The Big Question July 2017

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Many of the Projects we’ve covered over the past 12 months have one particular thing in common – fewer fixed ‘working’ areas. Are we now approaching the death of the desk?

Rosie Haslem, Spacelab

We’re certainly approaching the death of the ‘fixed’ or ‘allocated’ desk. Spacelab have found that, on average, across all the businesses that we’ve worked with, only 44% of desks are in use at any time, as people’s working days are increasingly diverse and collaborative. The workplace needs to both reflect and support this. Of course, certain tasks may still be best performed individually, at a screen on a flat surface, so a ‘desk-style’ set up won’t ever die, but it will need to be complemented by other types of workpoint, which can better accommodate other tasks.


Ken Giannini, MCM Architecture

‘The desk is dead’ was a statement I made at the CoreNet Amsterdam Summit in 2013, at the end of a presentation called ‘In-Between Spaces’. I am a firm believer that what makes a great workplace is the in-between spaces…spaces away from the desk, that define an organisation’s culture, image and are democratic for all and support a dynamic range of activities. It’s about prioritising spaces – not whether you have desks or not.

4Chris Scott, DAMS furniture

Not at all! However, the world of office desks is changing faster than ever before. As a UK manufacturer of office furniture for 50 years, Dams understand that employees today want less conventional workspaces and a flexible approach to working. The modern workplace is no longer seen as just the desk but also the area around it. New technology has allowed people to choose where they work, whether it is a fixed location with a height adjustable desk, or a more collaborative, agile workspace.


Angharad Pocock, Streamline Interiors

We are realising more and more that there is plenty of opportunity in many work styles to not be stuck in one place, embracing the idea of the shared, non-owned workspace. In fact it is not only more productive in many cases to ‘float’ around the workplace, interacting with other colleagues, getting away to a quieter spot or even to a busier area, but it is also much healthier, both physically and mentally. We place wellbeing at the forefront of design and challenge our clients to think about the workplace environment as a whole, not just a desk and a chair.


Carl Gearing, PwC

As technology improves, it allows us to be more flexible, giving us the freedom to work in different settings – but I’m not sure it’s the death of the desk. There are many people whose function at work is still deskbound, as technology has not caught up with what they do and they need the ergonomics. Also, what is a desk? It’s a surface to keep paper off the floor or, nowadays, a laptop. A desk can be any shape and size – but we still need that working height for the laptop. The question is, when the software on tablets gets better, will that be the game changer?


Marianne Paulsen, Morgan Lovell

While we’re certainly working with a lot of change in how and where people work, I think there is a major revolt yet to happen if the desk is to completely die. There are few organisations who are willing to let it go entirely and (let’s face it) functionally the desk does do a superb job of being a flat surface on which to type/write/draw. We will see its function dressed up in all manners I am sure, but even if you don’t own it and it comes in a timber leg frame with a lamp built in, I doubt it will disappear completely.