Masterclass: Hot-desking

WHAT IS IT? So many bodies, such expensive space. This was the thought that inspired the trend for hot-desking, the idea that colleagues might not need a desk all to themselves but, with due planning and co-operation, could share a limited number of workstations.

Less office space would then need to be rented or owned. The pretentious name for hot-desking is 'location-independent working'. New technology is supposed to free you from the need to sit in the same place all the time. Have laptop and PDA, will find somewhere else to sit. Look mum, no wires ...

WHERE DID IT COME FROM? Some point the finger at Scandinavia, where the sort of egalitarianism that lies behind hot-desking is second nature. But there was certainly an economic imperative that pushed organisations into hot-desking experiments in the early 1990s. That, and the idea that a free-flowing, unconstrained, constantly re-forming pool of employees would produce more creative and valuable work. Problem is, most of us prefer not to be homeless and like a permanent place at work too, rather than the office equivalent of a cardboard box on the Strand. We don't like to leave the nest.

WHERE IS IT GOING? Serious times tend to provoke a backlash against some of the more exotic, touchy-feely management initiatives. Hot-desking is now treated with increasing scepticism. Sure, if money can be saved by cutting down on space, that's all to the good. But colleagues would much rather be set up at home with some decent IT than have to fight their way in for one of the few remaining desks on offer. There's nothing like having your own desk - especially if it's within easy reach of your own fridge, kettle, bed ...

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