Our sense of belonging to a group, an organisation, a tribe, etc is rooted in location/space as well as in social/psychological factors.
Whether consciously or otherwise, we have a sense of belonging to the organisation employing us. Our cubicle/desk/office is our physical place in that organisation. That place has significance and meaning – just look at the discussions around who has the veiw, the corner office, the bigger cubicle… Look at how territorial/protective some people get with their spaces.
Look at the very human desire to personalise offices and cubicles, so much so that many organisations have specific policies around what an employee may or may not display in their cubicle.
Most people will resist moving from private offices to open-plan cubicles. One way to manage/bully someone out of an organisation is to gradually moving them into less and less salubrious desks.
You don’t need to be an organisation psychologist to see how hotdesking plays unfavourably into this.
Hotdesking can be read as: we the organisation and its leadership want your commitment and dedication, but you don’t really belong. We don’t even value you enough to give you a physical place in our offices. You are not important enough to even have an actual desk… In fact, I struggle to come up with a positive reason for hotdesking from the employee-engagement perspective.
From a management perspective, hotdesking clearly has short-term advantages. It reduces floor space requirements and energy costs. But at what longer term costs in terms of lowered morale, reduced productivity, and potentially greater staff churn.
Hotdesking is perhaps unavoidable in one situation: employees who spend so much of their time on the road that having permanent desks in multiple locations is unfeasible. For these employees, alternate ways of promoting belonging should be implemented to make up for the loss of physical belonging. Immediate thoughts are: more compelling virtual spaces where they can have a permanent presence, and introducing more perks to reinforce belonging.