The Rise and the Fall of the Desk

| by Shannon Williams

In the last 45 days, I have seen both the rise and fall of the desk at my house. Let’s start with the fall.

Our sons (10th and 7th grades) each have desks in our kitchen where they have faithfully completed their homework assignments since kindergarten. The desks waited patiently throughout the summer for the boys to return to their familiar homework positions.

The first days of school came and went. The desks sat idle. Days turned into weeks and now onto months and still the desks are lonely, dust collectors. If desks could talk, they would ask, “What happened? Was it something we did?”

The answer has nothing to do with the desks at all. The answer lies with school-issued technology that each of our boys received this year—a laptop for our sophomore and an IPad for our middle schooler. Nearly all of their assignments are posted and submitted through their devices; therefore wherever the device is, the work can be done. No desk needed to spread out books and notebooks. Pencils are rarely required and paper only comes from the printer.

Overall, I think this is a good thing, but it struck me last night during homework time that our once bustling kitchen has turned into a quiet place—at least at homework time—we do have teenaged boys!

The irony is that as their desks transitioned to dust collectors, I transformed our living room into an office and bought myself a desk. Before you criticize, let me tell you that it is a used desk. In fact, the tag inside says it is from Northwestern Bank—which was founded in North Wilkesboro in 1903 and hasn’t existed for more than 20 years. Not sure how old the desk really is or how it got to Raleigh, but now it has made a home in our living room. And I have to say, I love it!

After nearly 8 years of working on a laptop in every room in our house, every coffee shop in the Triangle, in many parks and libraries across the state, in parking lots, gyms, and occasionally, even at the Armstrong McGuire office, I now have my very own desk. It is awesome to have dedicated space.

As I watched the rise and fall of the desk in my own home, I also have watched the rise of shared workspaces—like HQ Raleigh. Places where you can work in isolation—making calls from soundproof booths or collaboratively at shared worked tables. I see start-up business and non-profit leaders working side by side in these spaces both chasing the sustainable funding that will bring their visions to reality.

Work spaces for students, professionals, artists, and dreamers have transformed. A desk in a private office is no longer a requirement. Have laptop, tablet, and/or smartphone, you have an office. It allows for great flexibility. It is a wonderful thing, but if you find yourself longing for a desk again—don’t worry my guess is there are many more leftovers from Northwestern Bank.

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