How productive is hot desking?

I was pleased to learn that my colleagues and I will be moving from Darby house in Telford Town Centre to the new civic buildings in my home town of Wellington.

New Offices on the left, Walker St, Wellington, Telford

The new offices are attached to the improved civic buildings which includes a new library, registry office, pool and gym; with the added bonus that the offices are 10 minutes walk from my home.

Not to mention the boost 200+ extra office staff will provide to Wellington’s local economy.

The only downside seems to be a 20% reduction in the number of desks and the dreaded words ‘hot desking’!

At a time when every council is feeling the pinch this method of working helps to save money on office space (often the second largest expense after staff themselves) but where did the idea come from and how does it affect productivity?

Wikipedia and several other online sources state that the term is a derivative of the term ‘hot racking’ used by naval officers who shared bunks for shifts. The term ‘hot desking’ became popular in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

A friend recently shared an article via twitter which explained that open plan offices were 66% less productive than private offices due to the extra noise, Julian Treasure provides some examples of how noise affects us in his TED talk. I wondered whether similar research had been undertaken into hot desking?

It seems several universities and the Institute of Work Psychology have carried out studies but the papers do not seem to be public, I did find an extract from a research paper by Kate Bonsall on the subject though.

On a related subject the Guardian published an article on desk psychology, here is a picture of my current desk for you to analyse and a quick mindmap I produced on pros and cons of hot desking.

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About Richard Overy

Photographer, Collector & Creative
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