The Case for Desk Area Monitoring

Over the past century, office design has undergone a significant transformation. The introduction of open-plan spaces in the 1950s marked a shift towards increased floor usage efficiency, though it also brought higher noise levels and distractions. Various barrier heights—low, medium, and high—were experimented with, ultimately leading to the modern open-plan offices that strike a balance between collaboration and privacy, efficiency, and comfort.

Historically, the desks area, utilized by employees attending the office five days a week, has been the center of the contemporary open-plan space, complemented by zones designated for meetings, brainstorming, and socializing. This design philosophy has equipped employees with a diverse workspaces, enhancing their well-being, productivity, and creative potential.


Challenges Arising from the Hybrid Working Model

The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed a global realization among organizations: with current communication technologies, tasks traditionally performed at workstations can also be efficiently handled remotely. This shift towards a more flexible working model offers significant advantages in attracting and retaining top talent, extending an organization’s reach in the talent market.

Is the Traditional Desk Area Dead?

Concurrently, while home offices become a formidable alternative to traditional desk spaces—thanks to commuting time savings—the value of the office as a hub for cultivating company culture, team spirit, and ideation is witnessing a resurgence. Related to that the investment in those “non desk” areas in the workspace is growing, both in terms of floor space and the state-of-the-art technologies and amenities

Hybrid meetings, featuring both in-office and remote participants, are becoming the norm, underscoring the growing importance of office facilities that support social interaction and collaboration.


Implementing a New Flexible Desk Area Strategy

While some companies are doubling down on uplifting the office desk experience- 2 screens, Height Adjustable Desks etc. – the main trend that is emerging among firms engaging with PointGrab is indicating a strategic shift towards more versatile desk area utilization.

This approach varies by region and cultural norms, generally aligns with three utilization models:

  1. Assigning dedicated desks to employees present in the office for four to five days a week.
  2. Sharing desks between two employees working in the office for two to three days a week, with clear scheduling.
  3. Adopting a “hot-desking” model where desks are allocated based on advanced booking or “first come first serve”.

These strategies are effective in accommodating the realities of hybrid working, reducing the space dedicated to desks—a relic from the five-day in-office workweek. By adopting a flexible desk area strategy, organizations can optimize floor space, adjusting it to the hybrid work demand, and minimizing company’s carbon footprint and operational expenses, and use the free up budgets to increase office experience




Technological Investments: A New Booking System, Enhanced with True Usage Data

Modern workspaces are introducing desk booking systems to support reservation of desks that are in the hoteling mode, accessible remotely, on mobile or within the office signage. Such an investment is easily justified with the efficiencies in floor space and employees experience

However, for these desk areas to be effective, accurate desk level data usage is essential, for example:

  • Historical analysis of which desks are being used most
  • “No-show” automated release of the booked desks
  • Directing employees to areas that are vibrantly busy or quietly vacant, per their desire.
  • Eliminate the need for active sign-in and thus increase the booking system usability

With real-time behavior data, the workspace leader can improve the hoteling experience, have a better utilization rate and gain insights towards dynamic allocation of the floor space in an era where they could be converted into meeting rooms, collaboration hubs, or employee amenities.


Ceiling-Mounted Sensors: Adapting to Dynamic Office Needs

With office designs continuously evolving to meet hybrid work demands, ceiling-mounted sensors above the desk areas provide a detailed, desk-level, and an area-level usage analytics, and the associated optimal space utilization.

These sensors offer exceptional employee experience and flexibility when compared to under the desk PIR based sensors:

  • Avoiding intrusiveness and privacy concerns
  • Accurate count that fit users’ behavior – even if user is not seating in the “normal” way, 2 people sharing the same desk or ad-hoc “at desk” meeting
  • Assure data reliability with 2 way communication in case of battery or connectivity disruptions, also assuring cybersecurity

Conclusion: A New Era for Office Desk Experiences

The predominant workstation area is undergoing a significant transformations to accommodate the hybrid work model. While demand for other types of spaces increases, the traditional desk area is often underutilized and ripe for redesign. With PointGrab ceiling-mounted sensors, workspace leaders can offer desks in 3 different operational modes, improve usability of the desk booking system and gain real-time insights into actual usage. Flexibility in this crucial space is what defines a true Intelligent Workspace.