The Problem with Bench Desking

I’ve written about this before – Bench Desks, a good investment? Perhaps not – but after a number of recent complications with decorating and the fitting of new carpet tiles in offices I feel compelled to write again and highlight the issues.

Yes, we sell bench desking, and we do so because our manufacturers make them, our customers often want them and no matter what we say to deter them they have them anyway, and there are, of course, a number of compelling reasons for having them.  BUT, there are also a number of reasons to avoid them.

A few weeks ago, we were called in to quote for re-decorating an office.  Because it is an operational office, decorating work would have to take place during a weekend and everything had to be back in position on Monday morning so that the staff could continue with their daily work without disruption.  The desks were positioned within a few inches of the walls that needed to be decorated – too close to be able to even push a paint roller between the wall and the desk let alone allowing enough space for our decorators to stand and carry out a proper job.  The desks would therefore have to be moved but they were bench desks and each bench fitted neatly between the wall and a pillar in the centre of the room.  Because of this, they couldn’t be shifted away from the wall and the only solution would have been to clear everything off them and box it all up and then dismantle every desk.  There simply wouldn’t be enough time to do this, get the office decorated and then re-assemble and  re-position all the desks during a weekend.  The net result is that the company still has unpainted walls and is still deliberating as to what to do. Had they had individual desks, we could have very easily just pulled the end desks out from the cluster and decorated the walls.

The next experience was almost identical to the previously mentioned situation except that this time there was sufficient space to move the desks away from the walls into the main aisle. But they were immensely heavy and couldn’t be moved without first clearing everything away to avoid damage, and employing additional people to lift them.  Due to time constraints (again trying to get everything done and back to normal again during a single weekend), the operational procedure of getting everything ready for the works and then re-instating it at the end was almost as extensive as the decorating work itself.  The following additional steps would have to be employed:

  1. Unplug from floorboxes all computers, phones and electrical equipment
  2. Clear all desktops and pack away into labelled packing crates
  3. Clear everything from under the desks and pack away
  4. Label computers, phones and remove and store in a safe place
  5. Employ an additional 2-4 men to help lift and shift the desks without damage to the floor or desks, or injury to the people carrying out this work
  6. Repeating all these procedures at the end of the weekend to put everything back again.

The above could have been limited to clearing just a handful of desks had they have been individual units.  Again, this company has had to put off their plans to decorate their office because the process was too complicated and costly.

An finally, we had a recent experience in re-carpeting a fully operational office with bench desks (we have had to do this a number of times before I might add, so it was not a new experience too us).  What we would usually do is to work in areas by shifting all the furniture into another area, carpeting the cleared area and then shifting everything back again and working on another area.  But this is assuming the desks can be moved which, if they are individual desks they can.  The bench desks may (as was the case in this situation) have to stay put, and our fitters worked at a far, far slower pace because the desks had to be lifted whilst carpet was being laid underneath them.  Not least, we had to employ additional labourers who’s job was purely to lift desks.   All in all, the cost of the job was significantly greater because of the inability to move the desks.

To conclude, when buying new desks and designing the layout, think about how long you’re likely to stay at the office, and what the chances are that you will want to do an office re-fresh at some point.  In my experience, the most likely facelifts are new carpets and decorating.


© Octopus Interiors 2023