With research showing that people at work spend less than 50% of their time at their desks, the questions that spring to mind are ‘why?’ and ‘should I get rid of them then?’.
Before you chuck half of your space sucking behemoths in the skip, let’s look at why we seem to spend so little time at them and what we could gain if we used the space they occupy in a more dynamic way.
Why are we abandoning our desks?
Mobile tech: remember CPUs that required a small crane to relocate and the enormous beige monitors they were linked to? They needed some serious real estate so big desks were a necessity. Now we all charge around with laptops tucked under our arm that we invariably take home with us at night so ‘your computer’ is no longer intrinsically linked, literally, to ‘your desk’.
Environment: people don’t like working at their desks because:
• there are there are too many distractions (people talking, making calls)
• it’s too quiet (they are embarrassed to make a call and break the silence)
• there’s no privacy (for working on confidential projects)
• it’s boring (the same view day in day out is not conducive to creativity. Great for accountants, not so good for many other roles)
We need different environments for different tasks. If we could take ourselves off to a quiet space for focused work or to a phone room to make calls / hold video conferences, we’d get on and do it, which would increase productivity.
Millennials: the younger members of your team grew up studying in Starbucks and unless they have a flat white in their hand and that 70db coffee shop buzz in their ears they find it hard to concentrate. Dump a millennial in your average office and they won’t stay long as recent research shows: cubicles, silence and staying in one place all day? Not for me, thanks anyway. If you want to attract and retain young talent you really need to up your game in terms of the working environment.
Is it time to chuck out the desks?
So, if desks are not strictly necessary for technology and there are good reasons why they are unsuitable for many tasks and young people aren’t so keen, what next? All the evidence points to significant benefits from creating different zones designed for different types of work.
Increased productivity: if you enable your staff to arrange their workspace themselves you may see productivity gains of up to 32% according to research out of Exeter University. An agile, flexible space over which employees can develop a sense of ownership is key.
Increased productivity #2: If you create different zones, employees have to move around the workspace more, which leads to serendipitous encounters. Those impromptu chats that can spark an idea or unblock a project don’t happen by accident, you can make them part of your workspace design. This is exactly what Apple, Google, Microsoft and a host of other firms do to boost innovation and to enable their staff to develop stronger networks throughout the organisation.
Reduced time spent in formal meetings: increasing face to face informal contact with people from other teams – creating the chance to grab five minutes with someone in a breakout space, or having a quick coffee with a colleague you bump into – means you’ll have to book less actual meetings. There is nothing not to like about the prospect of fewer meetings and this informal contact speeds up the pace at which projects progress.
Attract and retain talented people: Not just millennials. Everyone wants to feel valued and if you provide an environment that clearly shows you are investing in your people’s happiness and wellbeing (as well as their effectiveness and productivity) you will be better able to retain good people.
Improved health and wellbeing: An environment where you can get your job done in a space that you actively want to be in makes for a happier workforce who will want to come into the office rather than actively avoiding it.
Or you could stick with just desks…
In reality there will always be a need for some desks and it would be a mistake to underestimate the status some people attach to ‘their desk’ and their territory. But a workspace that provides desks as the only place to work cannot expect to compete with those that offer a flexible, varied environment that not only makes people feel good but enables them to do their job better.
If you’d like to create an amazing workspace, give us a call, we’d be delighted to help.