5 trends that are making your work life harder

Some recent workplace trends are good ones – such as the increase in telecommuting, a growing call for paid sick leave, and the gradually closing pay gap between men and woman. But not everything is moving in a worker-friendly direction; with many other work trends, employees are getting the short end of the stick. Here are five workplace trends that you making your job harder and your work life less pleasant.

1. The decline in support positions. The percent of the labor force that works in support positions like administrative assistants has been declining over the last few decades. And since the economy went south in 2008, U.S. companies have eliminated about one million office support positions. That means that workers are increasingly doing tasks that used to be handled by assistants – from booking their own travel to managing meetings to ordering supplies. There are simply fewer people at work whose job is to make your job easier – and workers are increasingly handling administrative tasks on top of their regular workloads.

2. Fewer amenities. In addition to big things like support positions, many companies are also cutting lots of little things that made life at work a bit more pleasant, like disposable utensils in the office kitchen or complimentary soda in the refrigerator. Those things might not sound like a big deal, but their absence can make your day a bit more harried, and leaves many workers feeling less cared for by employers than they used to be. It’s not just the small things either – many companies are putting greater restrictions on business meals, travel , and professional development.

3. Open office spaces. Even though most workers hate them, workplaces that consist of wide open space – no private offices or even cubicles – continue to gain popularity. Companies with open office floor plans frequently claim the layout helps collaboration and team work, but worker complaints of loss of privacy and distractions abound. Distractions are especially a problem when it comes to productivity; it can be tough to focus on projects that require deep thought when there’s no barrier between you and the conversations of dozens of other people. In fact, studies have found that any collaboration benefits from open office layouts are outweighed by workers’ dissatisfaction with noise and privacy issues.

4. Hot-desking. Think an open office plan with no privacy sounds bad? Try hot-desking, the latest trend in office design that eliminates assigned spaces altogether. Offices that hot-desk don’t have designated desks or offices; rather, people find a new work space each day, depending on where they want to sit (or sometimes more realistically, where there’s room). The system is sometimes used in offices where people are frequently out (for example, on the road, telecommuting, or at another site), where the alternative would be many offices often sitting vacant. Other companies believe it increases teamwork, since you can locate yourself next to the person you need to work with on one project today, and next to someone else for a different project tomorrow.

Of course, in practice, hot-desking means that you can’t store things at your desk beyond the day (whether it’s work files or personal items, like snacks) and can’t personalize your workspace in any meaningful way, and can make you feel like you don’t have an actual “home” at your workplace. And brace yourself for studies showing that it increases the spread of germs and increases workplace sickness, which are surely coming at some point.

5. The pressure to never unplug. Being able to fully disconnect from work is important to recharge and refresh your brain, but increasingly American workers are feeling pressured to stay plugged in on evenings and weekends — interrupting personal time to respond to emails that aren’t even urgent and being generally available for work in their off-time. While the goal of all this work is supposed to be to increase productivity, in the long-term in tends to lower productivity, as people become burned out and unhappy.Researchers have even coined the term “tele-pressure” to describe the urge to respond to emails, texts, and voicemails as fast as you can, so that you appear connected and responsive.

{ 158 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed

    I suspect that cutting admin support actually costs the companies more in the long run. Where I work, we’ve been reducing admin support a lot and requiring everyone to take care of a lot of things that admins used to do. If you’ve got a highly paid GS-15 spending two hours fumbling through a travel voucher that would take an experienced GS-10 admin about 20 minutes, you’re definitely hurting the bottom line.

    1. baseballfan

      Totally agree. My old firm did this a while back. So what happens is that staff end up doing admin related tasks instead of billing the client at $300/hour. I have never understood why this makes economic sense, other than the fact that they didn’t reduce the billable hours requirement, so the inevitable end result is that people simply have to put in more hours to get everything done.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        And there you’ve hit the nail on the head: as long as people are willing* to work the extra hours for no extra pay, it does save the company money to not have the assistants.

        *Using a rather loose definition of ‘willing’ since everyone else is also working extra, and there are disadvantages if you aren’t.

      2. Sharon

        I suspect that if we outlawed the exempt salary classification so that every worker had to be paid for overtime if they worked it, we’d see a LOT of downstream effects simply because it would be much harder to abuse us like this. Simply expecting your people to work for free is just so obnoxious it should be illegal. Even or maybe especially white collar professionals!

        1. AnonaMoose

          You lost me at ‘especially at white collar’. I am white collar and my butt at a desk is 100x easier than, say, an extra 10 hours of house painting or daycare. Dear lord, no. You actually could not pay me to do OT in those areas.

        2. Vicki

          I agree. There’s this sense that exempt employees should never stop working.

          I’ve worked hourly “contract” and also exempt salaried. It’s so odd. On the hour work, I’ve been told Do NOT work past 40 hours. We don;t want to pay that.

          So it’s pretty clear that they love getting work for “free” from exempt employees. I’ve only ever once had a manager who would say “It’s after 5. Go home.”

          1. RMRIC0

            That’s because employers have conditioned salaried employees to think they’re getting a great deal be decoupling inputs (pay) from output (work performed).

      3. Ad Astra

        Ding ding ding. While I’m sure it costs some businesses more in the long run, most of them just ask for more without spending more. Once it becomes the norm in your industry, you don’t even have to worry about higher turnover — because where else is your talent going to go?

      4. Koko

        It makes economic sense if your employees are exempt and continue to be held to billable hours minimums despite the added admin load, so your labor costs for those employee don’t increase nor do your billings decrease, and you are saving several hundred dollars a month in health insurance and other benefit costs per employee position you eliminate. The Great Squeeze.

    2. BRR

      Having a a great admin is priceless. Anybody who has ever had one of those support staff members where you go, “Jane is the president but we all know her admin is the one who runs the company,” knows you’re getting a bargain most likely with their salary versus what they know/do. Those types are also so hard to find but can create a huge impact on an office.

    3. Chinook

      “I suspect that cutting admin support actually costs the companies more in the long run.”

      Either that or it just shifts the costs to a different budget line from payroll. I work on a floor with 60 staff and 1 AA. I was hired as a contractor to work on various projects that were slipping through the cracks because the engineers were busy engineering. I joke that I look and act like an AA (and do function as her backup for vacation days, etc.) but I am not (because AAs shouldn’t be contractors). The costs of my AA related type work now enter under the same budget line as office supplies which makes the employer look good to stock holders (we keep payroll costs down!) while driving up operating costs for the department. They truly haven’t saved any money because I cost the same (as I charge enough to cover comparable benefits for this type of position), just changed the paperwork and who pays for me.

      1. Kyrielle

        Or cause things just not to get done. I mean, no one is going to skip filing an expense report after they spend money.

        …but they can reduce the money they spend. Which sounds good, until you consider that it might mean they do without a tool that would be helpful, so now they spend 3 hours/week doing what they could do in 2 hours/week if they had the tool, but they don’t want to deal with buying and expensing the tool. It’s just too much hassle.

        It doesn’t take very long before you’re behind in that equation.

