Hot desking nightmare!

Our office at work is a real mess and there are far more bodies using it than there are desks. At peak times it's like musical chairs. We are now in the process of reorganising it in order to make it a nicer environment to work in, and this is supposed to make us all much more productive & efficient. They won't make it too nice, or no one will want to get any work done.

BUT... we're not talking about one of those brand-spanking new all glass offices owned by some mega-bucks corporate giant. We're talking Victorian factory/ mill converted badly by an architect on a bad day. And there is no money in the budget to make things better so there will be no extra desks or chairs.

So one of the suggestions for improvement is HOT DESKING! Yeah, brilliant in principle, everyone CLEARS THEIR DESKS COMPLETELY at the end of the day - obviously making all their pens and post-it notes and files invisible because there's no storage space, is there? - and the next day the winners of musical desks unpack all their stuff and start again. Not sure how that will make us more productive, as I'm reckoning on at least 30 minutes' time wasted each morning for each laptop computer to redock itself & warm up.

It's also fine to hot desk if you don't have chronic pain and don't need your chair and computer monitor positioned in an exact spot all the time in order to avoid a flare up & monstrous headaches. Lugging all my stuff from one end of the office to another every morning and evening will really do my shoulder a lot of good - it will, of course take me longer than everyone else to do the lugging because I'll need to make several trips. (and where am I going to keep my little stash of painkillers?)

So I have written what I hope is an eloquent email to the Room-Tidying Project Manager to raise my objections and to politely insist that I get my own desk. I think they have to honour this in order to help me do my job.

Why do I feel so guilty and embarrassed about having to ask to be singled out as a special case?

There are rumours they are going to move the office microwave - how will I get to heat up my wheatie heat pack?!

17 Replies

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  • That's mental. Surely each employer has a duty of care to their employees and so you can keep your desk. I'm sure they're also considering letting people work from home on certain days to manage the desk / people ratio so maybe things will settle down. Hopefully your mail will do the trick.

  • Hi, I really feel for you. That’s so stressful.

    We were threatened with hot-desking recently as there was the possibility that due to an increase in staff numbers we may not have had enough desks, but fortunately this hasn’t happened. I have chronic neuropathic pain (in my torso) which, amongst other things, is exacerbated by cold temperatures and strong air movement, so draughts and fans have been a nightmare in the past. I have moved desks twice and now have the cosiest desk I can find which stops my nerve pain being wound up. My manager is aware of my condition and as I work in the NHS we have an occupational health department. I was referred there and they have now recommended that I remain in my current location should hot-desking be implemented in the future.

    Do you have an occupational health department? Are you able to speak to your manager about it? It did make me feel like I was making a big deal about something which is nothing for others and some people may think I was using my condition to stay in the same desk, when that was not the case. I use up a lot of mental resources dealing with triggers on a daily basis, so unnecessary stress such as not knowing if I will be sat in a cold, draughty spot all day was the last thing I needed. I imagine it's the same for you.

    Good luck.

  • I work in the health sector too - it seems that we are not very good at looking after our own, despite the mandatory training on manual handling & back care! I think things will be OK and I have been told not to worry. It's just knowing that I will probably have to explain my case to numerous people. We have just got a new occ health service so I don't know how they will approach things. The last service seemed snowed under & weren't concerned.

    It is mentally draining trying to keep your own workspace as you need it. To be fair, my immediate colleagues & boss are very supportive but I don't think anyone knows how much effort it takes to be at work sometimes. It's not fair on them to keep moaning about it either.

    Still, at least i have a job, something I am very grateful for.

  • I agree. I have colleagues with back problems. It's true about talking about it, getting a balance between the two is hard sometimes, and you're right, people don't understand the effort required. It's good that your boss and colleagues are supportive.

    I echo your sentiments about having a job too. Best of luck.

  • This probably won't help your situation, but it is my experience of being employed.

    I called the Occy health in to assess my work station and it needed £2000 worth of upgrades so I could work comfortably.

    I needed sitting and standing options to use the computer, I needed my own chair and a desk at a certain height, I needed a screen stand and the room rearranged so that my back was not to the door so I wouldn't have to turn round every time someone came into the office, I needed a footstool that could change heights I needed a bookcase moving to unblock a door which lead to the ladies toilets to save me walking right round the building to get there. I needed a rail in the toilets and an alarm cord in case I fell. So really quite a lot for the £2000.

    I was told there was no funding available for this. I told them that it was law that they had to provide a safe environment for me to work in. Took it to senior management who still said they didn't have funding. I asked if they could address some of the things that didn't cost any money and then address the other things later on? No I was told. I walked out.

    Best decision I ever made. Now I'm self employed and used the report to ensure my work area is good for me.

  • Leaving work is not an option, and the psychological benefits of being there far outweigh the pain it can induce. However, I think you're right, it is the law to make reasonable adjustments for someone to do their job.

  • Yes I did a project on the Disability Discrimination Act years ago for a big retailer. All companies have a duty of care and obligation under the Act (or the newer version) to make 'reasonable' adjustments for staff and customers to be able to access key areas. It sounds like your company was bang out of order Zanna.

