There’s a new trend afoot in academe that sends shudders through the spine of anyone who hoped privacy and intimacy would be preserved for those who dedicate their lives to teaching others. This trend not only threatens the ivy tower. It will soon infect every office in the world. The Scotsman reports Hot-Desking is the newest way to save money by punishing faculty and the students:
It is a room that has always been a true indicator of career advancement – your own office. But a new innovation being tested by Telford College could see the end of the much-loved space. The Edinburgh college is to introduce an innovative “hot-desking” environment at its new campus on the Granton waterfront, which opens this summer. It means that all teachers, lecturers, administration staff and even the college principal, will not be given their own office space on campus.
Instead, they will use the latest wireless technology. The scheme is the first of its kind in Scotland and developers believe it will put the college at the forefront of technological innovation in UK education. Instead of having an office space, each lecturer will instead have a pin code so they can tap into any computer to access their online profile and files. They will also be able to access the internet anywhere on campus through their laptop computers. Instead of having their own desk telephone, they will instead type a code into the nearest handset, or into a wireless handset, meaning any calls to their direct line are transferred to that telephone. Affiniti, the company setting up the network systems, says it expects other colleges and universities to follow Telford’s lead.
Hot-Desking is the sort of incredibly stupid idea that happens when the money people make decisions that adversely direct those who teach. Tear down the offices and make one giant work room. We don’t need cubicles. We only need desks! A giant sea of identical desks as far as the eye can see! One of the hallmarks of belonging in America is the stake of a bit of private land and the right to privacy. Unlike the UK you can own a house and ALSO the land beneath it in America.
The spread of your life is tasted across the acres of the Back Forty. You work hard you win an office with a window. You work even harder and you win a corner office with teasing scads of glass. They key to the American dream — big spaces, the wild blue yonder, the white picket fence — are all brought inside through the work window to tame the wild pioneer spirit with visual cues of the carpet of riches waiting for you just beyond the reach of the glass. Hot-Desking kills any sort of private connection to a space. Hot-Desking is the next step Microsoft made popular where You Are Not Your Office.
Every six months Microsoft moves every employee — except Bill Gates a precious other royal few — to an entirely new office so the workers bees don’t get too comfortable or too attached to once space. I find it funny when I call my friends at Microsoft and they’re either in the midst of moving in or moving out. My friends never complain, though, because that would be seen as not being a team player — can’t get too attached — they squawk, when squeezed for an emotional response to never having an office they can call home.
Microsoft has other workers solely dedicated to moving the worker bees and when it is your time to move you do nothing. Your computers and books and stuff and telephone lines are all cleared out and set up for you in a new office down the hall or across the campus or even off-campus.
I often found that office carousel a cruel philosophy purposefully bent on making people feel unattached and perpetually vulnerable but I guess that helps prime the pump of creative fear that you are expendable and not valuable in the Dot Com World because if we can move you to another office on a regular whim, we can show you the permanent door with the same disconnected aplomb: Don’t let the Hot-Desk hit your bum on the way out! With the advent of Hot-Desking, the Microsofts and the Local Universities, Inc. can give you a new office every day to ensure you’re never really comfortable!
Wait! Not a new office. Offices will be out. You’ll have your own desk every day. Wait! Why a desk?
We’ll give you a chair and a clipboard instead! The four corners of the room, instead of the corner office, will become the new touchstones of power. Wait! No corners! Hot-Desking in-the-round only! Hot-Desking will quickly lead to the demise of the intimate moment and a sense of belonging and connection. You will not be able to hold private review sessions with students or colleagues. Everything spoken over the phone or your VOIP connection will be open to immediate retrieval by any convenient ear.
You will forever be on display. You’ll have to go to the bathroom to pick your nose or let out the tiniest of farts. You become the spectacle and entertainment that is continuously accessible and convenient for interactivity. Your Hot-Desk no longer becomes a safe haven destination like your private office. It becomes the sign you are open for interpretation as one of the nameless herd.
While Hot-Desking may save money in the long run, it is ultimately bad for the business of learning and of making money in America because the perceived loss of individuality and a reciprocal dedication to a private space evaporates any sense of wanting to stay Hot-Desk connected unless absolutely required.
When the Hot-Desk is active, imaginations are working overtime to find the library’s books stacks of solitude before they, too, are replaced with a Hot-Desk library database jammed in a closet while the rest of the library becomes a Hot-Desked Wi-Fi student lounge and you wonder if you can get to your car to eat a private lunch and get back in time for your next Hot-Desk automated check-in — press this button to continue if you are sitting at your Hot-Desk.
Hot-Desking is impersonal and cruel but impersonality and cruelty have always been the primary forces behind the advance of machinery and technology in society. We lose faith in people to believe new means better.