        …not to mention that they are aware of the trade-off, it’s bugging them, and morale took the hit as well.

      2. Natalie

        Exactly. The extra costs end up hidden and distributed over so many accounts they aren’t as noticeable as a single Payroll line item.

    4. AndersonDarling

      It really depends on the organization. I came to my current company as an admin and when I left the position, they didn’t refill the role. We had gone paperless and reports became automated. Most of the travel I booked was for conferences where the traveler had to make layers of decisions while booking (which talks am I reserving, what do I want for dinner…) and it was easier for the traveler to book it themselves. Technology caught up and an admin wasn’t needed anymore.
      But that could never happen at some companies I worked for. I typed letters and contracts all day, and the managers would never have the time to do that.

    5. Anne

      I agree! We currently have a clerical who monitors timekeeping for our hourly associates, who work varying schedules. She inputs weekly schedules and looks for missed punches, etc., and inputs PTO usage. She’s a whiz at this. We are going to a new system where the managers will be doing all of this for their respective departments. I’ll reserve judgment, but I think it’s a waste of the managers’ time and will not be as accurate.

    6. MaryMary

      I think there’s a lot of cost cutting, especially around personnel, that actually cost companies more in the long run. OldJob outsourced a lot of internal positions, like IT Help Desk personnel, recruiters, and even HR generalists for a while (some of it offshore, but some of it to companies in the US). It would take so much longer to get an answer or fix a problem when you had to deal with someone reading from a script, or work with someone not familiar with your part of the organization. Sure, you saved $X on salary and benefits, but you created inefficiencies.

    7. Sarah

      Oh my goodness, yes. Having a ton of senior managers expected to do things once or twice, that take forever for them, versus someone who can just bang through eg 5 hotel bookings in 10 minutes… I say this as someone who’s been on both sides of this fence, as admin and as management, in different times in my career, and it’s so frustrating – and yeah, on a per hourly basis, what on earth are businesses doing?

      (I think it comes down to not valuing admin – but then I’ve worked in some organisations where there are crazy top-heavy structures, because in restructuring, it’s a rare senior manager who says “get rid of one of our posts” when they can axe 4 or 5 staff below them for the same money)

    8. Bea W

      Totally. We lost our admin support a couple years ago. On top of that, contractors do not have access to the ordering system to get their own supplies, never mind that perm employees who had never had to order office supplies just don’t know what to do. I have been providing this support to the group, because I am a rare perm employee and I have figured out the ordering system. I have donated my storage cabinet to office supplies, and kitchen utensils.

      Speaking of kitchen utensils, my workplace did away with those at the end of 2013, even in the kitchenette available to visitors. It’s a bigger deal than it seems like it would be, and frankly it’s embarrassing to have to tell guests (interviewees and people you are doing business with) that we have no plates, napkins, or utensils. If the cafe is open, we can go up to the 12th floor and liberate some for our own use. My co-workers and I have been buying our own supplies. My group enjoys serving cake. It is a huge PIA to wait for someone to go all the way upstairs to scavanger hunt for plates and utensils.

      They did the same with copy paper. For months I was baffled why we no longer had legal size copy paper. I was wandering about borrowing it from other floors. We use a lot of legal size paper. It was about 6 months before my co-worker started calling around to find out where to get some because I had exhausted the other supply pockets around the building. It turned out the company stopped supplying non-letter size copy paper and we would have to order it ourselves, and that caused us to revisit the issue in the first paragraph. *sigh* I store our special paper in the cabinet, since leaving the common printer stocked is not an option having to purchase our own supply.

      I suspect the people who approve these ridiculous cuts still have admin support to get them their own paper and utensils, and have no clue.

      1. Bea W

        They also stopped the milk / half and half delivery and replaced it with single serve creamers and milk. Co-workers still ate their cereal. It takes about 10 of those creamer-size milks to properly fill a cereal bowl.

      2. Sarah

        The place I’m working in has banned the usual UK-sized narrow envelopes (that you fold a sheet of paper into 3rds to go in), and only has A3 size ones (a sheet folded in half) as we’re now an “agile” workplace, and only folding once is more efficient than twice. Everyone boggles about this all the time, especially as the envelopes are more expensive….

    9. Pixel

      How many accountants does it take to put together a desk? Bonus: how many billable hours are wasted when three fairly competent accountants are putzing around an “assembly required” Costco desk plus filing cabinets and shelves for two hours trying to make the dang thing not fall apart?

      At the end, Boss ended up hiring a handyman who put all the new desks together for less than $100. Lesson learned, I guess.

  2. BRR

    I felt a lot of stress just reading that article. I don’t even know what I’d do with number 4. I’d have to bring a suit case with my stuff everyday.

    I like the term telepressure. I’m going to add that next to voluntold.

    1. Kyrielle

      I’ve heard that some places that hot-desk assign each person a rolling filing cabinet that they move around, but what a pain, even so.

      1. Jerry Vandesic

        We did this when I was with a large financial services company. We had an entire building that had not a single office for 1000 people. Some employees had permanent desk assignments, but most would sit down wherever they wanted. To help support this model everyone had a rolling cart for their files/belongings that could be set aside at night. We also had a LARGE number of conference rooms, ranging from tiny one person “phone call” closets to standard size conference rooms. All in all I really liked this arrangement, but there was a significant upfront investment in proper equipment and space design. We did this from scratch, with a brand new building, so we were able to do it well.

        From the company’s POV, there were major savings by assigning 200o people to this building (many often worked at home or at other locations, meaning we only had half in the office at any one time). This saved us building another building, at $20M each.

        1. Sharon

          I’m curious if anybody ever came to work in the morning to find their rolling cart had been hidden or moved as a prank? I can see a lot of drama resulting from this kind of thing. Or did they have places to lock them up at night?

          1. Jerry Vandesic

            There were a few pranks involving moved and re-named carts, as well as some very imaginative decorations related to birthdays and engagements. Nothing that ever caused a problem that I saw.

            1. Girasol

              I was imagining a conference room so full of carts it’s like a kiddie number puzzle: slide Sue’s one space left, then slide Allen’s into the space where Sue’s was, then slide the whole row of John and Jim and Jill one over, then move Fergus’s, and twenty minutes later, your own is at the door. If you lose you get the day off.

        2. Windchime

          How much room was taken up by storing 2000 rolling file cabinets/carts? Could that have been made into cubicles instead?

          1. Jerry Vandesic

            The carts fit into spaces carved out of the interior walls, so the space was not zero but was minimal. Even with cubicles, we would have still needed the carts so that people could share desk space. The key for our environment was that the worker population was pretty mobile.

        3. GOG11

          Reading through this and the other responses regarding number 4, I’m really curious about disability accommodations. If you have a disability, how do the accommodate it if you’re endlessly shuffled around? What if you need a certain chair due to back/spinal problems? An enclosed office/limited exposure to sick people due to a suppressed immune system? What if you’re in a wheelchair? Do they just hitch your mobile cabinet up to the chair and off you go….? I’m genuinely curious to know if/how they navigated these challenges.

