Is hot desking so called because it's hellish?

Is hot desking so called because it's hellish?

Summary: Telecom New Zealand offshoot Gen-i has just moved into new premises where it uses "hot desking".


Telecom New Zealand offshoot Gen-i has just moved into new premises where it uses "hot desking".


While the company claims that the system delivers efficiency, I cannot think of anything worse.

I remember visiting Vodafone's new Auckland headquarters some years back; they also used "hot desking". Instead of having their own desk, members of staff pick up their laptops from their lockers, and sit where they can. Offices were open plan, too, and even CEO Russell Stanners had no privacy.

Hot desking has been around for some years, and has various pros and cons, but I see nothing but trouble in the concept.

Imagine all the messing around of getting your stuff out of a locker and having to look for somewhere to sit.

Imagine, then, you have the hassles of plugging everything in, including the telephone. Chances are that you probably also have to clean up after the filthy beast who sat there before.

With space being tighter, there will be less privacy and more noise, presenting more distractions to your work and making you less productive.

Furthermore, you can't store all of your things in a drawer, making for a messy desk. You cannot personalise your workstation, either, to feel at home, and neither will you know the person sitting nearby.

What an inhumane "battery hen" system hot desking represents! No wonder there are reports that people do not like it and morale suffers.

I have reported enough on HR issues for various technology magazines to know that the way you get the most out of your workers is to make them feel happy and valued — it works that way for me, too!

Treating staff like numbers and making them shift around willy nilly is just the way to frustrate them and increase the likelihood that they will leave.

Far better for employers to show that they care, that staff are worthy of a desk, a workplace they can call their home.

Staff can also get to know the people nearby, and as long as they don't gossip too much, having someone to chat to will make workers feel less isolated and more content and more productive.

Isn't that what building teams is about? Knowing your workmates and having happy, friendly offices? I know that hot desking is all the rage now, but I hope Gen-i will not regret the move.

Topics: CXO, Laptops, Mobility, IT Employment

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

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  • I love hot desking. I get to work 20 minutes less per day due to setup and packup time (mostly waiting for my laptop to startup and logon) and my colleagues and I get to feel a closer sense of camaraderie by sharing every cold and flu virus going around via shared desks, keyboards, phones, etc.
    Interestingly, the people who implemented hot desking in my organisation (and no doubt enjoyed massive bonuses from it) don't participate in it themselves - they have dedicated offices.
  • Efficiency doesn't need to destroy culture, it can create it. How many days do you sit waiting for decisions, now you can instant message someone and get faster answers than attending large committees. Think about sports teams they strive for efficiency in everything they do, spending years perfecting the efficiency of biomechanics, to become the best with the contrained resource. We do the same - its about being the best at work. Efficiency doesn't destroy culture, poor leadership does. Next time you're in Auckland come and play with me in the new building and I think you'll get the vibe that there are absolutely no "battery hens" here.
  • I don't mind hot desking because for the most part it implies that you can work from home.

    the problem though with hot desking is that not all desktop PC's are the same, and this applies to Gen-i / TNZ especially.

    Staff have different system needs and hot desking to a static PC is simply going to frustrate it.

    The other problem is keeping your data around and i'm not just talking about company/customer information but my photos and music that I commonly keep on the corporate systems (and yes yes against every corporate IT 'law').

    If they give everyone a ultra-fast high capacity usb stick then great but that's unlikely to happen.

    The best solution is to give everyone a laptop but as is the case in corporate environments the haves' have a laptop and the have nots don't have one.
  • Employees who mainly work out of a single office should have a dedicated area - they need to identify with the business, feel some ownership and feel a part of a stable group, to be happy and productive. Most humans don't like change and so to not know what you will face each day when you go to work must be unsettling. Hot desks should be available for field workers and inter-state or international visitors so they can count on a workspace when visiting an office and so be more productive when travelling.