How can I sell hot desking to the older generation?

The old guard like their own things in their own place. But I want to move to a smaller office where we share workspaces. How can I persuade them?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 30 Mar 2015

Q: Over the past couple of months, I've noticed that about half the desks in our office are unoccupied; people are either working from home or out at meetings. With rent going up, it makes sense to move to a smaller office and encourage hot desking. My older members of staff aren't keen on the idea. They like their own desks, their own stuff and a set routine. How do I sell it to them?

Jeremy says: I'm going to make a distinction that you'll probably think a hair-splitting one - but I don't think it is. Your older members of staff dislike the idea of hot desking not because they're old but because it's not what they're used to. You've said it yourself: they like their own desks, their own stuff and a set routine. All this makes for a kind of self-selected efficiency; so by imposing hot desking on them all - or 'selling' it to them - you may not achieve the savings you hope for. Even in office life, the immeasurable (a sense of one's own small territory and the comfort of the familiar) can be as important as the measurable (the cost of space).

You'd only have to lose a couple of valued people, with the consequent need to recruit replacements, for any notional savings to be eliminated. I'm not saying do nothing: just don't see a reluctance to change simply as the stubborn refusal of an older generation to come to terms with today's realities. My advice would be to involve them all in the discussion - and take things quite slowly.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems on editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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