      2. Blue Anne

        Yup. Right now I have a little locker, but next year, I get a shiny rolling, locking filing cabinet as well! oooooooooo!

        Never be a public accountant. Don’t be like me, kids.

        1. Anna the Accounting Student

          Oh boy. Sounds like I’m in for a real pain if I go into public.

        2. Pixel

          Yowza! How do client files physically fit? Some of our clients bring in big plastic bins, others bring in cardboard boxes, and for some audits we just spread around all over the office. I just complained about having to put together a desk, but I will go and give my desk a hug now.

    2. caligirl

      My company does this and yes, it is awful. I feel like a pack mule everyday! I’d take a huge pay cut for a desk to call my own. We are assigned lockers – it doesn’t help.

    3. T3k

      Agreed. 4 really grates me as I’m a very organized, orderly person, and even just the idea of playing music office chairs is raising my anxiety. Nevermind that while I’m not a germaphobe, I do like to keep things clean and one of the first things I do when I start a new job is to wipe down the keyboard, mouse, desk, chair, etc. Can’t imagine doing that almost every day with hot desking.

      1. Sarah

        I have worked in places with lockers, and laptops, and no deskphones, and it’s basically 10 mins to get the desk up & running both at start & end of day. It made sense when I was externally-facing, so I wasn’t in the office all the time, and there were big advantages to a more flexible set-up and technology, especially when it was partnered with big screens in meeting rooms/areas, so you can work on projects in groups more easily – but when I’ve been PA-ing, for example, & get in at the same early time & sit in the same desk so my boss could always find me and I could see their office across the open plan, it was just another massive frustration – especially not being able to have eg phone lists, deadlines etc pinned to a board.

        1. TheLazyB

          Ten mins on a good day. I am in at 8 so it’s fine, but a colleague of mine who has to start at 9.30 has sometimes found it’s taken her 20 mins to find a desk and get her stuff to it :(

          1. Sarah

            Very true. The PA team gets snarky comments about how we always sit in the same places, and it’s more friendly if we move about, but we get in early, and prioritise our bosses and their leadership teams being able to find us over this idea we should be mixing things up, or other people thinking it’s unfair they never get to have an end-bank desk etc etc

    4. louise

      It’s not just the desk and stuff–I like my office chair adjusted to precise specs. I do not appreciate any adjustments. Having a different chair everyday? I can’t imagine a dollar figure that would make that job worth it to me.

      1. teclagwig

        This raises a good point. How can ergonomics be any good when you are hotdesking? Especially if you have major height differentials? Augh. I would spend the first 30 minutes of every day fiddling with my chair, my monitor my keyboard tray….

        1. Blue Anne

          I work in a nightmare office of hot-desking open plan badness. The hilarious thing is, we can request any kind of ergonomic IT kit we want. Monitor risers? Sure. Laptop stands that make it work just like a monitor and a full size keyboard to plug into it? No problem. Those adjustable foot rest thingies? Easy! And would you like a left-handed mouse with that?

          But no one gets any of it until they’re in their 3-4 year here and they actually get their own desk, obviously, because are you going to tote all that stuff around with you every day? Until then, we’re all just on our little work laptops at whatever corner we can squeeze into. My neck cracks so much…

    5. That Marketing Chick

      One of my friends just got a job at a major pharmaceutical company that hot-desks. They all have lockers; even fairly senior management. There are quiet rooms, but they can’t be reserved. I know it seems “cool”, but I wouldn’t be able to settle in without a place to call my own. I’m currently in a cube and would much prefer an office with a door.

      1. Windchime

        I would prefer an office with a door, too, but only management gets that here. The rest of us are in cubes, which I tend to not really like until I read about open floor plans or hotdesking; then I’m grateful for my cube so I can store my teabags and a picture of my kids. Don’t even get me started on having to re-adjust a chair every day.

      2. Bend & Snap

        I went from a corner window office at my last company to a sad brown cube with no daylight in my current role. The job is worth it but the workspace leaves a LOT to be desired.

        It would be even worse if I didn’t even have my own cube.

        1. Windchime

          My sad brown cube had grungy walls that didn’t match. So I took careful measurements and went to Target and bought a bright, cheery fabric shower curtain and cut it up so I could line the cube walls with it. It made a huge difference. I’m ready for a change so I’m on the lookout for another shower curtain; I can just take down the old one and cut matching pieces and I’ll be ready to go. It’s something to think about.

          1. Suz

            One of my coworkers did the same thing to her cube with wrapping paper. She changes it every few months when she gets bored with it.

    6. littlemoose

      Ugh, my workplace might be going to hotdesking in the future, and I really, really do not want to give up my office space. I keep not just knickknacks and work materials in my office, but food and personal items too. I will gladly cut back on my teleworking if it means I get to keep my own office.

    7. Z

      I didn’t mind hot-desking when I worked for an airline call center. They had new people coming in every hour, so once your shift was up, someone from another shift could take it. And all the desks and chairs were completely and easily adjustable. I carried in a reusable grocery bag with my two binders and writing utensils, and I was done. There’s no way they could have afforded the real estate to give each person their own designated, un-shared desk.

    8. Sunshine Brite

      We do this. I made my home my principle place of business asap. I forget things, I cut at least a half hour of productivity killer from packing and unpacking everything each day, and the extra time on those days I forget key things like my computer cord, charger, file I need, etc. and have to run back home. We get a shoulder bag and a rolling bag. Some people chose to hot desk it in the office and they get an assigned locker – that’s too narrow to fit the rolling bags…

    9. Chris

      I actually like the idea of hot desking. Maybe I’m insane. We don’t do it in our office, but we are moving next year and it is up for consideration. One of the companies other locations does it an it has been getting pretty positive feedback. However, the standard there is a little bit different – you can stay in the same space for up to one month. So, it let’s people settle a bit, without starting to hoard things at a desk.

      To me, I find cubicles really, really terrible. We are all open space, no offices. At least in the hot desk like system, I’d likely get to pick the least horrible cube location since I’m one of the office early birds.

  3. Ash (the other one)

    Before taking my previous job to my current one, I had to fight them on the fact I needed an office to do the type of work they were hiring me to do. I should’ve known then when the Executive Director emailed that it was “ridiculous” it was coming down to an office that that job would not work out… the COO tried arguing with me that “open offices” were the trend of the future. Sorry, but no. I cannot work like that.

    1. TheLazyB

      Our Chief Exec (of a 4000+organisation) is giving up his office in September.

      ….. I can’t even.

      1. BritCred

        Yeah, how about no….? Seriously do they not realise that stuff that he deals with on a daily basis require privacy and there are going to be times they can’t just run into a meeting room?

          1. Jerry Vandesic

            We had our lawyers sitting in open space (no offices in that building). They did have easy access to lots of conference rooms, and they were assigned permanent desks (with lockable cabinets). I always wondered about this, but they said it worked.

