Hot desking, the process of employees erasing all traces of their existence at the end of each working day, putting any possessions into a locker, and then the following day, reclaiming their possessions and finding a desk to work at. This process is repeated daily.  This approach to real estate has accountants happy about the amount of expensive city office space saved.

Hotdesking may sometimes be justified. A firm of consultants, for example, would want their consultants to spend most, preferably all of their time racking up billable hours at their client’s office. We must also allow for organizations that make use of rented shared workspace.

But consider the permanent on-site employees. The message hot desking sends them is that they are simply not valuable enough for the organization to give them their own desks.

They must, each morning, find, not be given, a place to work. This apparently takes on average 18 minutes. And then, when they do find a desk, there is an even bigger problem: since there is no adjacency of co-workers, they have almost no direct contact with any other human. Everything is done by email or message. You might well be asking why these people are in the office at all. If they wear headphones and have nothing but electronic contact with co-workers, then they would be better off working from home.

The unspoken rule for hotdesking organizations is:

Real estate outranks employees.

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