The Tchotchkes on Your Desk


The tchotchkes on your desk aren’t clutter. The photos of your dog are important. Maybe you don’t need so many photos of your dog, but the purpose they serve is critical to how you work. The personal artifacts on your desk are just as important as the height of your chair, or the angle of your computer monitor—they help you feel comfortable in your space so you can do your best work. But what if your space changed every day? How can you feel comfortable and engaged when your boss just told you to pack up your 12 pictures of Ziggy because your workspace just became part of the ‘office seat sharing initiative”?

“Hotel” Seat

“Hotel” Seat

Organizations across the world are adopting increasingly mobile workplaces. This shift in real estate strategy, facilitated by technology, helps reduce the office’s overall footprint by removing seating assignments in favor of “hotel” seats that can be occupied on an as-needed basis. Under this policy, employees choose where to sit each morning based on what they need to get done and who they need to work with that day. Workers needing focus can reserve a quiet seat, while managers with a day full of meetings may not reserve a seat at all, choosing instead to answer a few emails between meetings at an informal meeting table down the hall.

For many of the organizations making this change, this represents a huge shift in office culture and necessitates a significant change management effort. As employees move out of their assigned seats, it is critical that wherever they may sit in the office, they feel the seat belongs to them—and they belong in the office.

When making this shift, allowances should be made to personalize one’s workspace however temporary. Consider furniture that enables these behaviors, such as partitions with magnetic surfaces to hang family photos and shelves for laptop bags. Train employees to ‘break down’ their desks at the end of each day, clearing the days work and personal items for another employee the following day. Permanent storage for mobile employees should be made available where one’s work and personal artifacts can live.

Workplaces across the globe are shrinking the footprint of employee “owned” space, and it is critical to company engagement, productivity, and morale employees still have a place that feels especially their own. That way, wherever they end up sitting, they have a place where they can grab one or two photos of their favorite pup to make today’s seat a little friendlier. 


Doug Niemann

Doug’s experience in the architectural industry has helped him develop a broad skill set that includes design and construction documentation, visual graphics and communications strategies. Doug strives to understand the client’s business and its employees to provide a positive and successful experience.