UBS says goodbye to work desks, phones, & laptops

UBS says goodbye to work desks, phones, & laptops

Ever feel like you’re chained to the desk?

Well that’s all about to change for employees in the London branch of UBS – who are saying bye to traditional work desks, phones, and laptops.

In its newly opened office, the Swiss bank will replace desks with ‘thin desks’ throughout the building.

Revamping the traditional desk, littered with snacks, post-it notes, and a knotted phone wire, the new workspace will see phone handsets replaced by personal headsets, and staff will use virtual desktops which can be accessed by computers at any desk in the building or at home.

There are no laptops, and their phone numbers follow them from desk to desk or to their mobile devices, The New York Times reports.

Employees will have a small amount of filing space and a locker where they can keep any personal items. Larger bundles of documents that are held on paper for the longer term can be retrieved from an off-site location within two hours.

Andrew Owen, Managing Director for UBS Group Corporate Services in London, says: “For me, it’s opening up and allowing people to work in different ways on whatever project, whatever activity they’re working on. Being chained to a desk in a singular environment is restrictive.”

Harald Egger, UBS’ Head of Group Corporate Services and Sourcing, adds: “Working together, talking to each other, working in a more agile way. People are probably not so fixed any more in their working environment. They work much more in projects.”

Although modern workspaces are not a new concept – it’s still a rarity in the banking industry.

The revamp has not yet been rolled out across all of UBS’s business, with the trading floors at UBS in London still having groups of employees heading to the same set of desks each day to view three or six screens of trading data.  

However, this could change.

“The trading desk is our next port of call to achieve user mobility,” Ashley Davis, Managing Director for the UBS Corporate Centre in London says. 

UBS spent two years preparing their London employees for the new mobile desk concept and addressing their concerns. More than 6,000 people will ultimately work there, and around 89% have moved in so far.

With rent in London amounting to sky high prices, a more mobile setup for its employees could enable UBS to use its real estate more efficiently. The company is using a ratio of one available desk for every 1.2 employees who work in the new building in London.

However, UBS executives say the change is not all about costs.

Owen explained: “I would be wrong to sit here and say there isn’t an economic efficiency dimension. In and of itself, that’s not the reason to do it. It would fail on that basis. It has to be of value to our staff and our structure in the way we operate. There has to be a value there.”

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