Rick Galbraith

‘Benching’ a growing office design solution

Rick Galbraith, Vice-President of Sales, The Global Group
Friday, June 14, 2013

Why are more organizations specifying benching systems?

Three powerful drivers of change have had an impact on the office environment over the past five years:

  • Cost-effective technologies (Wi-Fi, smartphones, tablets, video conferencing and cloud computing) have allowed workers to be mobile;
  • More employers now trust that their employees can work “anywhere, anytime;” and
  • The benefits of a collaborative environment have become more widely recognized

Because of these influences, employers are recognizing traditional workspaces are unoccupied a high percentage of the time. This is especially true of employees who traditionally work outside the office and may only need a touchdown space for when they are in the office.

Many employers are encouraging teleworking. Technology has eliminated the need to be in the office, other than for in-office meetings. Again, a teleworker need only have a touchdown space when in the office.

The solution is to replace unoccupied workstations with high-density benching systems. The result is lower real estate costs since benching systems save valuable real estate space.

A collaborative environment means “breaking down the walls.” It’s about giving employees an opportunity to reach out to other employees spontaneously. By having employees see and hear what is happening around them, they are able to give or get thoughts and ideas. They feel more engaged with their employer. Benching systems are today’s “around the watercooler” environment where chance encounters lead to fruitful discussion.

Benching systems also provide effective space for teaming because of the easy access to each member of the team. Many teams form because they are working on a specific project. Plug-and-play technology makes set-up of the team easy. Should a team be disbanded because the project is complete, benching allows for quick reconfiguration to accommodate a new team.

The three great drivers of change – technology, trust and a collaborative environment – increase the effectiveness of employees and increase employee satisfaction by providing a sense of belonging. Benching systems effectively support these while, at the same time, reducing real estate costs.

Rick Galbraith is vice-president of sales at The Global Group.

6 thoughts on “‘Benching’ a growing office design solution

  1. While I agree with everything that has been said about bench desking systems, I would suggest it has already been superseded by other types of furniture solutions that support interactive and focused work that have the ability to create the flexibility of bench desking while avoiding the mundane ‘sea of sameness’ that comes from a benching option.

    Look at solutions from any of the major furniture manufacturer (Bene, Steelcase, Haworth) and it is clearly apparent the bench desk has been leapfrogged by other furniture solutions. What most require is some degree of ‘sharing’ or some agreeing to forgo fixed desks. For many, that is a difficult idea to wrap their minds around, but when considering our mobile work patterns, and social and economic trends, they are ideas worth considering.

  2. In New Zealand, there is a drive by government to reduce the real estate footprint. This involves merging multiple government departments into single locations. Massive savings can be made from sharing resources such as finance, HR, etc. But great savings are being sought on the floorplate, by providing bench systems that allow more ‘bang for your buck’ per square metre. There are some really smart systems in place these days that allow flexibility as well as personalization.

  3. Just read the space planning feature article, “Doing More with Less,” in the CFM&D September print issue. Very interesting article by Lynn McGregor that supports the growing popularity of benching — smaller real estate footprints.

  4. Benching confirms a corollary to Mies' great aphorism that "Less is More", that corollary being that "Less is Less". All other things being equal; the amount of work surface, storage, pin-up/display, circulation, benching saves nothing. The seeming savings come at the expense of something as office planning still operates under the Laws of Conservation of Mass.

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