Monday, 7 October 2013

Views on Hot desking... a blessing and a curse

Hot-desking.  It's all the rage in Adland at the moment it seems.

I have decidedly mixed views. I'm all for flexibility in my work environment, I enjoy working with lots of different teams, and I've been largely peripatetic for years, but I'm also currently wrestling with a couple of fundamental challenges.

One is emotional.. I spend 10 hours a day at work on average and I have to admit I like having my own "home".  I don't need an office, but I do like a consistent base to come back to. It's taken all sorts of shenanigans to get a decent sized screen of my own, as they are non-standard in the office, and I like having my own desk calendar for practical at-a-glance headlines, my own keyboard,  phone, mouse and crumbs... it's well known that desks are a health hazard, so I'd rather be sticking to my own germs thanks.

I value having my own chair, set up how I like it without having to spend 10 minutes adjusting it so I don't get back ache. I like the ability to leave my to do list (normally on a collection of post-its) in situ and a small but reasonable set of drawers to keep my nominal desk clutter in... be it biscuits, emery boards, a hair brush, hand cream, paracetamol, spare tights..... just stuff that I don't want to carry around all day everyday as well as a laptop and headphones, but  are good to have to hand, not a walk around a floor away and are pressed into service fairly regularly. Fundamentally as a planner at heart I also read books, yes the old printed kind... these don't fit into a ridiculously small 20cm square buckets either. Grrr.

Much of that's just piffling personal preference and habitual stuff, so no big deal in the grand scheme (well maybe other than having my biscuit tin to hand... that's serious!)

Professionally however I'm also seeing mixed impacts of the moves to hotdesking.

Cross-fertilisation of knowledge and ideas is great and sitting with different people definitely helps from that angle. Variety being the spice of life!  However, there's some challenges too:

Email is a necessary evil  we live with which we should all try to minimise. Personal relationships still count, which is why despite Skype, Hangouts and video conferencing sometimes we all just need to get on a plane or go to a face to face meeting.  An hour in a meeting can usually move things forward far faster than 72 emails.  So in the new hotdesking world I'm now finding I am sending more emails not less, something that goes against what I believe in simply because my productivity losses are increasing trying to resolve things face to face. I used to know where people sat, now I go to look for people on a different floor, spend 5 minutes wandering around looking for them, can't find them, can't leave them a note cos I don't know where they are sitting without their physical presence as visual reference, get stopped by someone else, and end up having lost time and failed to accomplish the task that would have taken 5 minutes to resolve with a quick chat so end up back downstairs sending an email.  I might as well just work from home if the face to face contact is becoming less practical.

My other concern is about managing teams and specifically growing junior talent.  We all sometimes need space and time to think in peace,there's generally so many people in my office wearing headphones anyone would mistake us for a call centre at a glance.  However, whilst an occasional sitting on your own so as not to be distracted is useful, as a manager it's hard to know what your team is up to when they are scattered around the floor.  Moreover, it's harder for everyone  in a team to keep up with what's going on in a fast moving world if they are all scattered, and I am deeply concerned for the youngsters who are brought in in grad teams, tend to stick to the company of sitting with their immediate peers (understandably), but in so doing are going to miss out massively on the opportunities to learn by osmosis and being involved in the day to day conversations and banter of sitting with a team of mixed experience levels. It's harder for managers to spot problems but also identify top talent if you don't have regular un-structured interaction with your team.

Monday morning rant over!  Still, did mean I finally put fingers to keyboard after 2 months of blogging silence! Sailing season must be over ;-)

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