How big is your desk? Be honest…

by Cameron Edmond28 Jun 2013

Although you might be able to fit more spread sheets, research papers and other documents on them, new research from leading American business schools suggests bigger desks can cause more dishonesty from their users.

The study, which examined the relation of size of space and the actions of individuals in a variety of situations, found that more space was likely to cause more dishonesty. A larger desk – perhaps inevitably – resulted in the user incidentally spreading out, “organically” matching their freer environment.

The research stated that stretching out at work resulted in feelings of more power, which in turn influenced decisions, driving workers towards dishonesty.

“This is a real concern. Our research shows that office managers should pay attention to the ergonomics of their workspaces. The results suggest that these physical spaces have tangible and real-world impact on our behaviours,” Andy Yap, key author of The Ergonomics of Dishonesty, said.

While this research demonstrates an increased likelihood of dishonesty in bigger spaces, so far no data on whether smaller spaces actually result in more honest workers has been released.

Although the study focused on desks and driving (a driving simulation found that respondents were more likely to commit a hit-and-run if in a bigger car seat), could it be applied to all aspects of the workplace? Could big offices cause the same problem?