designers can really go all out in providing the utmost ergonomic design. Brackets have replaced cumbersome boxes and pivots allow people to dictate location. Accessories have allowed us to convert existing desk areas into smart working areas too. Desk-mounted arms and pedestals can convert sitting desks into standing desks and mobile sit stand desks can be moved and transformed accordingly. Power and data modules can be added to transform almost any workstation into a connected one. No longer are we held ransom to enormous whirring machines.

What does this mean for the future of the office? It’s likely that offices will increasingly be designed with total movement in mind. Desks and workstations will be light, mobile and transformable according to health requirements. Changing tech specs will mean that workstations have to be increasingly agile. As BYOD becomes more the norm, workstations will reflect this. Your messy third drawer will be a thing of the past.

Desks will belong to nobody and even that snap of your darling children will be digitally projected when you log on (this is already happening). And, you’ll probably be standing up when you re-read this article.