I remember having a discussion about selecting lounge seats for a reception area. For example, if you purchase a 3-seater sofa, chances are no one will sit in the middle. Almost everyone sits at each end, and if that end is taken, you can either stand or sit at another spot. So, naturally, it begs the question: "What's the point of having a 3-seater sofa?" It is most likely about having enough space and boundaries in between the person next to you, like having a cubicle panel in between you and your neighbor. On the flip side, cubicle walls are coming down and the trend of sitting closer to your peers is more common than ever. Benching has been filling a role in open plan workplace and has been evolving to accommodate the diversity of work styles we have today.
Benching is not "a one size fits all"
If you have a traditional, team-based or mobile work style, there are parts and pieces that will create a more customized work space for you.
Those who have a traditional work style spend their day interacting with peers and then shifting back to working at their desks. Open desks with overhead storage allow for visual boundaries. Having lower panels or screens allows for interaction with peers. Those who have a team-based work style spend most of their time interacting and collaborating with peers. Visual connection, access to power and data, and ability to reconfigure the space to accommodate changes in project requirements are key to fulfilling their needs. Mobile workers are those who spend most of their time working outside the office, but when they do come in, they need to find a docking place to work for the time being.
I am not sure if I like that. What do I get out of incorporating this idea of benching?
Workplace furniture has accommodated the many needs and changes in the workforce. Businesses realize that collaboration is essential to foster creativity and ultimately fuel innovation. Secondly, sustainability has been front and center in design. Lowering panel heights allows for the distribution of natural light throughout the office which lessens the use of artificial light. As we all know, natural light has a positive effect on one's mood, well-being and productivity. The crash of 2008 pushed companies to reorganize and create strategies to keep company costs down. Benching brings an opportunity to plan more efficiently and decrease the footprint per person.
I think I like my cubicle the way it is, but I also like the openness of benching. What should I do?
I can understand why you would like to stick with your tall and mighty cubicle panels. There are cons to every pros, but you can incorporate this openness idea at other areas of your office, too.
In the break room, use long dining tables instead of small round tables so you can engage everyone for casual discussions. At open areas, use communal tables with power and data outlets so you can plug and play for extra work spaces for impromptu gatherings or for last minute project space.
With benching, there is something for everyone. What is most important is to find the right solution to support your work style in the office.