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. 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.



New office space on the left, Walker Street, Wellington, Telford.


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


Hot Desking


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.






Please share your hot desk experiences or join us at the Information Graphics and Visualisation Community and share similar examples.






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Former Member 9 Years Ago
Good blog Richard - it certainly reflects my experience. How effective, or disruptive, hot desking is depends very much on the area of work concerned as well as on the working style of individuals. Just imposing it blindly simply to save money is asking for trouble. It works well in jobs where all filing, work areas etc are entirely electronic or where there is a clear business routine to follow (eg where the focus is in dealing with clients and processing their details/ requirements etc). It's not effective in more creative areas of work particularly where there are very tight deadlines to follow and/or several projects needing to be pursued at the same time (ie normal life for many of us). Tidying your desk, filing etc every night only to retrieve it all for the next day can then be just a further overhead in lost time and reduced efficiency. This 2002 article from The Economist also gives a useful perspective "Leave my desk alone: it works"
Mohammed Islam 9 Years Ago
Very productive - if you like spending time cleaning up filthy desks and adjusting the chair/equipment to suit you!
Richard Overy 9 Years Ago
Thanks Keith, great article. I think I'm somewhere in between piler and filer. The section discussing reporters/Police Officers using notepads instead of computers was also interesting, I suppose computerisation isn't always the perfect fit! Mohammed, judging by your comments it sounds as though hot desking might be challenging; I hope I'm going to be provided with a set of Marigolds!