  4. NicoleK

    #1 Admins are also expected to do more, more, more
    #5 I’m probably one of the few managers at my org who doesn’t have my work email synched with my smart phone. Despite that, I’m regularly checking emails on weeknights, weekends, and days off.

    1. Meg Murry

      OMG, don’t get me started on “just in time” where I spend more time figuring out exactly how many widgets to make, exactly what widgets to make each day, and then the ensuing panic attacks when something goes wrong and now we don’t have enough widgets to fulfill tomorrow’s order and now I’ve got techs working overtime to make the widgets.

      The only thing just in time does is reduce warehousing costs of the big companies – by making their suppliers act as warehouses. One company I worked for only wanted X material delivered each day, and no more than X – but we had to keep 10 days work of that material on hand at our facility, and then send them X at a time in 1/4 to 1/2 f-filled semi trucks. It was completely ridiculous.

      Just-in-time means hiring a lot of computer programmers and industrial engineers, instead of just building a little bit more warehouse space. In a crowded country like Japan at a Toyota plant where land is expensive and workers put in 15-18 hour days, maybe that isn’t such a big deal. But in the US, its just plain stupid.

      Combine just-in-time with a company that insists on having 0 inventory on the 31st of each month and you have a recipe for monthly panic attacks, not to mention a royal pain. “Hello supplier? I need 4 drums of material. But it can’t arrive until the 1st, or I have to turn away the truck because I can’t have inventory on the 31st. But if it arrives after the 2nd I’m going to shut down my production line, so send it to arrive on the 1st exactly.”

      No, I don’t miss that job at all.

  5. Kristen

    Having been laid off twice in 5 years from companies that were affected by the economy, I can tell you that admin/support positions are not as common as they use to be, especially high level executive admin/office management positions. They are looking for entry level experience and pay to try to support and organize upper level and confidential tasks.

    1. some1

      I agree. I’m an admin and in my last job search many admin positions that I was seeing were reception and/or very low paying.

  6. Pinkie Pie Chart

    I worked for 2 years in an open office layout and I *loathed* it. I didn’t work closely with any of the people in my department, so I didn’t need to be near them, and every time there was a conversation or just more people passing through our section, I would look up. I spent a lot of time with my headset on or headphones in so I wouldn’t get interrupted, which only sort of worked. Private phone calls had to be taken outside or in the stairwell because you couldn’t use the conference rooms for that, or just at your desk where anyone could listen. There were these lovely tables set up in the floor so people could collaborate. We used them to share cake and that was it. We had much less personal space and could do little decoration or we would 1) ruin the look or 2) mess with the acoustics and make it noisier.

    It was awful. Pretty looking, but sucked as work space.

    1. Jennifer

      I am just so tired of the NOISE FACTOR. Admittedly I sit next to a woman who can’t stand quiet and insists on noise being made at all times, but all the damn questions and the chatting and the “it’s so QUIET here on Monday morning” (hint hint, must remedy that by yakking about husband’s colonoscopy–I had to threaten that I might throw up to stop that one), and I can’t use sound-blocking headphones because I have to hear all the questions, and I cannot turn up my sound enough to drown them all out….GAH.

      I also have to hike out to the back end of work to attempt to make private phone calls. And there is always someone around.

      1. Windchime

        Hey, I think I work with her husband. He constantly complains about it being “too quiet” and keeps suggesting that we pipe in overhead music. Oh god. Please, not that.

  7. FW

    This week our office which consists of the ‘service’ departments of our company is moving to a new building with an open floor plan. We’ve seen the floor plan and aren’t too happy.
    Most of my and my colleges work consists of high concentration projects. I don’t know how this made sense to anyone making decisions.

    But at least we are trendy…

    1. Sharon

      That’s a pet peeve of mine. Someone (executives?) making the decision that everybody needs to collaborate and completely ignoring the fact that some jobs require concentration and little or no collaboration. Why is it so bad for people who need to collaborate to go into a room together for that purpose and leave the other workers quietly at their desks?

  8. TheLazyB

    My office is full, but they are still recruiting people to work there.

    Officially we’re soon to go to 8 desks for every ten people. Could be worse. My old job is soon going to 7 desks for ten people.

      1. OfficePrincess

        Sitting on laps? Jane gets the old half-dead computer out of the closet and sets it up on the floor (spending half the day untangling wires and an hour at the end packing it back up again).

        1. BeenThere

          I’ve joked about bunk desks before. I’m glad there are people in this world that think like me.

        2. hermit crab

          We actually had bunk desks in my college library! We called them “monkey carrels.”

        3. Connie-Lynne

          We started joking about bunk desks after we had time-shared our desks within an inch of their lives.

          A month later there was an indefinite hiring freeze announced. Solved one problem by creating another! d’oh!

      2. TheLazyB

        Some people “get to” go home and work from home that day.

        It hasn’t happened yet. But…..

      3. GOG11

        Workers can just collaborate and share the same computer. It’s super great for everyone to share an open space, regardless of what they’re trying to accomplish, so you just scale it down. It’s obviously super extra great for two people to share the same computer. Because collaboration.

  9. T3k

    Also with #3, for people like me who are extreme introverts, the constant being around others in an open workspace is very draining. You don’t even have to be actively engaging in talk with them, it’s just hearing all the talk around you (and sometimes, too many moving through your bubble) for 9 hours a day that, short of running to your car, you have no way of getting away from to recharge until you clock out.

  10. Colorado

    The hot-desking thing gives me anxiety just reading about it! I could not deal with that, my little desk is my cove, my bit of personality. Add to the list non-value, no agenda driven meetings and non-essential e-mails, especially when you are in the CC: thread.
    I’m still anxious about the hot-desking ;-/, terrible idea!

    1. Jerry Vandesic

      After we moved to our new open seating building, we did lose some people who decided that they couldn’t work in that kind of environment. Some moved to other departments in our old building, but about a dozen left the company. The company expected some attrition, and the directional change in the company culture meant that some employees weren’t going to make the shift.

  11. Adam

    Hot-Desking is a thing? Really? It sounds like absolute madness. Unless you can do all your work on a laptop and a cell phone how would that even work?

    1. K.

      I had a part-time “survival job” some years ago for about six months at a call center and we were assigned different cubes every shift. It didn’t bother me as that kind of work only required a working phone and computer, and I was also only working 20 hours a week so I could deal. (Also as far as call centers go, that one was pretty cushy. I read horror stories about call centers and the only thing that matches my experience is the high turnover.) I could also see it for people who work remotely – at my old job the sales team was all remote so they just grabbed whatever they could find when they had to come into the office. I could also see it for someone who traveled a lot for work. But for a job with a bit more permanence? No – that would be a deal-breaker for me. I’m job-hunting now and I really hope I don’t encounter that.

    2. TheLazyB

      There are currently pc’s on every desk, so you just log into the system as normal.but soon we’re all getting laptops. Things that will be awful: if you have a personal keyboard (I do)/chair/footrest/mouse. If your locker is on a different floor to your locker. If you and your teammates are on different floors and need to talk.if you end up on the floor where the call centre is.Oh the fun we’ll have!!!!!!

