More and more office spaces are moving away from cubicles and designed desks and “hot desking” or having fewer desk than workers. It can be hard to adjust to if you’ve dreamed of having a big corner office with pictures of your dog. But it’s not the end of the world, I can tell you that. I’ve worked only at places with a more open setting (that is, not sequested into semi-private cubicles) but they’ve had varying levels of hot desking. At one job, I had a set desk though it was in the general common area. While I could sit anywhere, we all generally stuck to our seats unless something arose that required a change. At another job, I sat at the same desk every day, but I rarely customized it, because it was a flat table pressed to another flat one. I kept a coffee mug and a notebook there, and sometimes an extra charger, but putting up pictures felt a bit aggressive. Some of my colleagues did that though and more power to them. 

Now, at my current position, there are eleven staff members and ten of us (minus the manager) all split six computer desks. At most, there are three of us in there at a time, so it works, but at the same time, most of us don’t have “designated space.” People definitely have computers they usually work at, but as a new person, I have to kind of sit where I can when I need to. I’ve learned I’m not alone though, and I’ve learned that it’s not the end of the world. Sure, it’s not a life full of offices designed right from Pinterest, but in our ever-changing world where there’s a million things going on and we are always on the move, maybe that’s a good thing. 

If you, like me, are dealing with a work situation where you don’t have a designated space (desk or cubicle or whatever) here are three ways to make it work. 

Finds an organization or cleaning method that works

The biggest problem with shared spaces is how cluttered and messy they can quickly become. Not everyone will be as clean and organized as you, unfortunately, but you also can’t always work in a crazy messy environment. For me, any given desk is covered in papers, sometimes crumbs, and usually cords I can’t identify. I don’t feel comfortable moving other people’s stuff all the time, but I usually do my best to find an organization method that works such as keeping all of my own things on a higher level or in a folder or even on a specific folder on a shared desktop. 

Similarly, talk about cleanliness. Have keyboard wipes on hand if you’re concerned about it. Advocate for no eating at your desk if some people haven’t learned to clean up after themselves. 

For some people, the solution may be drawers assigned to each person, or even folders within those drawers. Finding a way to keep your things the way you like them is important, but it’s also important to keep in mind others that share that space may feel differently. If you have to, bring an organization system from home: a desk-top staple organizer, a magazine holder, something. 

The best way to know what you need is to take stock of a week or two and see what you are and aren’t using and how accessible things need to me. Then, organize accordingly. 

Locate a lockable storage space somewhere

No matter how trustworthy our coworkers, most people feel more comfortable with somewhere they can lock their things: their wallet, their phone, their keys, their snacks, whatever. Open seating offices should accommodate this already, but if they don’t, make a suggestion. My office has a set of ten or so lockers in the kitchen, some of us choose to lock them, some of us don’t. It’s not like I’m keeping state secrets in there, but I like to know there’s a space that’s mine that no one else can bother. Other coworkers utilize the locking file folder type drawers, but there honestly aren’t enough to go around. Another option for this space is the staff bathrooms: could you have some sort of locker system there? I’m not saying you need to bring your own safe, but finding a way to feel comforted in knowing your things are locked down goes along way in a more stressful, changing office environment. 

Learn what you can live without

Probably the most important thing about not having a set desk is learning what you can live without. Sure, you dreamed of a desk cluttered with pictures of your loved ones, inspirational coffee mugs, a cozy pillow, whatever. But do you need all that? Does it make you do your job better? Does it make your work environment better? Or does it just take up space? Personally, I need one coffee mug at work. I wash it between uses in the sink and give it a deep rinse once a week at home. I don’t need a bunch of other ones cluttering up my desk. Since I do most things electronically, I don’t need a ton of notebooks. Pictures of my loved ones aren’t as important in the digital age. Learn what you can and can’t live without. Some people need that back pillow or an inspirational quote, but is there a way to use it without taking up too much space or becoming upset when it inevitably gets moved? 

Learn what you can live without at work, and leave that at home. You can still enjoy these things, but they don’t have to clutter up a shared working space.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member