In the Workplace of the Future, Say Farewell to Your Desk

Naphat Rojanarangsiman/Shutterstock.com

More people are working remotely now, creating workstation vacancies that irk those paying the rent.

First they came for the offices, replacing four-walls-and-a-door situations with desks in cubicles, even for workers of considerable stature (paywall).

Now they’re coming for the desks themselves.

On both sides of the Atlantic, big companies are moving toward more flexible setups that do away with assigned workstations. The financial motivation to make the most of premium office space is primary. But another big driver now, and going forward, is mobility.

More people are working remotely now, creating workstation vacancies that irk the people paying the rent. But there’s more to it than that, according to Jennifer Busch, vice president of architecture and design at office furniture maker Teknion.

“It used to be that when you referred to the mobile worker you were talking about a person who works outside the office,” Busch tells Quartz. “Now you’re just as likely to be referring to someone that’s in the office environment, but they’re mobile because their technology has untethered them from their desk.”

Meanwhile, companies are becoming more conscious of the needs of different employees, according to Busch. Some people thrive on the energy of the open office (and it very likely is an open office) while more introverted people tend to suffer.

Both trends—the untethering and the desire to accommodate a range of work styles—point to a need for more variety in the space that companies offer. Desks are important, but so are more casual sitting areas where small groups can collaborate, as well as more private areas (the idea here being that there’s a space not only where people can go take a phone call, but one where someone who needs an hour of peace and quiet to finish something can find it).

And when there are space constraints, as is often the case, the need for gathering spots or private areas often comes at the cost of individual work stations, either in size, number, or personal ownership.

At the BBC headquarters in London, there are 3,500 desks for a staff of 5,600, spawning employee complaints about being able to find a place to work, and inspiring mockery in the organization’s own workplace comedy show

The transition to unassigned desks appears to be going more smoothly in the human resources division of Citigroup. Its workspace, in a Citi office complex in Long Island City, Queens, has 150 unassigned desks for 200 staff and has become a pilot in the company’s effort to “optimize the company’s workspace,”  according to a recent piece at the Harvard Business Review.

Previously, the group’s offices were underused—people were always out for one reason or another, be it vacation, illness, work travel, or because they had a flexible schedule.

It’s not anarchy at Citi. The office is loosely organized by function, there’s a locker room available to store stuff, and there are conference rooms and some shared private space available for meetings or phone calls. Despite the lack of seat assignments, Karyn Likerman, head of inclusion programs and work-life strategies, told HBR that she and her Citi colleagues tend to sit at the same desk most days, even though it’s not technically their space.

(Image via Naphat Rojanarangsiman/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.