The rise of desk bombing

Albert Robescu argues this buzz phrase highlights how disconnected we’ve become

You may have heard the newly coined phrase ‘desk bombing’ which is when a colleague unexpectedly stops by your desk for a chat. The use of this term is hardly positive, suggesting that a co-worker wanting an unplanned conversation is somehow rude and selfish. But when did an unscheduled office chat suddenly become a frowned-upon part of office culture? Sadly, the very existence of the phrase ‘desk bombing’ suggests that we’re becoming increasingly intolerant and disconnected from others. In my view, every office culture needs desk-bombers and here’s why!

Strong workplace connections help prevent the creation of siloes, strengthen culture, and ultimately nurture a workplace community in which everyone is linked by purpose and are working towards the same goals. According to research, when organisations have strong communities, the benefits are significant, with employees 785% more likely to feel that they belong and 62% more likely to stay at the company for four or more years. This sense of belonging also reduces burnout by 38%.

Unfortunately, the rise of remote and hybrid working has impacted organisations’ connections and sense of community, with the same research revealing that 45% of employees are now interacting with far fewer work colleagues.  Plus, 1 in 3 employees feel disconnected from their leader, exacerbating isolation and loneliness.

Permitting and even encouraging informal and ad hoc conversations between co-workers rather than frowning on desk bombers, is also an important element of modern leadership

With employees now used to having to book time with their hybrid colleagues, casual conversations don’t just happen in the same way, and it appears that this approach is rubbing off on office-based culture. Some workers feel uncomfortable when their time with others hasn’t been pre-booked and aren’t welcoming of unexpected desk visitors.

However, unplanned conversations are important for strengthening connections and that all-important sense of belonging. Workplace relationships simply can’t be nurtured in a controlled and sterile way in which all conversations with colleagues are pre-arranged and diarised. If employees are to truly feel part of a strong community, they must welcome a random chat with a colleague or a manager, whether it’s at their desk, in the kitchen or in the office car park. These ad hoc conversations are often the best at bringing people together as they tend to be relaxed and more human, allowing people to more easily connect with one another.

Permitting and even encouraging informal and ad hoc conversations between co-workers rather than frowning on desk-bombers, is also an important element of modern leadership in which managers actively find ways to bring their team members together. This personal and supportive leadership approach recognises the value of getting to know each employee as an individual and as part of this, an open door policy is important. After all, employees must feel comfortable enough to stop by their manager’s desk as and when required, whether this is for guidance or simply a reassuring chat. If employees always feel that they have to go through the formal process of booking time with their manager, this could lead to individuals feeling unable to reach out for help when they most need it!

New buzz phrases seem to be popping up all the time and unfortunately they aren’t always helpful. In the case of desk bombing, organisations need to be cautious about letting this phrase into their workforce’s everyday language as it could well have unwanted consequences, ultimately leading to a fragmented organisational culture.

Albert Robescu is European Culture and Engagement Strategist from O.C. Tanner

Albert Robescu

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