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Hot desking

October 23, 2012

Some of the companies I consult to have introduced hot desking. I don’t just mean they have a few spare desks where visitors or field-based personnel can park when in the office, but the system where no-one has an allocated desk. At all.

Plus not only does one not have a desk to call one’s own, but there are not enough desks to go round if everyone in the team happens to be in on the same day. Personally I hate it.

I like having a space to call my own, leave my books and files and papers on it. Usually looks a mess, but I know where things are.

People say ‘Tidy desk, tidy mind’.

I say “Empty desk empty mind”.

Ideal for me is an office where I can close or open the door. That old fashioned way of saying ‘Do not disturb’, or ‘Welcome’.  But even an allocated desk in an open space allows for collecting important information in one place, ready to turn to at a moment’s notice. Not to mention personalisation – not something I do but others like their family pictures around them. And I have that luxury in my own office. But places I consult to frequently, it would be nice to know roughtly where I am meant to sit.

Then there’s knowing where to find someone. Without an allocated desk, you have to contact them first to find out where they are. Or wander over to the area you think they sit in and hope you can find them. Made impossible if you don’t know what they even look like as there are no names on desks any more. I always liked those name tags to help me remember who was who. No cheating now.

Hot desking is meant to engender cross functioonal collaboration, infomal talking, sitting next to colleagues one doesn’t routinely meet. But of course it doesn’t because lots of people don’t use it properly. And there are various forms of abuse I’ve noticed;

Top Ten Anti – Hot Desking Behaviours

  1. Always sit in exactly the same position so people get to realise this is ‘your’ desk
  2. Even if you are not in early, make sure your colleagues  know it is ‘your’ desk and politely suggest others don’t sit there, This is usually achieved with phrases like “I wouldn’t if I were you.” or “She always sits there”
  3. Get a special chair that only you can use and musn’t be adjusted for anyone else and put it in position at your favoured desk.
  4. Make the small meeting rooms your office by planting yourself in there for whole days or weeks at a time.which means that no one can find meeting rooms because they are filled with people making personal calls or internet shopping.
  5. Hide in different teams so that no one is able to find you
  6. Come in early, bag a desk space then bugger off to an all day meeting making sure you leave enough belongings around the desk space so no one can use it
  7. If on a communal table vibrate leg repeatedly so that the entire table vibrates with your incessant nervous twitch
  8. Spread all your papers across my bit of the desk without even asking.
  9. Don’t bother to report a broken phone or screen as you can sit somewhere else tomorrow
  10. Leave all your stuff all over the desk when you leave in the evening, marking your territory like cat spray.

I preferred the old way. I could walk in and immediately see if someone was in or not. Now it can take me ages wandering round the whole building looking for them if I don’t have their phone or they haven’t logged in to the internal office communicator system. But don’t get me started on that –  how people sign in and then manually change it to ‘busy’ or ‘away’ the whole bloody time……..another of my bugbears….. 🙂

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12 Responses to “Hot desking”

  1. anitachowdry Says:

    Hot desking is an abomination. It embodies all that is cheap. disrespectful, inhuman, and generally rubbish about contemporary corporate culture. If I had to endure this, I might take it to it’s logical conclusion and make sure the desk gets really, really hot, by setting fire to it. Then at least in prison I would get a small space all to myself.


    • Haha Anira – a woman after my own heart! Completely agree with you!

      • anitachowdry Says:

        What has really begun to piss me off is that office agents in London are now advertizing “affordable serviced office space” at anything upwards of £300 per month for their lousy hotdesking options! It is so damned opportunistic a strategy, it just turns my stomach!

  2. Aisling Says:

    Hey – it’s a funny old world – I have to be in the right ‘headspace’ to be super-efficient, and hence the right office ‘workspace’ counts. And – I’m probably with Sarah in the ‘working from home’ optimal space simply because I’m a ‘join-the-dots’ person that gets easily distracted by other folks and ideas so the ability to have quiet and ‘focus’ is paramount. The open office desk system – whether hot-desking or otherwise- can be quite a challenge sometimes. The hot-desking aspect feeds a sense of ‘on edge’ discomfort that works if I’m only in and out for a few hours but not if I’m on a long term contract that’s office-based due to the need to feel more ’embedded’ with the team. In the trade-off capacity however I’d willingly engage with it if ‘wfh’ flexibility or a field-based position were the key job constituents. But I LOVE Sarah’s descriptors as some folks get gold stars for desk-hogging…and it ‘keeps it real’ as it’s recognition of the black comedy side of what can be a very driven corporate work-style existence…As a Lilly colleague once said – ‘Do we have a ‘work-life balance’ or ‘work-life choice…!’


  3. […] written before about hot desking,(https://sarahspoutsoff.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/hot-desking/ ) but it’s getting ridiculous in some places now. I don’t know anyone personally who […]

  4. A.N.Other Says:

    I actually am a fan of hot desking, but people have to want to do it properly, not abuse it as above. Many staff want flexible working (ie from home at times) and part of the deal is that that has to be traded off against company costs and the flexibility it brings for everyone. I look round my office on a Friday and there are maybe less than half the people in the office. Paying for office space is crazy when people travel and flexibly work and I would rather have folks happy to be flexible, but realising you cannot have your cake and eat it.

    I would rather spend money on staff and their benefits than their desks when they spend so little time sitting at them. And yes, it is a binary choice.


    • Thanks for commenting. I do think it is a tricky balance. I agree that it can seem madness to be spending on unused office space – and if you are going to hot desk then it needs to be done properly – not the way it often seems to be! But I do think there are hidden costs of not having the same feeling of identity of belonging that come from not having your own space. I tend to wfh more since hot desking was intorduced as i can’t face the thought of not finding somewhere and anyway i am more efficient at home, but it definitily detracts from team and community feelings. Perhaps make smaller desk spces so everyone can fit in but uses less floor space…………

  5. Anonymous Says:

    This just made me laugh out loud whilst sitting at my ‘hot desk’. I am guilty of a lot of them….including leaving my communicator on ‘busy’ for days at a time!!

  6. Janet Says:

    Sounds horrible, I would’ve hated it!


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