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The Future of the Office is… Desk-Less?

The Future of the Office is… Desk-Less?

You roll into work on a Monday morning and itΓÇÖs there. That pile of papers, folders, promotional junk ΓÇô and in some cases old food wrappers ΓÇô which make up the average office workerΓÇÖs desk. Admit it; there are times when you wish it would just go away. But do we really? Could we work without a desk?

Yesterday in Computer Weekly, Rob Bamforth asked whether individual office workers still need their own desks, and suggests that the future for the average office worker is a desk-less one.

ItΓÇÖs the ultimate in flexible working and a practice which has become increasingly popular in recent years. If BamforthΓÇÖs right, we could see the familiar office landscape of desks and chairs replaced with a plethora of portable digital devices ΓÇô laptops, smartphones and tablets ΓÇô allowing employees to work anywhere, any time. But could it work?

Hot desking ΓÇô a taste of future working now?

For a glimpse of how the desk-less future could work, we can look at the growing trend of hot desking. Already widely available at business centres up and down the country, hot desking is becoming an increasingly popular offering among serviced office providers with a large network of centres.

The premise is simple. Anyone with a pass can roll up with their laptop, grab a free desk, and type in their pass code to gain internet access and ΓÇô in many cases ΓÇô retrieve their business calls too.

ItΓÇÖs easy to understand the appeal. This flexibility can work well for employees who are required to travel a lot, or even for those who donΓÇÖt want to waste time on a long commute to the office.

A question of ownership

But perhaps the humble office desk is more about a psychological boost than a physical presence.
ItΓÇÖs a territory, a base, and some would argue, ownership of that little bit of space within the workplace makes workers more invested in the company.

Behavioural psychologist Donna Dawson has suggested that hot desking ΓÇ£is a continual reminder that you are just a cog in the machine and mustn’t get too settled.”

The CEOΓÇÖs large, mahogany desk has also long been regarded as a symbol of power, while for others, simply sitting at their own desk helps them get into that work frame of mind.

Cutting costs vs. ROI

Cutting down on desks cuts down on costs; that much is indisputable. According to Microsoft’s Daniel Langton, flexible working could save the UK economy as much as £45.3 billion every year, while a recent Vodaphone survey estimated savings of £34 billion if UK businesses reduced the number of desks they rent or own.

On the face of it, BamforthΓÇÖs argument that providing a desk for every worker ΓÇ£starts to look like an unnecessary extravaganceΓÇ¥ is compelling.

But itΓÇÖs not just a question of cost ΓÇô businesses considering any form of flexible working also need to weigh it against potential ROI. And some CEOs, like Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer, feel that the value of having employees in the office working together makes it worth the extra cost.

Desk-less ΓÇô or desk-free?

For those who support desk-less working, the hub of a business is no longer the office, itΓÇÖs the online network. Depending on your outlook, that could present a daunting prospect or a liberating one.

What do you think? Are desks an important part of the office or would you prefer to work without one? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Author: | April 4, 2013 | 1 Comment

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