Research Design Connection: Working Without Assigned Desks

Kim and his team investigated the experiences of people working without a space at their corporate offices that they could claim as their own on an ongoing basis.

The researchers report that, “It is clear that the main driver for desk sharing practices is the tangible economic benefits guaranteed by reducing the amount of office space per person…This paper draws on a database from an Australian building occupant survey to investigate how desk arrangements (whether or not one has a pre-allocated desk) can affect occupant satisfaction, self-reported productivity or health at workplaces. Our statistical model indicates a fall in occupant self-assessed productivity as spatial factors (such as the office layout allowing easiness of interaction with colleagues, the ability to adjust/personalise workspace, and the amount of storage space provided) [are] below occupant expectations. Analysis of the results also show that the association of spatial factors with occupants’ self-assessed productivity…was more pronounced among those in non-territorial workplaces [those without assigned desks], compared to those who are assigned with a pre-allocated desk.”

Jungsoo Kim, Christina Candido, Leena Thomas, and Richard de Dear. 2016. “Desk Ownership in the Workplace: The Effect of Non-Territorial Working on Employee Workplace Satisfaction, Perceived Productivity and Health.” Building and Environment, vol. 103, pp. 203-214.

Sally Augustin, PhD, a cognitive scientist, is the editor of Research Design Connections (, a monthly subscription newsletter and free daily blog, where recent and classic research in the social, design, and physical sciences that can inform designers’ work are presented in straightforward language. Readers learn about the latest research findings immediately, before they’re available elsewhere. Sally, who is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, is also the author of Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley, 2009) and, with Cindy Coleman, The Designer’s Guide to Doing Research: Applying Knowledge to Inform Design (Wiley, 2012). She is a principal at Design With Science ( and can be reached at