      1. TheLazyB

        There’s a guy there who has Aspergers and its really hard for him. I am neurotypical and its hard enough for me.

        Funniest autocorrect ever: for ‘neurotypical’ my kindle wanted to put ‘British’. Haha, no :)

    3. S

      My old job was that way– company laptops, cell phones, and hot desks. I personally loved it, but it also helped that all our files were digital and no one printed anything if we could help it (our printer was finicky and there was never a need to print when we used Google Drive and shared docs to collaborate and edit).

      1. Windchime

        What if you got stuck working between Chatty Cathy and Loud Larry all day long? Hot desking sounds like a nightmare to me. I’m a creature of habit and I need my fan and my books and my pictures around me.

        1. S

          Honestly? My coworkers in that situation were much more respectful of noise level / how much of a distraction they were to others around them than my current coworkers, who thinks that cubicles and offices mean they can talk as loud as they want and no one else should care because hey, cubicles and offices mean privacy!!!

          Hot-desking and open offices can be done correctly, but all employees have to buy into it and understand that the office rules of aimless chatter need to change along with the physical layout.

  12. Chickaletta

    Open offices are stressful for me. Even after a couple years of it, when I became comfortable around my coworkers, I still felt anxiety about working in the open where everyone could see your every move, hear every noise you made. Nothing was private. It was awful.

    Another trend that sucks is the steep rise in healthcare. I haven’t worked for an employer in five years, but I’m finding that it’s probably going to be cheaper for my family to stay on individual health insurance than go on an employer plan. Even then, the cost is so high that the reasoning of having health insurance for “catastrophic purposes” isn’t even entirely true, because you can have health insurance and still owe more money than you can afford. I don’t know if we’ll be able to pay off my husband’s eye surgery, our health care plan contributed so little despite the fact we pay thousands in premiums every year. It is sadly true for so many Americans.

    1. Windchime

      My daughter-in-law had an emergency gall bladder surgery 18 months ago. Despite having insurance, she is still paying it off. Her insurance covered practically nothing.

  13. bassclefchick

    I think another trend recently is to go with temps. I’ve been doing temp work for over 4 years. Luckily for me, it’s all been long term employment with only two different companies. But neither of them had the head count to bring me on full time – even though my managers all wanted to because they liked my work. Great for the company, because they don’t have to pay benefits or PTO. But the stress level for me in not knowing how long an assignment will last is taking a huge toll on me and my family.

    1. Suzanne

      I did temp work at a company for about a year. Horrible experience & bad for the company, I’d think. They didn’t care enough to ensure that we had any idea what we were doing & we had no stake in the business since we knew we’d be gone whenever they felt like it. So, there was a lot of nobody givin a darn going on on both ends.

    2. hayling

      Yes. So many companies only want “contractors” because they don’t want to pay benefits. Or they have “temp to perm” positions. I see this all the time in job ads at big tech companies.

      1. OfficePrincess

        We do temp to perm for most of our positions here. Most people do get hired on once they hit a certain number of hours – about 90 days. The people who don’t get hired are generally gone long before that (attendance issues, usually). Unfortunately, other than not needing to go through the entire discipline process, we don’t get the rest of the “perks” of using temps. It takes the agency weeks to send me candidates that are mediocre at best, but I don’t have the freedom hire directly. Then I’m stuck either shorthanded or taking on someone I’m not thrilled about and performance has to be pretty bad before I’ll let someone go since I can’t ever get a good replacement. But corporate thinks it’s a good idea so it must be, right?

    3. MissDisplaced

      Oh yeah… rise of the temps. I did that for a company that would only hire people for 3-4 month temp “projects” where you had to bill them. Then at the end, you would off for a month and they would bring you back.
      Thing is, the work was not really project based, but just normal, ordinary work.

  14. Abby

    Ugh, open office spaces and hot desks. The only people who thinks these are good ideas are the ones who aren’t using them. I like to think I’m pretty collaborative and dynamic, but I do require SOME routine in my life, i.e. a desk I can call my own. Whatever happened to just booking a meeting room if more than 3 people need to talk for more than 10 minutes?

    I interviewed for an internship at a company that was testing out the open office concept, ostensibly described as an “experiment,” though the person showing me around coolly remarked that “It’s really more like a prototype; experiments are allowed to fail.”

      1. Cordelia Naismith

        Right? I just honestly can’t believe that open office plans (or hotdesking, which I hadn’t heard of before this article. It sounds like a nightmare) actually do anything to increase collaboration. You need quiet and privacy for collaboration, so people can focus on each other’s ideas.

        Have there been any studies with actual data about this? I would be curious to know.

        1. Windchime

          I really think that its just about the money. The company can cram more people in a smaller space if they don’t have to do cubicles or offices. Note: It’s a sad, sad day when cubicles are the best thing that an office worker can hope for.

        2. Anx

          I would imagine that for some people, it would mean taking more work home and having to do the bulk of your work after hours, then spend your work day milling about ‘collaborating’ for a few hours before you actually get everyone to collaborate.

        3. Abby

          I vaguely remember one study cited in Susan Cain’s “Quiet,” but I don’t recall who wrote it. Probably someone at Harvard Business School. Ironically, she then proceeded to spend the rest of the chapter talking about how open office spaces can be counterproductive, especially to more introverted folks.

          The modern obsession with groupthink and 24/7 collaboration is misplaced. I appreciate some open space to sit down with co-workers, like a lounge or an inviting kitchen area, but please give me a cube, or at least a desk I can call my own. Some of our best ideas come when we have time alone to, you know, focus.

  15. Colorado

    I just have to add to BRR’s comment. Just reading that article stressed me out! Employers – do you want to help your employees be productive? Just practice common sense and kindness. Give us well trained managers that can deliver feedback, a free lunch once and a while, coffee and water in the break room, and understanding when my kid/parent/SO/pet/ is ill or in the hospital and I may have to work remotely that day. That’s it. Oh, and a pay increase annually that keeps up with the standard of living and/or my position.

    1. Dana

      It seriously doesn’t sound that hard, I don’t know how we deviate so far from this so often…

  16. Ad Astra

    This post makes me grateful for my company’s “old school” way of doing things: sufficient support staff (maybe there used to be more?), plenty of plastic utensils and paper plates, and a cubicle with floor-to-ceiling walls that make it feel almost like a private office.

    Now, if we could just join the trend of business casual dress codes and summer Fridays…

    1. Cordelia Naismith

      I totally agree. My current boss is super old school, which I thought at first would bother me, but I actually love it. He’s completely supportive of his staff, he treats us like professionals whose opinion he values and trusts with zero micromanaging, and he gets us whatever supplies or tools we need without argument. It’s amazing. Best place I’ve ever worked, hands down.

  17. Ash (the other one)

    As one more comment re: admins. Admins are essential, however I often find that its easier to do some of those tasks (scheduling, organizing) myself as it would take just as long to explain to someone else what needs doing. Maybe I’m just a control freak, but I prefer to be in control of my travel schedule, for instance.

