Can the Desk Shrink Anymore?

The workplace is constantly in flux.

It wasn’t too long ago when desks were six feet long and filled with stuff: phones, computers, keyboards, a mouse, fax machines (!), printers, what have you. Go deeper into the ‘90s and you’d see a clock, rolodex, a roll of tape, a stapler, books, pens, papers, and that classic family photo from a fishing trip.

desk, office space

With so much stuff scattered across everyone’s desks, it’s a wonder things actually got done.

Fast-forward to the present day. Today’s desks are more or less barren by comparison.

Since they’re not populated with as much stuff, they’re also smaller. Nobody needs as much space anymore.


As desks shrink, some companies are even getting rid of assigned seating altogether, preferring employees move around and regularly sit next to people they otherwise wouldn’t interact with—creating more opportunities for brainstorming and innovation at the expense of dedicated personal space.

In some cases, it just makes economic sense: consultants at places like McKinsey travel 50% of the time, so why have dedicated desks when they’re rarely there?

All of this begs the question: Will employees of the future even understand the concept of having their own workspaces, in the way that millennials are mystified by the rotary phone?


At Knotel, we’re laser focused on designing around this kind of change. We locate, build, and manage next generation workspaces that meet a company’s evolving needs.

Our goal is to enable people to work better. Today that means having mobility around the office, with a flexible layout and collection of amenities that map to well-being and happiness. Tomorrow that may mean something else.

In all cases, it involves fostering productivity. So while desks may shrink and tastes may change, the desire for animating an environment will remain.

We set about this task by immersing ourselves in every aspect of office life: from architecture and furniture to human behavior. We measure everything we can to observe and pattern match what makes people feel more engaged and how that relates to decisions about space.

Great design is not just physical—how big a desk is, what’s on it, or where it’s located. It contemplates how dynamic the environment is—what elevates your thinking and unlocks your creative spirit. Great design isn’t just about how much natural light your office has, but also about serendipitous encounters that spark creativity. That’s what inspires our work.


Drop us a line to learn more.