The most attractive aspect of a unified communications system is its versatility and flexibility. It allows workers to communicate more efficiently, to spread ideas among one another more easily, and there is tremendous potential in the mobile application of a hosted PBX. This has lead to a new trend in some corporate environments called ‘Hotdesking’. Hotdesking is a specific setup of a Unified Communications (cloud) system that allows the traditional open-floor plan to have an even more open atmosphere by allowing any employee to login to any station at any time. So long, personal desk! Enter the true “shared space”. But is this new open environment good or bad for productivity?
The open-space concept was first created by a German firm in the 1950’s who believed that opening up office space allows for better flow of information, better access to management, and better rapport between colleagues. The concept made waves across the corporate world, and today one would be hard pressed to find a corporation that does not have an open floor plan.
New hosted cloud systems have now allowed companies to take the open floor plan a step further. The newest trend is Hotdesking, and it allows employees to login to any station in their office, thereby removing assigned seating. Employers see value in this model because an employee’s activities can no longer be confined to a single work station; it instead follows them in the cloud from place to place. The intent is to create a truly democratic and versatile work environment.
Unfortunately, the open-space concept has been under scrutiny for several years, beginning with a study conducted in the late 1990’s that showed open spaces to be less productive. The study cited dissatisfaction with the work environment and regular disruptions as the root causes for the loss of productivity. Despite these findings, open-space offices continued to grow in popularity through the 2000’s.
In 2011, psychologist Matthew Davis review hundreds of studies on the effects of the open-space concept. What he found was troubling. While open spaces did foster a superficial sense of unity for a common mission, Davis found that they negatively impacted productivity, attention, creative thinking, and overall satisfaction. Why does an open-space environment affect workers so negatively? Davis cites a cognitive trait called psychological privacy. Put simply, the employees’ perceived lack of privacy caused a form of psychological distress linked to our innate need for privacy. The open-space concept, therefore, does more harm than good in an office environment.
Enter Hotdesking. There are now office environments where there is no privacy, not even at an employee’s work station. Everything is logged and tracked in the cloud, and accessible at any time. Everything in the office is shared, and there is no place for one single person to call their own. According to the laundry list of afore mentioned studies, this kind of environment is not only damaging, it could be downright destructive.
Every business must weigh its options in how it handles office layout and corporate culture. But every business must also remember that their greatest asset is their employees, and they must treat them as such. There are plenty more “awesome” functions within a hosted Cloud that can bolster communications across the board. In fact, a hosted Cloud system may be the best excuse to put walls back up around the office. Employees would have their privacy back, but still be connected to everyone else in the office to participate in the free flow of ideas. Thus, the company in question would benefit from the open-space concept while satisfying their employee’s psychological need for privacy. It’s a win-win.