Running out of office space?

If yours is a growing company � and you probably wouldn�t be reading this if it wasn�t � you might be running into problems of space. Hot desking is one potential solution to the problem of ever-increasing accommodation costs - a major proportion of total costs for many small organisations, especially when ancillary costs (heating, lighting, fittings, furniture, services, etc) are factored in.

It has become more attractive (and feasible) with the availability of modern technologies � now many workers can complete much of their work from outside of a formal office. There are many of these �road warriors� with briefcase, laptop, and pda � and many more people simply working from home.

These people need regular visits to the office, however, if they are to feel part of �the team� � they then need at least a temporary �home� in the office with access to their files and so on.

This is where hot desking comes in. The concept comes from an old navy practice, in warships, whereby, to save valuable space, bunks were shared by sailors who were on different shifts. In 'hot desking� terms it applies to the sharing of a desk/seat/workstation arrangement by more than one member of staff.

One level is simply to indicate that specific desks/chairs are shared, on some rota basis, by two or more people. This ensures that each individual always uses the same desk/chair (this is important to some people in terms of maintaining a sense of identity and security).

At another level, there can simply be a pool of desks/chairs and individuals book one in advance according to their needs at any given time - after all this practice is quite common with pool cars.

Some systems have desks with interchangeable drawers and/or filing systems so that each user picks up his/her personal 'desk' as he/she arrives and inserts it into the desk infrastructure.

Modern telephone systems enable each user to have his/her own telephone number which can be forwarded to their mobile number when they are 'on the road'. Naturally, an alternative is for them to continue to use their mobile phone when in the office - but this may prevent them from using some of the established telephone services.

'Stored PC profiles' with or without the additional security of 'smart' personal identity cards can allow access to specific facilities. For example, a PC can be attached to a card reader and can automatically deliver to a shared PC, the interface and electronic desktop preferred by the user whose card has triggered the user, and of course, access to the user's personal filestore. This means that a user can work at any PC as if it were his/her own personal computer.

Making hot desking work is more than a simple matter of drawing up the rota. Your staff need to be sure that they will receive all their former support services without any extra 'hassle' or inconvenience. They can then concentrate on their work instead of their work environment.

The office needs to be designed with hot desking in mind, with appropriate furniture to allow fast switching between users, applications, and perhaps even equipment. The office must be flexible space - especially in terms of cabling, telecommunications, furniture and filing.

Hot desking can work and can make office space flexible and highly productive. Users can work in a hot desking environment as well as they did in their own personal, dedicated office space � you just have to plan well and use a little imagination.


Productivity is my 'bag' ... it is what I know about. I am President of the World Confederation of Productivity Science - and Director of the National Productivity Centre in the UK - go to this site for some good free resources and some (paid for but low price) e-learning on productivity. I also edit the International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management. My views on productivity and on learning (which I think are related) are su...

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