DATE: 01/25/2016

Workbench the word may conjure an image of a craftsman sanding down a beautiful piece of oak into a shapely work of art. Or maybe it just makes you think of good ole’ dad, working on projects around the house.

Until recently, such associations were quite common: Workbenches were for people who built things with their hands and desks were for people who processed information with their heads. However, like any good idea, the workbench is coming in vogue again; only this time, it’s for an entirely different purpose.

Today’s workbenches are essentially rows of parallel surfaces integrated into a central technological infrastructure, thus conveniently providing access to the same elements as a traditional office desk: Power sources, individual lighting and storage space. Employees sit together side by side as they type on devices, answer phones and collaborate on projects. The workbench can be made up of one long surface or several individual components grouped together (offering the benefit of adjustable height).

The repurposing of the age-old furnishing appears to have began in Europe, where office designers embraced the benches for their minimal aesthetic and reconfigurable benefits. As often the case, businesses in the states quickly followed suit. Thanks to rising costs in real estate and the popularity of the collaborative work culture, U.S. companies began to experiment with incorporating workbenches into smaller spaces, with the the most commonly listed objectives being cost control, enhanced productivity and increased efficiency. On average, switching from a traditional desk set-up to a workbench plan can shave off 10 to 15 percent of the cost per station and 22 to 26 percent in real estate expenses.

Additionally factor in an increase in mobile workers who want to occasionally touch base, and there is an understandable appeal for modern workbenches. A 2008 study conducted by furniture designer Steelcase, observed the workbench habits of ten different office staffs in Europe and The U.S. respectively. The major takeaway?

The reason for the highly publicized complaints by U.S. employees recently switched to open office plans had less to do with the workbench and more to do with an ineffective “one-size-fits-all” approach. The research team identified four different types of workbench employees:


Residents accomplish sequential, standardized work that is usually conducted at personal workstations via fixed equipment. Common Resident roles include call center employees, customer service representatives and human resource departments.

Though The Residents do value teamwork, they also require more privacy to get their work done than anyone else in the office. Some special features they may need include low shields (to reduce unwanted noise and minimize distractions), unobtrusive storage options (for important documents) and organized cable management. These workers will give you their best when you provide them with a workstation that is 100 percent customizable for comfort and privacy.


The Nomad is the guy who can work from a coffee shop, at home or at the office. Most of the important information he needs is “stored in the cloud.” Despite his remote flexibility, the Nomad occasionally goes into the office to connect with fellow employees, exchange ideas and to stay abreast of company news. Examples of common Nomad roles include consultants, Web developers and sales personnel.

In order to do his best work, the nomad requires: Above-the-work surface power connections, uninterrupted legroom underneath work surfaces and open storage options (for his portable office). Further, since the Nomad is accustomed to working in pleasing environments of his choosing, he will especially appreciate elements like daylight, outdoor views and good air quality.

Project Teams

Your Project Team members are multi-disciplined and are typically working away from a headquartered facility to partake in a group project for a duration of time at a designated space. Common roles include product development teams, research teams and financial consultants.

It’s safe to say the workbench was made for these people! Project Teams work best with eliminated screens, well planned storage systems and a flexibility of seating options for cross-collaboration. Overall, this may be the easiest group to please.

Functional Groups

Not to be confused with the Project Groups, these team members hold different disciplines within the same department. Producing content in its various forms is the linchpin of their work together. Common Functional Group roles include architects, design teams and investment traders.

Since everyone in the group is working toward a unifying goal, its members would benefit from a common work surface – in the middle of the bench or at the ends – that can be used for quick collaboration and document sharing.

As you can see, there are many different ways to set-up a modern workbench for your San Antonio office. Ready to get started redesigning yours? Click Here to schedule a free consultation.