    1. No Longer Passing By

      Not an admin. You probably haven’t had good admins. An effective admin will log your preferences such as seating and aisle preferences, food, airlines, etc. I’ve only had to have these conversations once or twice with new admins (who are good).

    2. V

      We have an admin who is notorious for making bad travel plans. Last time I travelled, she moved my hotel to one that was “one exit further out, where I already booked everyone else”. FIFTEEN minutes into my morning drive to our facility, I drove past the hotel I’d originally chosen.

  18. Lia

    The only time I’ve seen hot desking work is for sales people who share a space but are supposed to be on the road the bulk of the time. I can’t imagine it in higher ed — people would go nuts.

    We narrowly avoided an office move last year that would have had everyone except the director in cubes instead of individual offices. The director realized we do a lot of high-pressure and confidential work that cubes are not conducive to, and it got scuttled at least for the time being.

  19. penny

    I recently did some training at a well known company with the open office environment and, while it’s a great company and team, all the open desks just seemed like a mess! It would drive me crazy seeing that every day and wanting to organize people’s desks. Bad enough I reorganize my mom’s pantry every time I visit,I can’t deal for 45+hours a week in that chaos.

    How are companies doing these things, esp the hot desk, retaining employees?

    1. Jennifer

      I don’t think employers care about retaining anyone any more, honestly. You can always hire a noob for cheaper!

  20. S

    I may be in the minority, but I love open office and hot-desk layouts. I switched from a job with both, to a job with standard cubicle set-ups and desktop computers, but I find myself so much more distracted and restless now than I ever was before. And honestly, it’s not like the competition for conference room space is any better here…

  21. Turanga Leela

    #1 is a huge problem in public schools. Schools have responded to budget cuts by reducing non-instructional staff, which means that teachers take on responsibilities that would have been done by office staff in the past. Some of this is clerical work, some has to do with standardized tests and administrative planning, and some is outreach to parents and students.

    In our school district, teachers are now solely responsible for following up with families when students are absent, misbehaving, or in danger of failing a class. For a high school teacher who has 150 students, this is an enormous amount of extra work. I suspect it mostly just doesn’t get done, which means that schools are missing opportunities to catch students’ problems when they are still fixable.

    1. Jill 2

      Me too. I’m going several weeks without a real break, and it’s completely wearing on me when I’m in the office. I’ve been snappy, short, disrespectful. It’s not like me at all, but that’s what happens when I don’t get a chance to unplug. It’s so draining and frustrating.

    2. Sunshine Brite

      Correct, I try to stick to my hours paid, but I’m super far behind and I have decent computer skills which some others seem to struggle with. I’m not sure how they’re staying on their work. If I work at odd hours, I’ll see random people on at all times. People will mention oh, I did that Saturday night. We can flex time but pretty much no one sticks to the standard 4o which just creates pressure because I try to.

    3. MissDisplaced

      Yup. I’m supposed to be on vacation, but still I am expected to check in with email on my work phone.
      I do love my job, but ugh!

  22. INTP

    My company recently got an open office space and it is so pointless. There are little “collaboration areas” with strange-looking furniture (really, who is going to sit on something that looks like a cushioned ottoman/tree stump instead of a desk chair with support?). Our smaller meeting room has been turned into a “cafe” so when people need to speak to each other (not necessarily confidential things, just they might disturb others and they no longer have the space to do it at their own desks), they walk past all the funky furniture and step outside to speak. AND there are people here from the home offices that don’t report to anyone here, and therefore don’t have managers to speak to with small issues unless you want to elevate to corporate over speaking volume, who are really loud because they have on-the-phone-all-day jobs and sit right behind those of us with 99.9% silent and independent jobs.

    Basically, the office reno has impeded concentration AND collaboration. I blame that partly on the weird furniture and needing to decorate our staid midwestern office like a startup though.

    1. Steve G

      Sounds like office hell to me. I interviewed at some NYC e-commerce startups this year that had all of this going on. Sorry, I want a big dramatic Blake Carrington desk and expensive chair. I don’t care about your game room, I don’t want the pressure of having to look busy because everyone can see you from all angles all day, conversely, I don’t feel like staring at 3-4 people all day sitting within 10 feet of me with no partitions, and if I’m going to have no privacy, then I definitely don’t find it cool that you guys have free wine on Friday afternoons, because like, many people have had issues with alcohol, the last thing I need at work is to sit and watch people get drunk. But please focus on my salary and vesting my 401K immediately!

      1. Melissa

        Yeah, I’ve been applying to a lot of tech companies – some start-ups – and their “benefits” section always seems to emphasize the wrong thing, like that the other employees are “fun” and that they have nap pods or a game room or free beverages. What are your healthcare plans, retirement savings, and vacation policies like dudes? That’s what I want to know.

        Fortunately I think more of them are realizing this now and putting it on the website alongside the other perks.

  23. BTW

    #5 – !!!!!!!!! I had an employer who preached work/life balance at orientations but for the management team, our lives were anything but. If I was off, I was constantly receiving ranting texts from people at work either looking for help or just venting. I was constantly fixing schedules, punch errors and just generally being in “the know” the whole time I was gone. (Not willingly, of course) If I wanted to avoid it I would have had to turn my phone off which IMO I really shouldn’t have had to do. Now I don’t give out my number to random work colleagues. (I’m not longer there btw) The people who need my number have it and I set boundaries very quickly if they start to cross that line.

  24. LadyTL

    I’d like to add not wanting to train anyone and open availability. I have had to deal with so many jobs where no training is done, not even for people in their first week and it is always a mess. Misinformation galore which causes all sorts of problems. Open availability though can die in a fire. You want me to work any shift all week but change it up every single week. So much for second jobs to supplement that minimum wage.

    1. Ad Astra

      Oh yeah, training! I entered the workforce in 2011 and found that most jobs expected you to have a year or two of experience doing the exact job you’re applying for. I eventually got hired to do editing and design even though my only experience was in editing.

      The training approach there, and at every newspaper I’m familiar with, is “sink or swim,” and you really just get a very cursory swimming lesson. I was designing the whole sports section by myself by week two because only one other person did that job, and it was his day off. There’s something to be said for learning by doing, but it would have been nice to squeeze a Lynda.com membership into the budget or something.

    2. Anx

      Open availability is killing me right now. I work 6 hours a week paid over the summer and have a few other commitments, but I worked really hard to make my schedule seemingly 2nd Job Friendly. I have all weekday mornings open, all weekday nights open, and weekend days free. I’ve had 5 potential jobs discount me because I’m busy weekdays 12-6. I know that is a pretty good chunk of the day to be unavailable, but considering I’m looking for jobs that would likely only be putting me on 5-20 hours a week anyway, it stinks.

  25. The IT Manager

    I moved to an open floor plan office and didn’t notice that it was any worse than before.

    I did move from a more traditional office environment. We had a floor in a rectangular building that had a center hallway and 50 or 60 rooms on either side. In these rooms there were high walled cubicles (that had no door and didn’t reach the ceiling) for 6 to 8 people per room. So I didn’t have silence before; although, there was more of an illusion of privacy and more desk/storage space.

