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New 'Hot-Desking' Trend Eliminates Personal Space In The Office

'Hot-desking' requires employees to leave their belongings in a locker and look every morning for a new place to sit.

Many American workers find themselves attracted to the idea of the corner office, but the constantly changing workplace has sent the corner office and the office in general into the paper shredder of history. Now it has claimed another casualty: the desk.

The new trend in American offices is hot-desking, an arrangement through which companies only have a certain number of desks that are unassigned to employees. The seating configuration changes every day.

Harvard historian Nancy Koehn calls it “musical desks.”

“There are so many things about that that are largely designed to maximize real estate,” she said on Boston Public Radio today. “You’ve got to drag your lunch ... like a peddler.”

Hot-desking requires workers to stash their things in a locker and look every morning for a new place to sit — no more potted plants and picture frames.

Koehn says hot-desking isn’t just a “passing idea,” and says it relates to the idea of “offices as the new factories.”

“It’s the logical extension of capitalism’s quest for efficiency, and therefore lower costs,” she said. “I think it’s all about the bottom line.”

Nancy Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business school where she holds the James E. Robeson Chair of Business Administration. Her latest book is "Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times." To hear her interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.


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