Office space planning is in a bit of a tumult lately, what with a troubled economy, shrinking work forces, and changing technology turning what was previously a stable work environment into an arena ripe for revolution. The late unlamented recession has actually been good for the average space planner, who has found more leeway to put new ideas to good use.
One of those new ideas that’s getting another look is the concept of “hot desking”. We’ve talked about hot desking before: the practice of having no assigned desks per worker, allocating them instead to the first worker who uses or reserves it for use.
Office space planning professionals use hot desking to reduce property costs without decrease the labor force in turn. In Edinburgh, Scotland, Telford College’s faculty and staff have joined the bandwagon, implementing hot desking in their Granton campus to allow the same number of people to work in a smaller space.
Technology has allowed hot desking to gain the critical mass it failed to reach in prior decades. When Jay Chiat of Chiat/Day ad agency tried it out in the Nineties, it was a famous failed experiment in space planning. Today, high speed Internet, cheap laptops, and Wi-Fi has allowed most firms to succeed where Chiat failed.
More on hot desking after the jump. Read more….
As general manager of Australian firm Link Recruitment Gemma Avon explains, “with laptops and BlackBerries and mobile phones you can do the work wherever you are,” noting that sales reps don’t even go back to the office to file sales figures anymore, when uploading can be done remotely. “It’s all about outcomes, who cares where the job is done? I can’t image any modern manager who isn’t more interested in outcomes than anything else,” comments Avon.
Will hot desking work out for your office as well as it seems to have for Avon? It depends – there are two types of businesses that seem to adapt well to space planning for the hot desk:
Businesses with shift workers benefit from the creative space planning that hot desking offers. On average, office desks are occupied from 40 to 50 percent of each working day; that’s a lot of office real estate wasted, which can be put to good use when used alternately by different shifts.
Businesses with a high proportion of part-time employees benefit from the smaller overall footprint required by their staff, who can then be allocated desk use in a far more efficient manner than would be possible with a largely full-time crew.
Of course, businesses operationally need to adjust to a hot desking system once it’s implemented: cabling, telecommunications, furniture, and filing systems should facilitate hot desking, not hinder it. Office furniture and wiring must be adjusted to permit switching between users, applications, and equipment.
Even with such standards in place, it’s the people involved who may need to make the biggest adjustment. Employees may feel attached to their own spaces; managing expectations may help ease the adjustment period. “In a customer service centre where people are coming and going, if people know that is how it is going to be they don’t get attached to a little piece of real estate,” reminds Gemma Avon – “there is no status attached with what little piece of the world they have.”
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