Return to the hot desk?

中国日报网 2015-07-17 16:36



Reader question:Return to the hot desk?

When someone says he will return to the hot desk tomorrow after a two-week holiday, what does it mean? What does “hot desk” mean?

My comments:

It simply means this someone, whoever he/she is, is returning to the office to work after a two-week layoff of travel, leisure and rest.

He, let’s say this someone is a he, is coming back to work, all right but he doesn’t even have a desk to claim his own.

That’s the other thing to learn about here.

Not having his own desk is not a fault though. I don’t mean to say it is. At least it is not a fault of his own making, but let me explain.

Hot desk, you see, means he’s sharing a desk with colleagues at work. And that is not a fault of his own because it’s the company policy. By letting workers share desks rather than giving each and everyone a desk, the company saves a lot of money.

Well, I don’t know exactly how much money a company saves by sharing desks but that’s the idea, letting workers share desks in order to cut cost.

This usually happens in offices where people work different shifts. Some people work the day shifts while others work at night. In this type of office where employees share desks, those desks become “hot desks”.

Hot desks, yes, so called because these desks are “hot” because they’re sort of sought after, hot like they’re hot cakes, hot property or hot tickets.

Well, I don’t know how much more workers covet the hot desk than usual but that’s the idea.

The idea of hot desk is thought to have originally derived from the practice in the navy, according to Wikipedia, of what is called “hot racking”, meaning sailor soldiers on different shifts would share bunks or the narrow beds fixed to the wall (similar to sleeper beds in a railway train).

Soldiers on the battle ship sharing bunks, taking turns to rest and sleep, makes obvious sense – because it saves precious space.

Cue the hot desk in the office – also as a cost saving measure.

Alright, here are media examples:

1. New service looks to reinvent the workspace for workers forced to use coffee shops, hot desking and business lounges to accommodate flexible working.

The Office Group has officially launched ClubRooms, a new flexible workspace solution for London’s workers, providing four new working environments in key locations across central London. Designed as ‘an evolution of the hot desk’ and incorporating a unique membership model to suit specific needs, ClubRooms hopes to attract a broad range of workers from mobile workers at large organisations to freelancers, start-ups and small business owners.

Already open in Warnford Court in The City and opening mid November in Euston and the West End, further ClubRooms will arrive in Paddington station in January.

ClubRooms offers its members a range of spaces to support different types of working and privacy developed from a year long research process.

ClubRooms has a variety of price plans available, including virtual office facilities and access to meeting space at The Office Group’s fourteen locations in central London.

- The Hot Desk is Dead: New ClubRooms locations reinvent the workspace for London’s mobile workers,, October 15, 2012.

2. More ports than you can shake a stick at!

A major drawback to the Ultrabook market has been the lack of connectivity ports, this is due to manufacturers trying to keep the Ultrabooks as slim as possible, however the Lifebook seems to have all the ports you could need without sacrificing size.

It has the now standard two USB 3.0 slots, HDMI slot, mini R45 port, SD-XC card reader, one USB 2.0 slots and the sim card slot. And if that’s not enough, the Lifebook is dockable which makes it perfect if you’re hot desking.

- Your Perfect Business Partner – The Fujitsu Lifebook U772,, March 28, 2013.

3. Office space is one of the largest costs associated with running a business, which is why hot desking, where employees choose from a selection of available work sites rather than having an assigned workspace, has gained popularity since the 1990s.

Greater collaboration is an essential ingredient in the creative process, and one of the arguments in favour of the adoption of hot desking in organisations. But research on information processing suggests employees need space to concentrate without distractions, and interruptions inhibit creativity. Open work spaces may actually undermine creativity by normalising group behaviours towards structures and boundaries.

Frequent desk relocations can also waste time and generate additional work, and the noise associated with more open work spaces can increase distraction, mental workload, fatigue and stress, all of which can negatively impact productivity.

One of the major criticisms of hot desking is that it reduces the opportunity for employees to express their identity and personality at work, which in turn can decrease job satisfaction, commitment and engagement, factors that have been shown to be positively associated with performance. It has also been suggested hot desking may contribute to a sense of loss and marginalisation thus negatively impacting mental well-being. When managers take control of an individual’s work space, workers can feel psychological discomfort and begin to identify less with the organisation.

The good news is that regular online communication helps maintain organisational attachment in hot desking environments. The bad news is that employees are wary of surveillance systems used to manage dispersed workers, and they may even increase counter-productive behaviours, such as only putting in as much effort as they feel inclined to. There is also evidence to suggest hot desking can result in distinct social structures and even indifference between those employees who settle, versus those that move regularly. Managing employee behaviour in this environment requires an awareness that two distinct cultures may emerge.

- The rise and fall of the hot desk: say hello to activity-based working,, May 27, 2014.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


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