The trouble with hot desking

The trouble with hot desking

Hot desking makes sense for modern organisations that need the flexibility and cost benefits that the rationing of desks and space can undoubtedly bring. And for some people desk hopping works well. Yet the majority of people I have spoken to about their experiences seem to find it hugely discomforting. They complain bitterly about the inconvenience of moving from one workstation to another and the unsettling lack of a designated desk. They describe not only being dislocated but also feeling less sure about their role and even disoriented when they carry out familiar tasks. Often there is a profound sense of ambivalence: progress is good, something they believe in, yet they experience anxiety and dread about desk hopping.

Is it possible that some of these feelings about hot desking are rooted in our psychological need for the ownership of things? The excesses of material consumerism notwithstanding, ownership seems to be really important for our sense of identity. We form all sorts of attachments to objects throughout our lives. From the transitional blankets and teddies of early childhood to the sentimental attachments to ephemeral belongings that have no great monetary value, but are rendered special by association- a certain mug; a picture post card; a favourite purse. Possessions contribute greatly to our sense of self. They are sources of comfort and vehicles for expressing ourselves.

For untold numbers of us our desk is our base in the world of work. It anchors our sense of self and helps us to organise our daily routines. It gives us a sense of safety: a place we return to to touch base. For many it becomes a miniature home decorated and personalised with plants and pictures and other artefacts. It is endowed and invested by us and it becomes an extension of ourselves.

Without a desk to call our own we may not only lose a sense of territory and terrain in the workplace, but also a sense of identity, the sense of who we are in the world of work.