The demise of the desk

In On the go, Productivity by Jake, MarketingLeave a Comment

The desk, an iconic piece of furniture synonymous with work, and the destination of productivity – or so it was.

This simple object encapsulates the type of working mentality that has been prevalent for generations. However, with widespread access to devices and the appreciation for mobility increasing, exactly how important is this traditional way of working?

With Google, Facebook and other Silicon Valley type of organisations attempting to rethink what habits best enhance their workforce, we think these findings should be capitalised by everyone. It is the critical review of these behaviours that can allow any organisation to work far beyond its means.

As such I have collated the pros and cons of both arguments below so that you can decide the best fit for your organisation.

The desk: in favour

Clutter: The desk provides a fantastic platform for one critical element of the office – clutter. While at face value this may seem like a drawback, many, including the likes of Jobs, Zuckerberg and Einstein, saw this type of open-form working as the key to their productivity.

Today’s reality is that you can have all your books online and all your resources digitally saved; the simple fact remains that there is something very malleable about having everything around you. It seems that this type of environment cannot really be recreated outside the office or your home.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” – Einstein

From the small post-it notes on your monitor to that random book in the corner, these could all come together to inspire you. However, while this is all good and well, the impact varies for different positions in varied industries. For more information on a cluttered desk, read here.

Steve Jobs working at his desk

A culture for change: One of the most precious parts of working in an office is its culture. It is not only the element that will impress your clients, but it genuinely creates a collective purpose resulting in great output.

You will also find that being able to work around one desk can really make a meeting work well. While meetings can just be pen and paper, meeting around one desk while accessing the same computer often keeps people on cue while creating an intense, purposive environment.


Getting your head in the game: Put on your swimming cap and your brain knows what it’s in for.

This concept is not unique to sport; by putting yourself in the office environment, which is dominated by the mentality ‘I have to get this done’, you will feel confident knowing that your purpose is clear. Working in a Starbucks is great, but you may not have the feeling that you are surrounded by productivity and therefore you could find it harder to keep pace with the pack.

The desk: opposing

‘Work is an activity not a location’.

A philosophy we follow at Cloudamour. As such we think that your desk is wherever you are; from my backpack I could set up in a cafe, sit on the beach or work from home. This means that I can work on tasks in an environment that enables me to consistently deliver optimum output. As the famous Apple designer Jony Ive notes, when he is doing creative work he loves to blare music, but he wants quiet and privacy when he writes.

Regrettably this freedom isn’t realistic when you are stuck to a desk. While the temporary solution may be a set of headphones, it isn’t exactly ideal.


Learn from your environment: There is something very freeing and open when you work in a random location and just absorb the atmosphere. You will be inspired by the world around you and while your office may have a table tennis table and lots of bells and whistles, if you are able to mix it up, you will keep your brain on its toes.

“Have you got a second?”

How many times a day do you hear this? Drawing you away from your objective. Sometimes you need to completely focus on a task and the simple act of removing yourself from the hustle of the office could be the key; you may be surprised by how much better you work.

Work on the go

Travel time: One of my biggest personal ‘pet peeves’ is wasted time. An hours train journey back to the office to do two hours work after a meeting is wasted time that you will never get back.

Hence the creation of modern communication. The value of not being stuck to a desk is that you are able to utilise your time in a far better way. One of the primary reasons that people stick to this old dogma is the regrettable stigma against those that work from home. Removing the old mentality of your ‘desk’ being the only portal into work fosters the ability to be far more productive.

As a small example; one of our clients, Robin Sumner, Managing Director of Romax, gained an extra 10 hours of working per week through good technology and therefore being able to work while on the train.


Being tied down: Not what you might think.

It is a rather common misconception that you need your laptop to work; welcome the cloud. The ability to pick up almost any device and work from anywhere. I could be writing this blog from a cave in China with 3G if I wanted to – as it happens I’m not.

When you stop feeling attached to pieces of furniture you will find yourself more open to trying other productivity tips.

However, there is a true challenge when using multiple devices. If you want to go on Facebook, use your personal phone. If you need to deal with personal emails, do that on another device. Your office device was meant for you to work; the more you enforce this, no matter where you are, the more natural it will seem.


No matter which opinion you hold; whether you find yourself getting a standing desk – ditching the paper or staying with the status quo, try to continually assess if your current arrangement is right for you.

Which side of the ‘desk divide’ do you find yourself on? We would love to hear your thoughts.


» Width 1 Image Source: Time magazine via SPD

» Cover image, Width 2 Image Source: Startupstockphotos

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