UBS hot-desking

Employees spend a large portion of their day at their office desk, which often becomes decorated with photographs and other…

By Andy Thomas


Employees spend a large portion of their day at their office desk, which often becomes decorated with photographs and other personal memorabilia.

However, desk ownership comes at a price for big businesses that occupy prime real estate. What if hot-desking was the answer?

According to Vodafone UK, the UK could trim £34 billion by encouraging schemes such as hot-desking. By allocating fewer desks on a more flexible basis, office running costs could be reduced by up to 30% for any given business.

Swiss super-bank, UBS, has taken hot-desking one step further with it’s so called thin desks at its offices at 5 Broadgate in the City of London. Employees are no longer tied to a desk. Instead, they are provided with personal headsets that can be use anywhere within or outside of the office. The headsets are associated with a personal telephone extension, so that employees are always contactable.

Andrew Owen, M.D for UBS in London explained that “being chained to a desk in a singular environment is restrictive.” Companies like American Express, GlaxoSmithKline and Citigroup have similar visions and have also embraced hot- desking.

The limitations of hot-desking

Nevertheless, there are still some limitations that require some UBS departments to maintain a more traditional approach. Trading floors in UBS typically have up to six monitors that display trading data. This comprehensive setup does not lend itself to the lean approach that embodies hot desking.

Concerns exist that employees will miss the sense of ownership that is associated with being assigned a single desk. Dr Robyn Johns from the University of Technology Sydney Business School also suggests that poor posture and repetitive strain injuries could be more prevalent, because employees will not adjust desks, seating and equipment when they shift from desk to desk.

UBS executives explain that although hot-desking has “an economic efficiency dimension…it has to be of value to our staff. This demonstrates that the bank is also carefully considering its employee’s well-being and morale.

UBS already have approximately 30,000 Swiss employees using slim desks and expects this figure to reach 72,000 employees globally the end of 2017. This change shows that, despite some concerns, they have a commitment to working in a more agile way.

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