Hot desking can damage productivity

An investigation by Wired has revealed that there are downsides to hot desking in offices.

The idea behind hot desking was that businesses would need less office space and therefore reduce costs.

It was based on the fact that a large proportion of the total desk space in an office sits unused each day due to absences, flexible working and back to back meetings.

However, the absence of a dedicated workspace can mean that when staff arrive from work they can spend quite some time simply finding a space before their working day even begins. It has been calculated that it add up to an average of two weeks a year of wasted time per employee.

This adds to the stress levels and can seriously erode team working. This can have a serious effect on productivity when collaboration is needed between team members, who may be harder to locate as a result of hot desking.

It is possible that it also leads to a loss of trust between colleagues and of the ability to concentrate on tasks. One Australian professor of behavioural psychology has suggested that “In many workplaces now, poor acoustics and lack of visual privacy are a significant concern,”.

The Wired research also found that it can seriously affect people’s ability to concentrate and then there is the time needed to set up a work space that is ergonomically correct especially for those working at computers, increasing the risk of work-related ill health, such as back problems, leading to more time being taken off work.

According to the research: “Musculoskeletal conditions like lower back pain are one of the biggest causes of work absences, accounting for around 7 million days lost annually in the UK.”

While reducing the amount of office space and introducing hot desking may have a cost benefit for some businesses, especially those that use flexible working systems and allow staff to work from home, businesses need to consider whether it is the right solution for their operation where the majority of their workers spend their days in the office.