From your desk, to hot desks, to no desk. A look at how office technology has transformed the workplace, and how to manage these changes successfully.
The concept of having your own desk has been around for decades. If you worked mainly with paper and computers, you had a desk. A small area within a workplace that was ‘yours’. Yours to put up pictures, have a personal mug and somewhere to stash those mounds of papers.
Around 30 years ago, the growing ubiquity of the desktop computer changed the nature of work. And many years on, technology has advanced so much that most people don’t even require a desktop computer to fulfil their job role anymore. Laptops, iPads and mobiles have enabled us to work more flexibly, from wherever we need to.
Work is no longer confined to the office. In fact a Condeco study in 2014 found that average desk utilisation is just 38%, reaching a peak utilisation of only 64%. Meaning that collectively, over one third of desks are never used at all. And with workstations costing £5,000 per year, that’s a massive amount of money wasted year upon year.
The era of the hot desk was formed. Desk sharing schemes allowed businesses to reduce their costs and increase their utilisation at the same time. The only challenge was to combat this feeling of lost ownership, ‘their desk’.
Lockers help by giving people a place to store their equipment and belongings, as well as desk booking technology to properly manage the change in culture.
It’s important to remember that hot desks are not necessary for every employee. There are three different types of worker:
Fixed – People in the office every day who have high levels of desk utilisation
Flexible – People that don’t continuously work at a desk or work part-time
Mobile – People in regular meetings throughout the day or are often working out of the office
A lot of fixed desk workers will want to keep their desk. They have ‘their’ space, amongst co-workers they know, and disrupting that environment will be unproductive and upsetting.
Flexible and mobile workers will be much more susceptible to a shared desk scheme, as they don’t feel as attached to an individual desk and where they sit.
Another factor to consider is the younger generation of workers. There is a huge rise in flexibility amongst these workers, who are starting in offices not needing their own desk at all. A big proportion of these workers prefer the ‘coffee culture’, whereby they work from sofas or at a bar table. These collaborative and communal environments are becoming key for businesses to retain and attract fresh, young talent.