Workers go cold on hot desking

The practice of sharing workstations with fellow workers is making people increasingly unhappy, according to a survey of more than 1,000 office workers by real estate firm Savills, who for some reason still insist on referring to it as hot desking in spite of the fact that the idea covers a range of practices that are not hot desking. According to the firm’s study, a mere 12 percent of people believe sharing workstations with their colleagues make them more productive. Half claimed it made them less productive, compared to around a third in a related study two years ago.

The report claims that while firms are attracted to the idea to reduce the amount of office space they need and to improve collaboration, around 60 percent of respondents would prefer a personal workstation. The study found that there was little evidence to support the idea that younger workers preferred this kind of flexible workplace design model.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]British workers in open plan offices are more likely to say the design of the workplace decreased their productivity[/perfectpullquote]

The report also found that offices in the UK are more likely to be open plan than those in other European countries, and that British workers in open plan offices are more likely to say the design of the workplace decreased their productivity than those who worked in cellular offices, at 36 percent versus 14 percent.

However, the survey also claims that 53 percent of workers say they are happy with their workplace, up from 48 percent in 2016. Over a third (39 percent) of respondents agreeing that their office positively impacts their mental health, up from 33 percent two years ago. A third of respondents said that their office supported their physical health, up from 25 percent in 2016. Noise levels were found to be a consistent problem, with 83 percent of workers saying that is important, compared with 77 percent two years ago.


Nailing the productivity issue

Steve Lang, director in Savills commercial research team and co-author of What Workers Want 2019, says: “Overall, employers are heading in the right direction when it comes to the office. More UK workers now say that they’re happier with their office than any other time when we’ve run What Workers Want, and there’s been a big improvement in physical and mental health in the workplace over the past three years, indicating that employee wellbeing and health are being taken seriously. However, the workplace is yet to nail the productivity issue: a significant minority of workers say their office actively harms their productivity, with many voicing concerns about noise and hot desking.”

Simon Collett, Savills head of professional services, adds: “How the office environment can maximise productivity continues to be a major area of review. While developers, landlords and companies are taking steps to improve worker wellbeing, bringing forward intelligent design measures such as increasing natural light and including more plants, we have a conundrum where happier workers aren’t necessarily more productive workers. Noise levels have been reported as a major issue ever since we started What Workers Want, and they’re only growing in importance. While we’re never going to return to everyone having a private office, those fitting out open plan spaces need to look at acoustic solutions as a major part of the working environment.”

Image: Gaetano Pesce’s design for the hot desking based offices of Chiat Day from the early 1990s