One of the major workplace trends of the last few years has been the rise in hot desking. Backers of this trend suggest that this both encourages you to sit in different parts of the office, therefore increasing collaboration potential and so on, whilst of course, it also allows employers to cut down on desk space to improve optimisation of their real estate.
I heard a talk by a guy from Vodafone earlier in the year, and they were so beholden to this strategy that they would go around the office at the end of each day and swipe any belongings left on desks into a bin for employees to collect the next day (if they wanted).
It all sounded rather draconian, and it overlooks the sense of place many employees seem to crave. A new study suggests that employees love a place they can call their own. They love a place to hang up all of their stuff, where they can post pictures of their family or hang their favourite cuddly toy.
The study suggests that we love to have a place we can call our own at work and that when we’re deprived this, or we’re forced to work in an environment with no privacy, we tend to suffer from extreme levels of emotional exhaustion.
“When people experience their work environment to be low on privacy, it enhances the pressure on them to divide their mental attention between pursuing work assignments and handling the distractions, interferences, and feelings of being monitored that are associated with low experience of privacy,” the researchers note.
Personalisation equals control
Central to this feeling of control over our work environment is the ability to personalise our desk space. Being able to bring in personal things, be they knick-knacks, our childs favourite drawing, photos of the family or whatever, gives us both a sense of control and ownership over our work environment.
“Creating a place of one’s own in an otherwise public workspace environment should further contribute to individuals’ positive cognitive and affective states, resulting in enhanced mental resources, enabling better coping with the potentially debilitating interferences associated with low privacy,” the study notes.
About the study
Participants in the study were split into two groups. The first group worked in a traditional office (ie an enclosed room with a door and so on). The second group worked in an open plan office with a varied number of annoying colleagues close by.
Each group was asked to complete a survey throughout the study where they revealed their feelings of emotional exhaustion and perceptions of privacy.
The researchers then compared the scores in the survey with the number of personal items each employee had on their desk. The results showed that these reminders of home had a huge impact on our emotional wellbeing.
The study revealed that the perception of privacy had a big impact upon the level of emotional exhaustion felt by each participant. However, when employees were able to sprinkle reminders of home throughout their workspace, this seemed to act as a buffer against the stresses of a low privacy environment.
“Individuals may consciously or subconsciously take comfort from the items with which they surround themselves at work, and these items may help employees to maintain emotional energy in the face of the stresses that come from their work and the distractions and difficulties inherent in working in a low privacy environment (noise, interruptions, being observed by others, etc.),” the researchers reveal.
Whilst they caution that a more detailed study is required before too many conclusions can be made, it does suggest that those hot desking fascists might want to think again. That is if they want their workforce to be a happy and engaged one.