DESK SHARING: a win-win model for companies and staff.

By Stefano Gambardella | International Client Director

The desk sharing concept is relatively new and surprising.

We have now become familiar with so many changes of paradigms and dematerializing the physical workplace is an attractive issue. This is also true because we are facing tough times due to a pandemic situation. Right now, we benefit from this policy, as we have fewer people working together, to fight the spread of the virus.

Sometimes, desk sharing is not affordable, due to the given task, but in lots of circumstances it is the natural process because it has interesting aspects concerning lots of business applications and implications that follow to make it a win-win model.

Of course, for huge multinationals, this has been already adopted many years ago. Those projects should be considered precursors and for many countries and medium-sized companies, this approach is still an ambitious topic.

Despite being an innovative and disruptive model, accepting that your own desk is not the ideal place to carry out your work is quite hard for some people. People are normally truly sensitive to any decision taken to reshape their environment or daily routine, so there is often resistance.

Your workstation no longer “belongs” to you! 

You should learn how to share “it”, or how to book one specific space, simply informing your boss that those days you will be at the office. Such a system works well when it is implemented taking into account what is really needed to execute your job. A standard desktop computer is not useful, a laptop would be required. Office wi-fi and printers’ facilities must be accessible everywhere, inside offices. The availability of dedicated areas for colleagues to meet or for breaks needed to relax, eat, and drink is important. Together, there must be organization and the right environment, for an effective service level.

Once, I visited an Italian branch of a well-known Swedish multinational. It was quite fascinating to discover that the company implemented big changes to all the interiors. Glass walls were made to look through at the staff on the shop floor from the offices, and vice versa, providing a sense of depth, unity, and transparency. Such an idea helped the integration between areas. It allows for one to see their colleague crossing corridors, to get enough of a look to understand if a person is available or not for a quick talk or just to say “Hello, I’m here! How are you?” This can avoid exchanging lots of emails.

Shared desks are exactly the same for everybody. No personal objects, pictures, or postcards of your last holidays. If the CEO is not in, his desk is available for anyone who cannot find a place to sit. Desk design and work chairs are the same everywhere. You can book a meeting room by simply looking outside the space needed, as the weekly schedule is clearly displayed.  By looking at this schedule, you can immediately understand what’s going on now and for the following days.

Doing this, since the very beginning, desk sharing policy has been really successful to operate at its very top level. People can work from any place.  Naturally, a smart working mode has been implemented and integrated together with the desk sharing model.

Smart working: another hot topic. It has been particularly abused recently because it is frequently and commonly adopted without any planning or designing because we are living in a kind of emergency. Since a few months ago, any decision seems to be good enough to overcome the obstacle of the pandemic. Unfortunately, to become smart is not only to buy technology with connective platforms leaving personnel at home. In fact, you also have to rethink how your structure can operate in an agile modality. When an organization goes towards the desk sharing solution, employees have to adapt to the new philosophy that should be normally integrated with a smart working project to support the implementation.

The story above is a very interesting example. The company invested huge budgets, installed a network of sensors to automatically adjust air conditioning according to carbon dioxide detected in any room. If there’s more than one person, and a meeting has been organized, within a few minute adjustments are made. Ok, let’s go back now to reality because things can be made simpler not always requires big investments. 

We can also look at the desk sharing from a different point of view for a very simple reason: we normally have to work hard to align our companies’ organizational layout to an ideal trim consistent with the vision and the mission settled. It means that companies’ shape is frequently not coherent with their business models, and all the efforts made to redirect strategies are absolutely not effective. It’s quite common to find physiological misalignment, there’s always lots of room for improvements and corrective actions, but entrepreneurs and managers are sometimes not ready to react adopting the adequate choices. It’s a typical organizational development issue, quite complex. The desk sharing model helps to support changes, to get higher flexibility re-shaping or re-thinking some processes or flows. It could be one of the tools to leverage for the objective to reach. But what about the impact on people? We should not underestimate it. 

Kilpatrick Group deals worldwide with executive search and organization development projects and we learned how people, before technology, can make a difference. 

On one hand, Kilpatrick supports companies to understand the importance to work closely with personnel already employed in their organizations, trying to support people on how to approach any change that could be implemented in the system. Listening to the company’s internal network is helpful to decide actions, to understand the mood, including its variations, to do coaching on teams or individuals, anytime. Another critical issue regards how personnel can successfully internalize any change, in that sense, awareness on a person’s mindset can only be reached by investing in time and resources.

On the other hand, Kilpatrick always stimulates companies to create value, integrating any organizational change (for example, desk sharing policy) according to a wider project able to include a clear picture regarding the acquisition of new candidates. In case that we are in search of a Manager profile, it’s strategic to define the key person able to accompany the organization towards the future, promoting, when necessary, individual resilience, and developing customized paths for the employees. 

If the desk sharing is based on collaborative technologies, people must be kept united regardless of their locations, a Manager must be capable to supervise functional overloads, anomalies, or underuse, any time stimulating the interactions and re-designing processes in case flows are not effective. They should be in the best position to drive communication inside their team granting people engagement, motivation, and productivity fueling the organization with the right energy level. It’s also relevant to verify all the interactions between their team and the remaining part of the organization.

When we take into account all the topics covered, we can get the vision highlighting how strategic it is to put in place all the very best efforts needed together with our clients. It’s crucial to define an efficacious selection process to search for the ideal candidate, the best compromise to deal with any future potential disruption, or any innovative organizational solution that could ideally be implemented. It’s not only a matter of how things are made, it’s not only a sequence of actions. There must be an alignment with the client in order to build a common path sharing the way on how the vision will lead to the goal.

The desk sharing is a clear example, a kind of challenge that can create internal breakdown, this must be reflected on the new candidate choice for a managerial role too and help to reach a win-win solution.