Office Desks & Workstations: Why You Still Need Them in the Hybrid Era

The buzzword of hybrid work is collaboration. But guess what? When asked what they truly need from the office, many employees yearn for a place in the office they can call their own. They want a sanctuary where they can dive into their tasks and focus.

Workers want their own space

Steelcase Lares desks & workstations

In a recent Steelcase survey, employees were asked what improvements would entice them to come into the office more often. The resounding response was all about individual spaces.

More privacy, an assigned workstation, a larger personal area, and ergonomic furniture - these are the elements they are craving.

Employees like the sense of belonging that comes from having an assigned desk in the office. They'd even trade home working days for it. When asked to choose, more people said they'd prefer their own workspace in the office and fewer days working from home.

A global study by Leesman showed unequivocally that 'Individual focused work, desk-based' was the most influential component of an employee's working day on their sense of the overall experience.

People supported to do individual focused work at a desk are significantly more likely to say their workplace supports their productivity, sense of community, and sense of pride. 

The overwhelming message about hybrid work is that people come to the office to collaborate. Yet when asked what they need from the office, many employees say it's privacy for individual work. 

But workspaces often fail to meet these needs.

Research by Gensler shows that employees spend 34% of their workweek working alone. Yet the workplace often doesn't support this crucial activity.

In the new hybrid era, it's tempting to believe that traditional desks and workstations are a thing of the past. But that's not the case. 

Let's dive deeper into what people crave about desks and workstations.

The power of ownership  

Let's face it: we all are looking for a sense of ownership. Having a designated space to call our own in the office fuels our sense of belonging. It's like having a home away from home, a sanctuary where we can get work done.


Privacy: the key to productivity

In the midst of the collaboration frenzy, let's not forget the unsung hero of productivity: privacy. 

When it's time for deep focus and individual tasks, employees need a space where distractions melt away. Employees spend a significant portion of their week working alone. This is where desks and workstations come into play, providing much-needed solitude for undisturbed concentration. The desk becomes a refuge for innovation and a haven for productivity.

Customised comfort

One size does not fit all when it comes to workspaces. Each employee has unique preferences and work styles. By offering desks and workstations, you empower individuals to create a personalised environment that optimises their productivity. 

Employees can tailor their surroundings to their liking, whether it's a standing desk, a cosy corner, or a meticulously organised space. It's about fostering an environment that honours individuality and enhances wellbeing.


The collaboration catalyst

Wait, aren't desks and workstations counterproductive to collaboration? Not at all. In fact, they can be a catalyst for effective teamwork

Picture this scenario: employees return to their desks after a focused brainstorming session with fresh ideas and newfound inspiration. They gather back around a central meeting area, armed with their insights, ready to collaborate. Desks become launchpads for collaboration, where diverse perspectives come together to create boundless possibilities.


Managing space constraints

Of course, it's not always feasible for every employee to have their own dedicated desk. Limited space and evolving office setups require us to find creative solutions.

Some strategies for managing individual workspaces in a shared workplace include:

Activity-based design

Instead of assigning fixed desks, create a variety of designated areas within the office. Consider quiet zones for focused work, breakout spaces for collaboration, and comfortable corners for relaxation. By providing a range of settings, employees can choose the environment that best suits their current task and preferences. This flexible setup allows individuals to have their own personal space within the shared workspace.

Hot desking with personalisation

Hot desking doesn't have to mean sacrificing a sense of ownership.

Hot desking is a popular trend in modern workplaces, enabling employees to choose their workspace each day. While it may seem counterintuitive to individual spaces, there are ways to personalise these shared desks.

Encourage employees to bring small personal items like photographs, plants, or desk accessories that create a sense of ownership. And embrace technology by allowing workers to control lighting and temperature settings. These personal touches help transform a generic desk into a personalised oasis, even in a shared setting. 

Private pods

Incorporating office pods within the workspace can provide employees with temporary individual spaces when needed. These dedicated areas offer privacy for focused work. Employees can reserve them for specific periods, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to access a private environment. Providing access to these spaces addresses the need for individual work without compromising on collaborative opportunities.


The hybrid office: more than just a collaborative space

Desks and workstations may have faced scepticism in the era of flexible work arrangements, but their significance remains undeniable. They go beyond physical structures; they're the backbone of a thriving workplace culture. 

By providing employees with their own spaces, you unlock the power of ownership, foster productivity through privacy, and enable customisation for comfort. It's the perfect blend of individuality and collaboration, fueling innovation and building a stronger sense of community.

To attract and retain talent, organisations must strive for a workplace that goes beyond the surface. To create an environment where employees have access to privacy and spaces to thrive. When employees feel a sense of ownership and connection, the office becomes a place to unleash their potential and make a real impact. 

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