Desk Bombing: The Importance of Establishing Preferences & Boundaries


What is desk bombing?

How has it emerged?

The role of technology

The age factor

Is the desk bomber to be encouraged or discouraged?

What can businesses do?

Safeguarding mental wellbeing

When employees need more, Sodexo Engage can help



Have you been ‘desk bombed?’ 

Has the phrase even entered your vocabulary? It’s a term that entered HR terminology in 2022 and can be attributed to changes in working practises and preferences since returning to the office after the covid-19 lockdown.


What is Desk Bombing? 

It doesn't sound very pleasant, and for some employees, it isn't. However, in a nutshell, desk bombing is the act of approaching a person at their desk without prior agreement or appointment.

Is this perfectly normal behaviour, or does this thought horrify you?


How has it emerged? 

Speaking to people at their desks was once part of everyday office life, a welcome, social aspect of workplace culture. Of course, there will always be some that would see it as an intrusion, but for the most part, it’s an expected part of office life – and certainly not worthy of a buzzword.

What changed? We’ll explore some of the other factors, but the covid pandemic has a part to play for two reasons:

  • Our mental health
  • Changes to working practises

Around two-thirds of adults and young people have reported that their mental health has worsened since March 2020. Mental health issues aren’t always visible. Some people in your business are still healing or perhaps struggling, and entering their space uninvited could trigger anxiety. 

Whilst this is the more extreme of the two points we’re focusing on, there will also be those who prefer the new digital way of working, structure their day, and do not wish to be interrupted.

 There are two important things to consider here:


  1. To be productive and happy in the workplace, an employee’s working preferences should be considered, especially if they don’t hinder collaboration or business activities.

  2. Whilst employees at all levels should be granted the same opportunities; you must factor in their roles and responsibilities. For example, it’s beneficial for managers to remain approachable, with an open-door policy to be encouraged. That said, it’s acceptable to create boundaries.

Enhance Your Sustainable Wellbeing Strategy


the role of Technology

Technology has advanced the way we work, and no business could have survived the pandemic without it. Virtual meetings kept projects progressing and teams together, with the Outlook calendar acting as an employee’s PA, managing their time and availability.


Technology is effective, and for many of us, text, online chats, and emails are the preferred way to communicate in life and business.


The Age factor

Research suggests that 76% of Millennials have telephone anxiety, so if speaking over the phone causes stress, imagine the impact unexpected face-to-face interaction could have.

This isn’t to say that it is only the younger generations impacted. In a Financial Times article, owner of a phone use consultancy firm, Mary Jane Copps, suggests that we’ve been “talking with our thumbs” since the Blackberry arrived in the 1990s.


Is the desk bomber to be encouraged or discouraged?

This is a matter of opinion, but there is a case to make in defence of the desk bomber.

Technology makes it easy to hide from your colleagues.

How often have you been told, “your email only just came through”?

Every employee has their workload to manage and their own priorities. Whilst this is to be expected, when one employee’s tasks are hindered by a colleague who isn’t responding, it’s hardly surprising that they may feel the need to ‘desk bomb’ when the opportunity arises to facilitate a resolution.

As an employer, would you not prefer your workforce to be proactive? The phrase 'seek forgiveness; not permission' also springs to mind.


What Can Businesses Do?

Whilst people need to be mindful of colleagues who feel anxious when approached in the office, there’s also no denying that there are times when there’s a need for face-to-face interaction.


Expand Employee Profiles

There’s no set way to do this because organisations will use different platforms but creating the opportunity for employees to write a brief bio could revolutionise how your workforce interacts.


Keep it simple, for example:


Preference 1




Preference 2


It’s simple but effective and will set and manage expectations.

Of course, you should put procedures in place to manage escalations and situations where a lack of response prevents work from being completed. 


Social Wellbeing

Social Wellbeing refers to a person’s sense of belonging, social inclusion, and social stability. In the workplace, social wellbeing relates to employee relationships and feeling valued and included.


With many businesses adopting remote and hybrid working practices, it’s essential to consider the state of social wellbeing in your workplace. Team building activities are a brilliant way to boost workplace relationships, collaboration, and communication.


Safeguarding Mental Wellbeing 

Since we’ve discussed the impact desk bombing may have on some employees’ mental wellbeing, we’d be remiss not to mention how to support those who have post-covid or other workplace anxieties.

  • First and foremost: communication. Ensure employees know where to go and who to speak to if they’re struggling with mental health.
  • Train managers to be empathic, approachable, and effective communicators. Regular team and one-to-one sessions are a must to keep the door open.

Additionally, there's a huge benefit in establishing Mental Health First Aiders, a core team of employees – at any level – that champion mental wellbeing in the workplace and know how to identify those struggling and adequately support the mental health of their colleagues.


When Employees Need More, Sodexo Engage can help

Offer a point of escalation with an Employee Assistance Programme. Statistics prove that not all of your people will feel confident raising their mental health concerns in the workplace. This does not reflect the workplace culture you’ve created but suggests a stigma surrounding mental health.

Though funded by the employer, an employee assistance programme is confidential, providing your people with access to BCAP-accredited counsellors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Have you taken our Burnout Symptoms Test yet? In just six questions, you can assess the risk of burnout for yourself and your people, thus preventing illness and absence.

Talk to a wellbeing expert today for more information on how Sodexo Engage can help support your employees’ mental, physical, and financial wellbeing.



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