As far as inanimate objects go, desks are a crucial part of corporate life. We sit shackled to them all day, minus a few meetings, lunch and bathroom breaks. When it comes to workers’ welfare, it would be remiss of business leaders not to include work stations in the wider strategy of getting the most from people.
Take Swiss banking giant UBS, one of the latest companies to get creative about its workspaces. It’s new building in London flaunts a reduced amount of individual offices (by 40 per cent), and an uptake of mobile desktops. Employees will no longer carry laptops or phones around with them, but sign into virtual desktops at any computer, at work or home, sporting personalised headsets. According to NY Times, it’s all about optimising space, money and mobility; doing away with clutter.
How does this minimalism sit with the masses? There’s never going to be a universal approach that suits everyone. Organisations can talk about health, productivity and cost benefits of their approach as much as they like, still, the idea is sure to excite some and irk others. As with any major change, it’s important to understand the different reactions people might have, and take people’s preferences into consideration.
Decorations & personalisation
Just as some people will love the flexibility and mobility of a minimalistic approach to workspaces, other will loathe it. There’s significant research to suggest there are loads of benefits to people personalising their desks, helping them become inspired and productive. Many people feel more comfortable when they have photos, wall calendars, filing systems, notepads and other stationery at their disposal. For these types of people, setting up shop for a few hours at different monitors each day to the next is likely to unsettle these types.
Standing & sitting
We are increasingly becoming aware that sitting down all day is really bad for us (humans weren’t designed to be in that position all day). Research about the terrible effects it has on our health, posture and productivity is alarming. On the other hand, we also don’t want to have to stand up for hours on end, as being on our feet can be tiring and it’s also important to feel comfortable while we work.
Messy or clean
Some research claims people who keep their desks clean and organised are more productive; perhaps more inclined to eat better and look after themselves. Similar research also connects messiness with laziness and disorganisation… but also with increased levels of creativity (read more in this NY times article). I guess it depends who’re talking about, then?
Remote float your boat?
According to this Forbes survey, remote workers are happier and more productive than office-bound employees. On the other hand, we know that those who work from home or in isolation often have trouble with distractions and feeling separated from colleagues and managers. Again, it would appear that it’s down to personality type and how individuals work best, as to whether being on their own or in a supportive team environment is more effective.
Jobbio, an online marketplace for jobs and talent, recently conducted research into Generation Z and their career priorities in comparison to millennials and Gen X. The findings? Major differences exist between generations, and this is also likely to come into play when it comes to things like desks. Millennials and Gen Z are big on giving back to the planet, going green and opting for healthy alternatives. Perhaps they’ll be more likely to respond well to UBS’ new approach to desks than employees who have worked for longer in traditional office settings and don’t fancy a major overhaul?
At the end of the day, not everyone gets a choice about their desk arrangement, and will simply have to cooperate with what their employer offers them. Employers are often in the touch position of trying to cater for many different needs, while maximising office space and continually cutting down costs. There’s no one size fits all solution: there rarely is where people are concerned. Sometimes the best method of problem solving is trial and error, learning what works and what doesn’t. Good on UBS for being brave and trying something new!