For better or worse, desk bombing is part of the IRL office experience

The emergence of the term desk bombing can be linked to the rise in remote working and other new ways of organising work. — AFP Relaxnews

The office has always been a place for social interaction. But the rise of remote working has profoundly transformed the role of the workplace as a social space, as evidenced by the term desk bombing. Indeed, this word highlights the anxiety experienced by some employees who have become all too used to emails and other collaborative communication tools.

From coffee breaks to untimely conversations, the office is synonymous with all kinds of distractions. While employees have long put up with this situation (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), some have become more unyielding. They don’t like it when their colleagues interrupt them in their work, whether it’s to talk about work or anything else. And that phenomenon has a name: desk bombing.

This expression captures the annoyance that some workers feel at the idea of interacting “in real life” with their colleagues, rather than through remote communication tools. Some experience these impromptu at-desk encounters as a real intrusion into their personal space, while others see it as a distraction that breaks their concentration.

“One of my pet hates is desk-bombing,” David Clare, managing director of a communications agency, told Business Insider. “The days I got to work from home were so productive, and I feel the lack of desk-bombing on those days is the reason why.”

The emergence of the term desk bombing is undoubtedly linked to the steep rise in remote working and the many new ways of organising work, like four-day weeks, flexible working hours and full-time remote working. Indeed, flexibility is the order of the day in many companies.

Employees aspire to more freedom to build their professional life according to their own values and preferences. As a result, many of them find it difficult to return to the office and to reintegrate into a social environment from which they have, for a time, withdrawn.

Talking IRL isn’t necessarily desk-bombing

The cult of productivity also plays a role in the emergence of this attitude towards desk bombing. Many employees feel that they work more effectively when they are not disturbed in their work by the countless distractions inherent to office life.

They turn to a host of digital tools to interact with their colleagues without impacting their concentration. They create a Google Drive document to work collaboratively on the latest presentation, they meet on Zoom to brainstorm ideas and proposals, and they harmonise their schedule with the rest of the team via Doodle. And don’t forget about Slack, the Holy Grail for workplace communications, all without even having to leave your workstation, or desk bomb your colleagues.

So is this the end of face-to-face conversations in open-plan offices? It seems unlikely. The media hype around desk bombing says a lot about the importance of social interactions in the office. They are not only an integral part of corporate life, but they also contribute to the well-being of employees.

A worker who communicates daily with 10 colleagues by email is just as likely to suffer from feelings of isolation as one who interacts with fewer than three people, according to the Paris Workplace 2019 SFL-Ifop study.

However, moderation is required to avoid turning face-to-face interaction into desk bombing. The same survey reveals that employees who interact with more than 20 colleagues a day more often have difficulty concentrating and say they are more stressed. – AFP Relaxnews

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