Is the Modern Office Really Obsolete?


First cubicles reportedly died, but it appears that now office desks and even the workplace itself are in danger. A couple of recent articles that appeared on Haworth’s Trends Wall have rung yet another death knell for the modern office as we know it. While rumors of the death of the cubicle are still proving to be greatly exaggerated, this hasn’t stopped yet more prognosticators from proclaiming that traditional office desks are soon to follow. Or perhaps not.

The attention grabbing headline “Death of the Desk” from Shane Hickey at The Guardian is a bit of an exaggeration. He’s really talking about the trend toward offering a wider variety of workplace setups, including more collaborative space. Instead of continuing to shrink the square footage per employee by cramming more desks closer and closer together, employers are expanding the perceived space in the office by offering greater flexibility. Hot-desking or desk sharing means that there’s not a workstation for every employee—but everyone still has many spaces where they can choose to work.

The Office Isn’t What It Used to Be

An article in a similar vein from Caroline Hughes at workdesign.com heralds the potential obsolescence of the office itself in a world of virtual workers. Yet Hughes recognizes that the workplace will indeed survive in a different form. In her vision for the future, the office is seen primarily as a space for connection, not just a place for creating work product. Face-to-face encounters would be the primary purpose of being physically present at headquarters. But these interactions wouldn’t be restricted to meeting rooms. Instead, the corridors that allow movement throughout the office would become the breeding ground for creative collaboration.

What was once seen as purely utilitarian space would become active, abuzz with ideas. In Caroline’s words, “These portals also serve as decompression zones, separating the activity and buzz of the more public spaces from the quiet, focused work areas on each floor. The corridors at Coca-Cola Canada are an example of making ‘non-space’ into positive, active spaces — turning highways into neighborhoods.” A pleasant thought, as long as there’s still space to sit and get the real work done after the talk is over!

At San Diego Cubicles, we’re ready to embrace any and all changes that come to the modern office. We’re keeping abreast of the trends to help you make the most of your space and support the way your employees work today.


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