Amit was engrossed in a spreadsheet at his desk, when Rohan, his colleague from the bay across the hall, suddenly appeared with a printout and some queries. He casually pulls up a chair and sits next to Amit requesting him to clear some doubts. Five minutes later, Akash, another colleague, on his way back to his desk with a cup of coffee, stops by Amit’s desk and congratulates him for being recognised as the ‘employee of the month’. Leaning against Amit’s table, Akash casually asks him how many times he has been chosen for the award. Soon, the three end up discussing the selection criteria for the award. Amit had got ‘desk bombed’.
The question is, did Amit appreciate being disturbed by Rohan and Akash while he was working on something important, or did he see them as a welcome distraction from his work?
As the term suggests, ‘desk bombing’ happens when colleagues approach another co-worker’s desk unannounced. It could be for various reasons — to seek help with some work, to clarify work-related doubts or to simply start an informal conversation. Desk bombing often also takes place when colleagues gather to acknowledge an employee’s achievements or even celebrate a promotion or a work anniversary.
“While some multinational organisations rely on email communication, in India, the emphasis is more on collaboration and face-to-face interaction.”
Pradyumna Pandey, CHRO, Mother Dairy
Whether ‘popping up’ at someone’s desk with serious work-related queries or even for casual talk is an acceptable workplace practice or not, depends on the company culture. In fact, acceptance of such a practice or culture will vary from industry to industry and will also depend on the individual preferences of employers and employees.
In some workplaces — especially in small setups or startup companies — a more informal and open-door approach is preferred, with colleagues and superiors being accessible and approachable for quick questions or discussions.
Pradyumna Pandey, CHRO, Mother Dairy, strongly believes that it is crucial to have an organisational environment and culture where employees feel comfortable and valued.
“Desk bombing is not just about casual chatting or taking a break from formal emails. It is more about ensuring and assuring that people’s concerns and queries will be responded to in a timely manner,” explains Pandey.
He goes on to share, “While some multinational organisations rely on email communication, in India, the emphasis is more on collaboration and face-to-face interaction.”
Pandey believes that desk bombing can become a widely-accepted culture, even with the new generation entering the workforce.
In many larger and more established organisations, a more formal approach may be preferred, with employees being expected to follow certain protocols for communication and seeking assistance, such as scheduling a meeting or sending an e-mail.
In India, celebrations and rituals are an integral part of everyday life, not just at home but also at work. Desk bombing, therefore, goes well with Indian culture. Not limited to just formal occasions, desk bombing can be done casually too, to celebrate an employee’s birthday, for instance.
It is seen as a way to make employees feel valued and appreciated. It is a light-hearted way of bringing everyone together to share the joy of the celebration.
Will the new generation accept the culture?
Rishav Dev, CHRO, Noveltech Feeds, says, “The new generation joining the workforce is very likely to adopt the ‘desk bombing’ culture, as it is all about effective communication. Verbal communication creates a unique bond that cannot be replicated through writing alone. By speaking to a person, one shows that person that he or she is valued. This can act as a great motivation for people to put in extra effort at work.”
“The new generation is more open to networking and embracing new ideas. However, they expect immediate results, which can be a challenge.”
Rishav Dev, CHRO, Noveltech Feeds
He also adds that written communication can often be misinterpreted or taken too casually, while verbal communication ensures that people are on the same page.
With the emergence of the new generation in the workforce, traditional practices such as desk bombing are being questioned. This is because, the new generation is more focused on efficiency, minimalism and sustainability. Desk bombing, with its emphasis on decorations and excess, may seem wasteful and unnecessary to them.
“The new generation is more open to networking and embracing new ideas. However, they expect immediate results, which can be a challenge,” observes Dev.
It is also possible that the new generation may find desk bombing distracting and disruptive. In an open-plan office, where everyone is working in close proximity to each other, noise and visual distractions can be a significant problem. Moreover, with the pandemic-induced shifts to remote work, desk bombing may be less common or less practical than before.
A Thiru, C-suite HR professional, feels as long as desk bombing is not considered intrusive by the employees at the receiving end, it is fine.
“There is a likelihood of the new generation finding desk bombing to be not only intruding but counterproductive too,” warns Thiru.
“There is a likelihood of the new generation finding desk bombing to be not only intruding but counterproductive too.”
A Thiru, C-suite HR professional
According to Thiru, it is important to note that individual preferences may vary, and it is essential to respect the personal space and preferences of each employee to create a productive and healthy work environment.
He adds creating standing chat corners on each floor can improve interpersonal skills and foster employee creativity.
Despite these concerns, Dev feels that desk bombing is well suited to Indian culture and is likely to be embraced by the younger generation in the workforce.
Positive effects of desk bombing
Desk bombing may be relevant and appropriate for the workplace, for various reasons. It is a way to acknowledge and recognise individual achievements and contributions to the workplace. This can lead to a more positive and inclusive work culture.
Prasanth Gulur Bhyranna, group CHRO, First Steps Babywear, explains that in an organisation, it is important to create a culture that accepts desk bombing as crucial to its success.
“It should be seen as a part of the organisation’s functional culture and should be practised consistently at all levels, and not just by junior or mid-level employees. This requires maturity and understanding from everyone involved,” says Bhyranna.
“It should be seen as a part of the organisation’s functional culture and should be practised consistently at all levels, and not just by junior or mid-level employees.”
Prasanth Gulur Bhyranna, group CHRO, First Steps Babywear
Furthermore, he adds, “It is up to the managers to ensure that a positive ‘desk bombing’ culture is implemented in the organisation. If implemented religiously by reporting managers at all levels, it will be accepted and embraced by employees. It should not be practised solely for appraisals, retention, or to address high attrition rates, but as a regular practice in day-to-day operations.”
It is important for new-generation employees to be aware of the prevailing workplace culture and expectations in their organisation and to adhere to them accordingly. This may involve observing the communication styles and practices of their colleagues and superiors, as well as seeking guidance and feedback on their own approach. Ultimately, the key is to strike a balance between being approachable and accessible, while also respecting the boundaries and expectations of the workplace.
Bhyranna opines, “Desk bombing should be seen as a complementary aspect of the organisation’s culture and should be practised by everyone in the organisation to be effective.”
Whether or not to embrace desk bombing as a workplace tradition is a decision that should be made on a case-by-case basis. What is clear is that it is important for companies to be sensitive to the needs and preferences of their employees, especially with the new generation entering the workforce.
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