Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hot Desking, Active Workplaces etc etc

In the DB internal blogs, we have been having an interesting discussion on "Hot Desking". Hot Desking is the concept where an employee has no fixed workplace. You come in the morning and choose an available seat that you fancy.

Those in favor say that hot desking provides more efficient use of real estate as it is unlikely that all seats in an office will be in use at the same time. Another claim is that it can "free up your mind" since you are always having new experiences sitting in different places.

Personally, I am absolutely against this idea.
-- The thing is that there are so many changes around me. My project requirements keep on changing. Offshore staff jump companies every month. I would like some stability at least in my workspace... Don't want to worry about whether my favorite seat will be available in the morning

-- If you have flexible workspaces, you can no longer personalise your workspace. To many (most) people, this is a big big thing. I would like to leave my laptop, books, printouts on my desk without carrying it home every time. The moment you bring in a locker concept to solve the problem, people feel like kids, and soon the best people will leave

-- I can no longer get up, and discuss an issue on a white board with my designers and developers, as I will not be able to find them in their "usual place"

-- Things become bureaucratic as you need to have meetings and conf. calls for everything to get people together. Might as well offshore everything as being in a different building is only marginally different than being in a different country.

To generalize, I would say that ideas like this are a generalization of the efficiency (or rather McKinsey) mantra. The issue is that lots of intangibles which matter a lot but cannot be measured are not being taken into consideration with this metrics kind-of approach to personal space. And these are the intangibles that keep the best people in the organization.

It always came down to the concept of personal space. This is basically from human psychology. A human being always wants something solid, dependable and secure to call "home", and not simply a house. I guess its a lot like business travel. Initially fresh out of school, it seems to great. LA, LON, NY!! Glamorous... But after sometime, you realise there is no place like home.

TBWA Chiat/Day, an ad agency in the US tried it out, and it was pathetic. Check out this article on their experiences.

Microsoft is trying out some concepts similar to hot desking in something called "Workplace Advantage".

Sun Micro has been an early adopter of this concept. They call it "OpenWork", and it is used by around 45% of their employees.

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