Why the hot-desk open space offices aren’t a great idea

A quick online search search shows hundreds of publications on how open office space is synonymous with the spread of disease and ceaseless distractions. Designed to foster collaboration, it is now more often associated with the decrease in productivity and employee well-being and the increase in the number of sick days workers take.

But regardless of many studies that show adverse effects of open space plans and with the growing presence of technology in the workplace a new phenomenon has emerged: hot desking.
Hot desking is the organisation of office space which allows the use of the same physical work space (desk) by multiple employees during different shifts. Desks are no longer assigned to any individuals and workers can choose to work at any desk that is available when they start their shift.

Why is this not a good idea?

Because humans are territorial animals. The Western culture has tended to play down or cause us to repress and dissociate the feelings we have about space. We are likely to feel guilty whenever we find ourselves getting angry because someone has taken our place. It is seen as irrational and rude to point to somebody that they have taken our place in the meeting room or in an open space office. And with the hot-desk system we can no longer call any workspace our own!

Have you noticed that people still tend to choose the same desk even though it is not assigned to them?

Nature calling, I’d say!

Open space offices can also interfere with our needs for private space and keeping a comfortable personal distance.
Each person has around him a small sphere of privacy which is considered inviolate. The size of the sphere varies between cultures and is also influenced by the degree of crowding, the age, sex, and the importance of the person. Anyone who enters this zone and stays there is intruding.

With the lack of physical obstacles that traditional offices offer, it is difficult to cordon off your ‘comfort zone’, especially if you work in a multicultural office where everyone follows a different spacial code. But necessity is the mother of invention – a new body language signal seems to have entered office workers’ vocabulary for good – headphones on mean “don’t come close and don’t bother me.”

Here’s another view on how traditional desks are coming to an end…

I wish you a great workday wherever you are working from!

About the author: Monika Zatylny
Monika is a translator and a language and communication trainer with over 10 years of teaching experience. In Polish Localisation she manages the intercultural communication team.

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