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Spaced Out

Hot Desking

Wed Apr 3 12:18:20 2019

Do you have spare office desks or office space?

What do you do with them/it?

Do you let the crud of the modern office pile up? Use them as collection points for things or printer stations? Or do you leave them empty? Even worse get rid of the desks to make things roomy and not look like you have excess?

Shadowcat has a fairly roomy office for the number of Lancaster based staff. We like it that way. We also have more desks than people and there is good reason for that these days. The historical reasons were many and varied (we upgraded desks and used to have more staff in the office and not working remote being two of them), the modern reason a little more fun.

So what did we do when we no longer needed as many desks in our Lancaster office? Did we get rid of desks did we repurpose them as shared resources?

Sort of…

One: An MA happened

A few years ago my wife, and Shadowcat’s company secretary, started her MA. She was working full time while doing it but she was hard studying at any other time. On the occasional holiday or time taken to do her studies from work she would come into the office to work.

The reasons for this were two-fold. One we had a good enough internet connection in the office and a work environment that encouraged study. Two, we got to go to lunch together.

These days L is doing her PhD (scholarship student and ‘Swotty Swot McSwot Swot’) and has an office at Lancaster University. Though she still hot desks in the SC offices if she needs to be closer to Lancaster or wants to have lunch with me.

But that got me thinking, why couldn’t we just offer the room to others?


We are members of the Ethical Small Traders Association (ESTA) and as such are devoted to being good business partners. So I have always offered, and been taken up on, the chance for lone workers, or people without offices, the chance to work from an office if it benefits them. That’s a practice that has been utilised and is still available to those from ESTA who want to take advantage of it.

Three: A different MA

So then there is K. K was doing her MA and needed a place to ‘be serious and not degenerate into wearing pyjamas and slobbing on a couch all day’. Basically K found it useful and helpful to her mental state to be in an office to do some of her college work.

We gave K a desk and as much coffee as her dissertation could manage.

These days K is also a community leader, director of a company (membership organisation) and has started her teaching/research PhD. She has an almost permanent desk she can call her own in the Shadowcat office and we get to see her (and our Ersatz Office Dog that she owns) on a regular basis.

Four: The Data Scientist.

Dr N is a good friend to many Shadowcatters. She used to live in the same student digs as one of us for a start, though she has known the team for longer than that. She was living in the South of the UK for a time but decided to return to Lancaster when she started to work remotely.

I heard that Dr N. wanted to find hot desk space for some of her working week. So once again I was able to offer space at the SC offices. This is a serious advantage to us as we now have an expert in the office who knows R and Shiny and is open to good conversations about statistical analysis and programming concepts and techniques in a different language and framework.

The Deal

So what’s the deal that we offer for a hot dek in Castle Shadowcat? Well it’s kind of simple:

  • You get a desk to work from, you may have to share and negotiate with anyone else who wants to hotdesk, but there’s usually a bit of room.
  • You get free coffee as we always have a pot on the go and we love coffee (we also have tea for you pagans).
  • You get freedom to come and go, we give you a key card if you are coming in the office regularly.
  • You get to chat occasionally to us mad lot in the SC dungeons. We love meeting people and learning about, and from, them.
  • There is no cost.

So the last one point about being no cost, it’s true, we don’t charge. Well why the hell would we? Aside from the fact that our contract for hot desking (or as they term it subcontracting) in the office via the landlord likely prohibit such activity, the cost doesn’t matter to us.

It’s because we wouldn’t charge anyway. If people didn’t use those desks then they would be repurposed in some random manner, or just left empty. This seems like a much better usage of the physical resources and the benefits are incalculable. Just from the example above. At any one time we have between one and three PhD students or Doctoral graduates who are in the office. I have serious researchers, teachers and data scientists who I can grab a coffee with and we learn something every time they are around just from the casual conversation. You get a new viewpoint, a different way of thinking. We also get casual conversation and the chance to extend the social community that is at the heart of what Shadowcat is about.

This isn’t a cost to us, this is a bonus. We owe them. We owe anyone who wants to hotdesk with us as we get to exchange knowledge and understanding and grow social and professionally.

A Call to Action

Think about your office space. Think about the possible waste of physical resources. Think about the people in your community who might benefit socially and professionally from a zero to low cost use of a professional business environment. Think about the fact that your staff will grow and adapt in new ways and every investment in your community brings untold returns.

Think about them, and maybe consider if you can offer something as well.

And if you live in Lancaster and invest in the communities around you; or want to visit and need somewhere to work from while you are here; then contact us as we could probably find you some space. At the very least you will find that we are a bunch of mad people who will at least be friendly.

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