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Uni Dons Fear Losing Access to Private Offices

Ideas discussed in recent workshops could see academics rousted from office space


By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco


Photo Credit: UoA

Perturbed academics at the University of Aberdeen have criticised ideas which could see private offices exchanged for hot-desking and hybrid work stations.


Recently workshopped as part of the University's 'reimagining the campuses' project, the ideas could result in the consolidation of offices to "reflect hybrid working, with a move to shared offices and hot-desking."


Hot-desking is a system where desk access is set up on a rotational basis. It is generally seen as a effective way to lower costs and maximise space.


Ideas about workspace redevelopment generated by a series of workshops. Image Credit: UoA

As academic staff increasingly work from home post-pandemic, questions have been raised about the efficiency of private offices.


Speaking to The Gaudie, a University spokesperson said that no plans had been formalised.


They noted: “The material presented at the recent Reimagining the Campuses drop-in sessions showcased a range of possible ideas and concepts that have emerged through a series of workshops with staff and students. They are not formal proposals."


The University of Glasgow's School of Humanities underwent similar changes in 2023, which saw large academic offices "repurposed" into "bookable hot desking spaces."


Plans for hot-desking at the University of Glasgow. Photo Credit: UoG

"Patently Absurd" idea slammed by academics


Academic staff tell The Gaudie that they fear being 'kicked out' of their offices, which they argue will have a negative effect on research and pastoral care for students.


One angry lecturer said: "The possible move to hot desking for academic staff is nothing short of patently absurd. It is yet another symptom of SMT's 'race to the bottom' perspective that will simultaneously undermine both research and teaching efforts."


Another lecturer added: "I use my office for pastoral meetings with students, which often require [privacy]; and for research time which requires me to be able to use one desk consistently for books, notes etc."


A third lecturer noted the plans were "truly awful", adding: "[As] a personal tutor and teacher, students often seek me out for confidential conversations in our offices - how can these take place without dedicated private office space?"


One professor called the plans a "terrible idea", noting that hotdesking would "undermine research excellence, capacity and academic culture."


Some professional services staff already hotdesk


Could offices in King's College be repurposed into hybrid, open space plans? Photo Credit: The Gaudie

However, according to one member of professional services, many office buildings aren't being properly utilised by academic staff.


The staffer commented: "Why should an academic be given a single occupancy office when they are rarely here? Shared, consolidated spaces would allow other buildings to be remodelled and save on the utility bills. There are plenty of examples across campus of hot desking working well and causing little disruption."


Another PS staffer noted: "I've been hot desking for two years. If it's made as an exchange for those who want to work more from home, that's great, but forcing people onto campus to sit uncomfortably five days a week is a trash idea."


No decision has been made, University spox stresses


Resonding to a Gaudie query, a University spokesperson said: "One of the many themes explored was how the University might look to configure future workspaces to respond to changing working practises following the pandemic, to meet our sustainability objectives, and to better facilitate interdisciplinary and collaborative working.


“No decision has been made and we are still gathering feedback on all the ideas presented at the drop-in sessions.

"Final conclusions and recommendations from the Reimagining the Campuses project will be presented to the University Court in June."


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