Thursday, 8 October 2009

Desk Rage

I arrived at my desk this morning to find the most bizzarre selection of objects strewn across its surface:

  • Three different chocolate bars (Galaxy, Dairy Milk and Sainsburys) all opened but with only a couple of squares eaten (no complaint)
  • a £5 note (no complaint there either)
  • A book of TS Eliot poetry
  • A carrier bag containing what I initially thought were onions, but turned out to be daffodil bulbs.
  • A flash gun, case and assorted bits of an old Canon film camera, but no camera.

I work from home, and last night, it appears, my eldest daughter decided to escape the children's party in the lounge by doing her homework in my office. For science she had to compare the properties and ingredients of different types of chocolate. (Why didn't I ever get cool homework like that?) In English she is studying TS Eliot. She is also doing GCSE photography (the camera is in her schoolbag) and Grandma, visiting for the little one's birthday, had given her the bulbs since she is a surprisingly keen gardener for a teenager. Still no idea what the £5 note is about, unless it's payment to me for the use of my desk. Which, to be honest, I think is well deserved. I don't like sharing my space.

"Hotdesking" became popular in the 1990's, as firms started to introduce flexible working time arrangements and discovered that they could save space by having one worker use the desk recently vacated by a part-time colleague. Other workers could be semi-peripatetic, just plopping down at whichever desk happened to be convenient to do whatever they needed to do.

One website which praises hotdesking says "one has no more rights of exclusive ownership to an office desk than one has to a seat on a bus, a restaurant table or a stall in the office toilets". True, but humans are territorial and we like to mark our space. Look at your desk now. Do you have a family photograph somewhere on it? A cute little homily you like? Your special mug? It may belong to the firm, but it's your desk.

Your desk is also somewhere you are guaranteed to have the tools needed to get your job done. You know that your favourite pen and notepad are here. You know that your files are within reach, and where to find everything on the computer. The chair is comfortable and adjusted to the right height, and you know the extention number of the phone and that is has your personal message on the answering service. You need that assurance and comfort in order to do your job properly.

Hotdesking isn't common in the legal profession yet. Personally, I hope it stays that way. Lawyers face enough stress in their day-to-day work without finding daffodil bulbs and camera equipment in their workspace. Although chocolate and money might be a bonus.

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