Is hot desking all good?

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1. A controversial new way of working

I'm lucky enough to work in the same office as Ian Fletcher, the fictional BBC Head of Values played by Hugh Bonneville in hit satire W1A.

It’s an office that operates a hot desking policy. So every morning, like many of the hapless employees in W1A – and around a third of all office workers in the UK – I have to find an empty desk and set it up with the things I need. Then at the end of the day, I clear it all away again.

Hot desking can cut the costs of running an office by up to 30%, so it’s popular with employers. But some surveys say more than a quarter of companies that have introduced hot desking report a drop in staff morale. So perhaps it’s time to take a close look at the evidence for whether hot desking really boosts productivity – or whether it just makes people ill.

2. Is this desk bad for your health?

Click on the picture below to uncover the hidden dangers of hot desking – and what you can do about it.

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3. The psychology of hot desking

The Good

Hot desking does make people move around an office, leading to conversations between workers who would never normally talk to each other.

However, although there are anecdotal reports that it can break down a ‘silo’ mentality, there is scant evidence this leads to measurable improvements in creativity and productivity.

Some businesses do find that moving into a new (smaller) office with up-to-date IT and other facilities is a boost to morale, even if some desks are lost.

The bad

A study by the University of Wolverhampton in 2011 showed that unwanted noise and competition for space can make employees feel less valued. And the fact that no-one 'owns' some shared spaces can lead to clutter and neglect.

The same study also raised concerns about people not having their own desk, with the loss of control making it harder for some people to deal with stress.

There are also anecdotal reports that hot desking can actually harm communication in small teams, if the team has to split up and sit in different areas of an office.

4. To hot desk or not to hot desk?

Where do you stand – or sit – on this contentious office debate?

Works for me

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Works for me

In a recent CBI survey, 95% of employers saw flexible working - including hot desking - as vital to the UK economy. So it looks like it's here to stay.

I don't really care

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I don't really care

Most surveys say you’re in the minority. One showed that just one in seven workers didn't mind whether they hot desked or not.

I can't stand it

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I can't stand it

You are not alone. The US creative agency that helped pioneer hot desking in the 90s abandoned it a decade later, bringing back set desks after staff rebelled.