    We had to move office locations and we ended up with smaller, short-walled cubicles in a big open room. I didn’t notice it being much louder than before. They do have a white noise generator which may help prevent voices carrying. My view is much nicer and brighter than before when I looked at grey cubical walls all day because the new office has glass walls which look out onto the cityscape, and everyone can see it even those furthest from the windows. Networking (although not necessarily collaboration*) has increased; before you saw almost no one and likely only spoke to the 6-8 people in your room unless you ran into someone in the break room. Now you see everyone as you walk around, can say “hi” or wave, and have a chat.

    * Key facts: We work on virtual teams with lots of teleworkers in addition to people in other offices and unlikely to collaborate with anyone in our office. We all have laptops and many people work at least a few days from home. Fridays and Mondays are noticeably quieter than other days since they are the most favored WFH days. OTOH a cubical neighbor of mine was someone I am unlikely to ever work with directly, but I go to her with questions about her area because I know her.

    OTOH I think hot desking sounds difficult; although, some of my co-workers who WFH most days do have to share a desk, they still get a designated one. We all have laptops, and I think we all take them home with us. I have my chair and monitors configured as I like; I’d hate to add that set-up to my morning login. Also I am one who stores drinks, snacks, paper plates, real silverware at my desk to make bringing my lunch in easier. I’d really miss that storage spaced. Also the storage space for my sweaters and fleece which I need because my office is often freezing; I keep a variety of colors so I can sort of match. But who knows, if I was forced to hot desk, I might just need to add extra items to my laptop backpack which I already carry in every day (or get a larger pullcase) .

  26. Althea

    I was just thinking that another long-term cost for businesses of “telepressure” is that the business never learns how to function without certain workers. You can be humming along, doing everything, answering everything, and then just get hit by a bus one day. If you’ve never switched off before, the business has had zero incentive to set backups in place for you, or to ensure that other people can find your files/systems/contacts. It makes the business less resilient to turnover and more reliant on workers not to leave. Maybe that explains why we keep seeing these “my employer demanded 1 month/2 months/6 months/9 months of notice despite the fact that they could fire me at the drop of a hat” letters coming in.

    1. Jennifer

      Hah. I keep pointing out that we are going to be screwed if something happens to a particular coworker (4 people used to do that job, now we’re down to 1 and they WILL NOT hire anyone to help her out except as a 6 month temp). If she gets cancer or hit by a bus, they literally have nobody who knows how to do all of that job.

      1. Biff

        This has consistently freaked me out at my current job so I took the initiative to teach someone what I am doing. It’s not a perfect solution, but it means I can go on vacation.

        1. Jill 2

          I’ve tried to impress upon my manager how important this is, but no one at my company believes in process, documentation, or succession planning. I’m the only person who does what I can do, and it really makes me feel like I can’t take a vacation. Well, I have two approved this year, and you’ve inspired me to figure out SOME way to make that happen.

          The irony is, what I do should be attractive for people to want to learn, but they’re so burned out/overwhelmed, there’s just no time. I’ve never worked in a place where it’s this bad. I don’t know how I alone can do anything to fix it.

          1. MinB

            That sounds like my job. I’m currently doing the work of 3 people – marketing, IT, office manager/admin, plus event management. It’s just me and my boss in my department and my boss is new. I’ve started showing my boss how to do some of the IT and admin stuff, but the more technical things are harder to explain, so I just can’t take any vacation this summer while I’m running a three-month-long event.

            My plan is to work on a very detailed handbook. I haven’t told anyone I’m doing it, but about once a week, I pick a process and write down every step from start to finish. Two processes if they’re smaller/easier ones. It slows down my current productivity, but I’m hoping that that will make it clear that they need to hire two people to replace me when I work on leaving in October. As the “rock star”/”secret weapon,” I can either be slightly slower now and set reasonable expectations for my replacements or I can keep my usual pace, leave no documentation, and leave things to implode when I only have a week to hire a replacement and a week to train them in the fall.

    2. Ad Astra

      This always drove me crazy. I can’t tell you how many times I had to come to work when I was sick or work on my day off or re-arrange my weekend so I could work from home because nobody else on staff had my (rather mundane) skills.

      At one point, we had trained every person in our newsroom to post stories online, but my immediate manager and I were still forced to work alternating weekends (and holidays) in addition to our normal M-F. I was the only person who seemed to think it was unreasonable for management to take away 50 percent of my time off without increasing my pay or my PTO or even being any nicer to me.

  27. Biff

    Allison, while I appreciate your willingness to talk about how these ‘progressive’ changes are anything but good for the workers, I’d really love to see more posts on how to deal with this negative changes. How can you talk to your boss about how they are affecting you, how can you adjust your space to be better, how do you find out that a new job might be going the same direction, etc, etc. I love knowing that I’m not crazy for thinking these things are hurting me, but I’d really like to know how to deal with them since finding a new job isn’t a realistic solution for me.

    1. Jill 2

      It seems like the only solution is to be a super rock star that lives in a city with a great economy where you can be hired with a competitor that offers better benefits. Otherwise, you’re stuck. At least, that’s how it feels to me.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot

        Pretty much. And sadly there seem to be a lot of people who think there’s nothing wrong with this, because we should live in Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average.

      2. Biff

        That’s actually part of the reason I stopped coming to this blog — it seemed aimed at solving the problems of a very small subset of workers and made a lot of assumptions about work environments that I slowly came to realize weren’t universal. I came back recently because sometimes this blog has good advice on how to word things, and I think Allison still does a stellar job at that.

        However, I do think that even non-rock star employees deserve good working conditions. And I wonder, if more workers had good conditions, would more of them be rock stars? And I’ve dealt personally with the “Montana tax” (which is, if you work in Montana, you take a steep, painful cut. I’ve seen ads for trade jobs at a few bucks over minimum wage. I know a man who has been at a company for 11 years and is still making below-poverty wages despite working full time.) I think it is ridiculous to assume that this is even remotely ok. Alas, the lack of competition allows it to occur. So you do get stuck there.

        I have seen an attitude on this blog where it focuses on ‘just move’ but for many people that’s impossible advice due to owning a home, family in the area, or frankly, no desire to live in a big, smelly city with too many people.

        There needs to be more focus on solutions for people who live outside the big economic engines in the US since realistically, we’re the majority.

        1. Biff

          To be fair to Allison, I do think that the vast majority of people that write into her blog ARE people working in larger cities at larger companies. That’s the impression I get from most of the letters. So it makes sense to me that she would tailor the blog to suit that clientele, so to speak.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I have lots of other posts that do address the “what to do” angle! Here are a few, but the search engine will bring up lots more!

      http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2015/05/18/does-your-job-demand-you-to-be-available-around-the-clock

      https://www.askamanager.org/2013/07/how-can-i-get-away-from-work-on-the-weekends-and-in-the-evenings.html

      http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2015/04/14/how-to-say-no-to-a-work-request/

      http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2013/12/04/how-to-survive-in-an-open-plan-office

      https://www.askamanager.org/2007/09/reader-writes-i-work-in-very-small.html

      https://www.askamanager.org/2013/08/how-to-repair-a-bad-job-history.html

      1. Biff

        …. I’m probably not explaining myself very well. Sorry. :(

        I think you do very good work and very valuable work, but there’s typically an assumption here that someone cares about the employees and you can figure out how to leave your job as a way of having leverage. I don’t think I can overstate how much that isn’t reality in so many places in the US right now.

