The all-new hot desk shuffle

November 25, 1994

How many hours a week do you actually spend at your desk? Research, lecturing, meetings and collaboration with industry are rarely desk-based. A lecturer may spend relatively little time at the desk, using it more as a base for filing, making phone calls, reading The THES, and providing tutorial support. Yet, in reality, none of these functions need to be carried out from a single base.

"Hot Desking" is the recent concept that a single desk is shared by a number of employees. Other vogue terms for it are "hotelling", "free addressing" and "virtual offices". The individual no longer claims exclusive use of territory and instead contributes to efficient space use by using telephone extension numbers that follow the individual around; lockers that are significantly smaller than a desk; electronic access to a centralised management information system, centralised or departmental-based hard copy filing systems, and flexible, modular room dividers.

Hot desking can be evaluated against a range of developments within education such as open/flexible learning, the Internet, video-conferencing and working from home.

The potential opportunities for the university and the individual staff member lie within a broad range of educational, financial and space issues relating to more responsive, cost-effective and flexible provision.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England circular 1/93 highlighted the relationship between under-utilisation and lack of space at various functional and locational levels and stated that space utilisation should be regarded as a strategic issue.

Production line techniques from industry and commerce are rarely appropriate for university staff. Yet it is still acknowledged space is needed. The difference in philosophy lies in the process and management of space allocation.

An individual lecturer, according to specific personal needs, may well self-prioritise space bids such as: * A series of group spaces in which to lecture, at various pre-determined regular slots within a semester; * One-off group bookings for meetings; * Pre-planned desk space to deal with regular daily administration and correspondence; * Irregular, short-term space for access to PCs, telephone, email and fax; * Pre-planned quiet space for personal tutorials, report writing or assessment; *Library space for desk research and access to a broad range of data.

MIKE SHARKEY University of Luton.

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