The flip side of hot-desking

  • Living
  • Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015

While open offices and ‘hot-desking’ are all the rage, some employees argue that such concepts sap motivation and increase stress.

WHILE open concept workspaces seem to be the trends at the moment, some argue that they aren’t the best way to increase creativity and productivity.

Last month, The Washington Post newspaper ran an article entitled “Google got it wrong” saying that the open office damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. It also said that the lack of “sound privacy” is a significant problem. And let’s not forget susceptibility to illnesses due to proximity.

Marketing executive Priya Krishnan, 29, agrees, saying she feels “trapped” in her open office. With no fixed desk, she has to shift places each day, which makes her feel like a nomad.

“Imagine being seated beside a colleague who enjoys loud music that you don’t like, or someone who likes to chat loudly on their phone. Or worse still, someone who has a bad cold. While the open office concept may have been designed to improve workflow and communication, the lack of personal space and a sense of privacy make things difficult,” says Priya.

Earlier this month, The New York Times article “Are cubicles preferable to the open office layout?” reported that although about 70% of United States workplaces have open office floor plans, numerous studies are showing that employees who work in offices with no or low partitions suffer increased stress from a lack of privacy and disrupted concentration – which ultimately decreases worker productivity overall.

Copywriter Siti Khadijah Muhammad, 38, laments that the concept of “hot-desking” (working from a device wherever you are without assigned seats, cubicles or individual offices) leaves staff without a sense of ownership.

“I don’t have a desk to call my own nor am I allowed to paste motivational words on whichever desktop I happen to be working at. Plus, there are unwanted distractions that can affect concentration.

“It is important for companies to allow employees to decide the kind of office they want. Workers are, after all, the backbone of the organisation and a happy employee is a more hardworking and productive worker.”

The recently published United States General Services Administration guide states that good office acoustics is a key contributor to work performance and well-being in the workplace: “The ability to find quiet times and places is essential to support complex knowledge work, while the ability to have planned or spontaneous interactions without disturbing others is necessary for team work and relationship development. Having speech privacy is necessary for confidential interactions and work processes.” (At

It also reports that acoustical comfort is achieved when the workplace provides appropriate acoustical support for interaction, confidentiality, and concentrative work.

However, the guide also says that as the US Federal Government is moving towards “greater density and less private enclosure for economic and organizational reasons” (ie, towards open offices), there are ways to achieve the needed acoustical comfort “but without a room, and without a door”.

Perhaps the way to do this is to combine the different concepts.

Brand manager Amelia Loh, 42, feels that cubicles and open work stations both have their benefits.

“With open workstations, you can interact with colleagues easily as they are seated close by. And cubicles allow me to have meetings without disturbing other colleagues. Both have their pros and cons, and it’s really up to each employee to try to fit in and work at their optimum.”

Related story:

Hot-desking or cubicle farming?

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The flip side of hot-desking


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