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The hidden hell of hot-desking (ft.com)
10 points by apress 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments

Y. T.’s mom works in Fedland.


So Y.T.'s mom has clacked up the stairs in her black pumps and gone into her office, actually a large room with computer workstations placed across it in a grid. Used to be divided up by partitions, but the EBGOC boys didn't like it, said what would happen if there had to be an evacuation? All those partitions would impede the free flow of unhinged panic. So no more partitions. Just workstations and chairs. Not even any desktops. Desktops encourage the use of paper, which is archaic and reflects inadequate team spirit. What is so special about your work that you have to write it down on a piece of paper that only you get to see? That you have to lock it away inside a desk? When you're working for the Feds, everything you do is the property of the United States of America. You do your work on the computer. The computer keeps a copy of everything, so that if you get sick or something, it's all there where your co-workers and supervisors can get access to it. If you want to write little notes or make phone doodles, you're perfectly free to do that at home, in your spare time. And there's the question of interchangeability. Fed workers, like military people, are intended to be interchangeable parts. What happens if your workstation should break down? You're going to sit there and twiddle your thumbs until it gets fixed? No siree, you're going to move to a spare workstation and get to work on that. And you don't have that flexibility if you've got half a ton of personal stuff cached inside of a desk, strewn around a desktop.

So there is no paper in a Fed office. All the workstations are the same. You come in in the morning, pick one at random, sit down, and get to work. You could try to favor a particular station, try to sit there every day, but it would be noticed. Generally you pick the unoccupied workstation that's closest to the door. That way, whoever came in earliest sits closest, whoever came in latest is way in the back, for the rest of the day it's obvious at a glance who's on the ball in this office and who is -- as they whisper to each other in the bathrooms -- having problems.

(1993, and as prescient as always.)

I did this for a period of time as a federal employee. You see people's interesting (read: dirty) habits and learn that there's simply no amount of trash cans, disinfectant wipes, and cleaning supplies that can be provided (for "free" by the government) that will have people clean up after themselves.

I've also seen some interesting behaviors as certain people will become very territorial over their preferred workstation, and generally the quality of workstations in general is lower as it becomes easier to move to a new workstation than try to fix the issue, or file a "ticket".

Cables & docking station parts go missing, keyboards get breadcrumbs & soda, chairs disappear (?!), etc. Once accountability for personal space goes away it seems a certain level of apathy kicks in

Textbook example of the tragedy of the commons.

Thankfully I’ve not yet been subject to this new angst.

But; I can imagine this has whispers and perhaps the discomfort many experienced in middle and high school of not being the one left out or left hanging at the lunch table. The stepchild of the Corp.

Is life so certain and determined that we yet need some form of uncertainty in our lives and in particular at work?

We hear about and experience dark patterns in the digital realm. These things, hot dealing and open offices are an affront to humanity and are whispering below our conscious “You’re not really needed, as your desk and personal space are coyly violated, so is your presumed place in this company. You’re welcome here so long as we allow you to be welcome. We’re the boss of you.”

Funny new term "fresh working" -- a fresh new desk every day.

Archived: http://archive.is/aBNBj

The more apropos terms were "inmates, jailers, and guards".

Thank you for sharing the non-pay-wall version.

They tried pulling this crap at my current org. We were supposed to reserve our desks for two week stretches and clean your place out every day to pristine. Luckily we had lockers. I never did, and luckily never got kicked out of my desk. After three months of this nonsense they finally started giving us assigned desks.

Apparently some employees at the last location were getting really cozy and kept really messy workspaces. Hot-desking was the solution.

Moving to this later in the year. We'll see if I tolerate it or not. Unfortunately, there's been no mention of the benefits that are supposed to go with hotdesking (flexible hours and work from home) so it's all downside at this point. I'd be ok with it if it meant I could work from home a couple times a week.


If there's a workaround, it's ok. Users usually post workarounds in the thread.

This is in the FAQ at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html and there's more explanation here:



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