    I'm also self employed - so on the plus side we can make our own adjustments (as I type & work from my bed at the moment whilst I'm recovering) and we don't have to deal with stupid bosses - often a hidden benefit ; )

  • I knew it was something to so with the DDA. Seems I may not be alone in not being happy about hotdesking. There are rumbles of discontent in the office.

    I could of course, combine this with another blog (Necessity is the mother of invention) & knit my own workspace, or fashion one out of elasticated bandage. But dont't let on about this idea, if Management get to hear of it they may take it seriously & I will find myself out in the rain in a tent.

    Seriously though, I wonder if the DDA applies in my case? My pain is self-limiting rather than a disability (I know this isn't the case for some people). This is probably where people are coming unstuck with claiming for things like DLA, parking badges & with Atos reviews. Pain itself is not seen as a disabling enough condition.

  • I had to google this hot desking malarky. It was an eye opener. Sorry you are on the receiving end. Is it first come first to secure a comfy spot or a raffle every morning? And does the room tidying project manager have their own tidy desk. I wonder what the time and motion man would make of it.

  • Oh, the time & motion man commeth after the mass tidy up to measure how inefficient we still are, then they will come up with something else to make us more efficient. Someone said they actually measure how far & how many seconds it takes for each person to walk across the office to get something, and then they tell you to move "your" desk nearer to the stuff you have to get. This made us laugh as (a) it will be like one of those square puzzles where you have to slide the bits about, and (b) how many times have they told us how important it is to get up and have a bit of a leg-stretch during the working day, instead of looking at a computer screen?!

    I think I will suggest a game of musical chairs to decide who gets a desk.

    I have experiemented today with not carrying my rucksack full of work stuff to and from the car (I had to make 6 journeys to & fro today, which is quite normal, in order to do my job, and the car is often parked at the bottom of a steep hill). Hey presto! Much less pain than when i do carry it, which suggests to me that having storage space in the office is a pretty good idea. But a problem as I do need lots of things in my bag when i am out & about.

    Today's clear out of my desk (it's taking ages) revealed a Nurofen stick-on heat pad about to expire, so every cloud has a silver lining.

  • I watched a man with a clip board from my bedroom window one day. He was stood over a man sweating buckets digging a dirty great hole on the green. It was like something out of Monty Python.

    Re: to and froing. Couldn't you put in for a motorized golf trolly affair to cart it all in. Or perhaps a super market trolly could be requisitioned. You wouldn't have to bend down so far to unload it. And you could leave it chained to the nearest lamp post with a police aware sticker on it loitering with intent awaiting the return journey.

  • Supermarket trollies are my nemesis. They are a devil to shove about and bending to scoop out the stuff is awkward. This explains an exaccerbation of pain on shopping days. I've tried home deliveries and internet shopping but I like to pick my own veg, and funnily enough, there's no service to put the stuff away.

    Anyway, seems my comments are being listened to at least. As to whether any more will come of it, we've yet to see...

  • Are there still rules about how much space each employee is entitled to have? There used to be though it didn't apply to me as I worked for a GP surgery and they were exempt! One of the GPs actually suggested doing away with the chairs for patient in the doctors surgery rooms and also having two patients in at the same time so one could be getting undressed etc whilst he spoke to the other. He was quite serious about this. Just looked blank when we queried confidentiality and human dignity.

    My daughter worked for a while in a converted oast house and they used to get flea bites quite regularly all around their ankles - so things could be worse.

  • I don't know if there are rules about space, but probably not because we have laptops, so in theory we shouldn't need a desk, just knees. They are now planning to shift all the furniture about - fine, don't expect me to be able to join in - so we'll see how that turns out.

    Your story about the GP surgery with no chairs reminded me of a hospital ward I went onto once (for work) - all the chairs at the nurses' desk had gone. The ward sister felt that the staff were spending too much time sitting down. Now, would that be due to all the paperwork the nurses and other hospital staff had to do, I wonder?

  • I understood that each room had to have x amount of sq footage per person to work in. We do seem to be drifting backwards in a lot of ways!

    I agree with the ward sister - I was near the nurses station following one surgery and all the chat was about their social life and holidays etc - if a patients asks for anything we are told they are busy discussing medical issues.

  • "My" chair (or rather the chair I have been sitting on at the desk I usually use, because I don't actually own the furniture) went walkies the other day. There was no chair there at all, and I began my usual habit of chewing my fingers nervously whilst scanning the room for it, but trying not to make a fuss, because why should a chair be so important and why should I be so special? etc etc.

    The woman sat next to me went, "Oh now come on, you need that chair, and it's over there," and she marched off, swiped it from another desk and told me to sit on it. Which I did, after much height-adjusting. I need to be more assertive.

    Went on a course yesterday and asked to swap places with someone so that I wasn't twisting my head to see the speaker - result! Problem was, even with breaks, it was a very long day and I'm not used to sitting for that length of time. My goodness, did I ache all over last night or what?! I still think I'm half the age I am and forget my body isn't built like most other peoples.

  • Courses can be arduous. I usually sit at the back and find a wall to lean against, I also adopt a wander and sit mode, I know people are only being kind but they never just leave you be. I feel like yelling "no actually this is the best it gets and nothing works".

    I hope the course was worth the effort.

    Re being assertive.

    Someone quipped once.

    "If you turn yourself into a door mat people will walk on you".

    I have always remembered it.

    Don't forget to take the brolly out and have a good week end.

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