        1. requiredname

          And that’s why unionization is vital. “Just leave” may help you, but it does nothing to help your coworkers or replacement.

          Alas, labor rights in this country have been going downhill in this country for a while. :(

  28. JM in England

    My field is scientific and until now worked in the lab. Due to the current economic climate, had to accept a role in lab services, the scientific equivalent of admin assistants. This has been a real eye-opener for me, and has made me see support workers as the real unsung heroes imho. Essentially, it is my job to see that the scientists have everything they need (including calibrated & up-to-dated serviced instruments) to perform their experiments. A good analogy (which my current boss loves btw) is that if the scientists are fighter pilots, then my group are the ground crew!

    1. Judy

      That’s one of the things that I see has become lacking in recent years. In product design, we do prototype builds. Specifically in electronics, we have lots of parts needed for the prototype builds. We used to have admins that were called “coordinators” who you could give a part list to, tell them your prototype build date in 2 months and your project number, and your build would happen. Now, an engineer has to go online and order the parts, and receive them. Track and organize which you have, which you’re waiting for. Get the parts to the right place at the right time so the build happens.

    2. Anx

      Can I just say that I think lab managers and techs are amazing? Whenever I’m in a lab I have to stop myself for scanning the room for workflow obstacles and I’m fascinated by little things like shared equipment and separate consumables, office/lab usage, equipment validation, etc.. I think there are so many opportunities to making academic research laboratories (I’ve never been in industrial or private labs) more conducive to educating undergrads without interrupting higher level research.

  29. MaryMary

    We have a huge culture clash in my office around the admin issue. We don’t have much support staff. In theory, there’s one shared admin for the department, along with two receptionists and an office manager for the entire company. This should be lean but doable in terms of administrative support. In reality, I work with a couple senior people who completely monopolize the department admin and take up a lot of the rest of the staff’s time as well. Some of the senior people never learned to type, let alone use Microsoft Office or the copy machine. And there are others who aren’t Luddites but still expect someone else to book their travel or submit expenses. We struggle with capacity, but it seems unlikely that we’ll hire more support staff or bring the current staff into the 21st century.

  30. Vicki

    About the hot-desking thing… At LastCompany, there was some talk about this. There was a feeling that we had more people than space. My manager offered me the possibility of working from home 4 days a week if I would give up my cubicle. He said they’d be putting in “hotelling” cubes for people who didn’tt need a 5-days-a-week space.

    So I asked our HR department how would this work, exactly? Specifically, I asked the Ergonomics folks; LastCompany was really big on Ergo (you couldn’t get a desk adjustment or request a wrist rest without taking a full day Ergo class).

    I use a wrist rest, a trackball, and my desk is set at “typing height” which is 2″ lower than standard worksurface height. So, their response would have a big impact on my decision.

    The Ergo group had never heard of this plan for “hotelling cubes”. They started to get involved. They explained that such cubes would need keyboard trays, monitor risers, adjustable desks, better chairs, and more… And they took that to Facilities and to the exec VP.

    The whole idea of hotelling cubes just… went away.

  31. Kelly

    I work for the University of Wisconsin, which is set to undergo some deep budget cuts starting this week with the start of the new fiscal cycle. University administration set up a website where staff could make suggestions for how to save money. One of the local papers did a story on the report, which was an interesting read, and included a sampling of ideas.

    Some of the ideas involved energy efficiency. Given that most of the buildings on campus date from the 1970s and earlier, common on most college campuses, that would cost a lot of money to do it all at once, but would save money in the long run. Some common sense ideas like shutting off the lights in unoccupied rooms and offices, looking at how to recycle more resources, etc., were listed. I agree with the lights issue – in my office, they could take out every other light bulb and there’d still be good lighting.

    I’m sure a number of suggestions were aimed at the administration and the higher paid staff. One suggestion from the story was eliminating providing food and beverages for meetings. That is a perk more enjoyed by administration than the rank and file, so it makes sense. One division within my unit as a whole has a water cooler and coffee maker, but those were paid for by staff contributions. Administration didn’t pay anything for those. Other suggestions were increasing the use of Skype and video conferencing technologies in lieu of traveling to other cities and out of state for meetings. That alone would be a significant cost savings with hotels, meals, and airfare/mileage reimbursements. The ALA (American Library Association) annual meeting was in San Francisco this past week. I’m not sure how many from work went to that, or how much the university paid for, but unless it is vitally necessary for their professional development or an individual has a leadership role, the costs should come out of the attendee’s pocket. It’s a slap in the face to their peers who could be facing layoffs or taking on additional responsibilities due to unfilled vacancies for them to be enjoying the perks of conference attendance and not sharing what they learned on the taxpayer’s dime. My boss was in Dallas for a conference in March and she’ll go to Seattle for the same conference next year. The second in command wants to go next year, and it will be interesting to see if she is allowed to go due to staffing and if her attendance is okayed, how much funding she gets.

    1. V

      At the same time, those professional conferences can be a really valuable opportunity to network, see how other people in the field are innovating, get in on multi-institution grants which bring you $20 million a year, and offer some professional development opportunities to retain your good employees.

      One of our ongoing issues at my job is professional development. My employer has stopped offering any professional development, which means we’re expected to use our own time & money for it. I’m not inclined to use my vacation time & money to travel for conferences. I’m also going to spend my free time learning what I want to, which doesn’t match my employer’s current needs well.

  32. Blue Anne

    Oh man the open office. When I’m actually at the home office, it’s a hot-desking open office nightmare. We’re not allowed to wear headphones, either. Ugggggh. Collaboration? Sure, I guess. But no more than could be achieved by walking over to someone’s cubicle.

    We’ve also got two assistants for the whole department, but I’m not complaining, because they’re incredible at their jobs.

  33. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

    An open office desk that I previously “enjoyed”: I was in the center of the room, with a major traffic thoroughfare behind me (like somebody walking directly behind me every sixty seconds or so), directly facing another employee, and literally *sharing a desk* with a third.

    Riding the subway was more private than that job. At least on the train I could sit with my back to the wall.

  34. Chris

    Regarding admins, my organization has been losing those positions as well. In our case, it is because they are really difficult to fill. The applicants tend to be people so ridiculously over qualified – lawyers, PhD candidates, etc. Even people that seem to be seeking entry level positions rarely stay in the position more than 9 months to a year. We’ve tried looking for people, and I hear there are some, who are interested in admin careers, but after years and years of trying that with each opening, we’ve just given up. We are a non profit and I would guess that our salaries for those positions don’t compete well with the private sector.

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