Monday, 15 February 2016

Hot desking

Way back in the Autumn/Winter of 2012, I took 4 months out of work to "concentrate on my writing". It was a fun time but it wasn't the greatest success! I did get a one man play out of it called 'one lump or two- which I am still very proud of but I wasn't exactly as productive as I had hoped.

That's partly because I spent the first 6 weeks relaxing in Greece doing absolutely zero writing:

and then another 2 and a half months doing who knows what? What ever I was doing, very little of it had anything to do with getting my writing career off the ground. Then in the January, after I had burnt through my savings, I had to go back to work - tutoring children that were no longer in mainstream education - and I was no further forward in my career than I had been 4 months earlier. It was a massively wasted opportunity.

The main reason that I managed to waste such a golden opportunity to kick on in my career was because I was attempting to work from home. Which I'm sure is something that some people manage to do very successfully but is something that I find completely impossible to do. Especially when at the time, my then girlfriend was also mostly working from home (in the flat that we shared). There was never any chance of anything getting done!

The plan had been to find some sort of small office space to rent. I thought that if I got out of the house and went to an office, it would force me to be more productive. I spoke to my girlfriend about it and even sounded out a couple of friends about potentially sharing the space and splitting the cost. But due to one thing and another: money? lack of affordable office spaces? being at home all day with my girlfriend? The plan never became a reality.

Then as time went on and we split up and my finances took a nose dive, the plan was put further and further back on the furtherest back of all the shelves. For the next couple of years I struggled to write from my bed in between shifts as a lifeguard and then as a swimming teacher. And although I managed to complete some exciting projects like my short film letters ( my productivity was actually going through the floor instead of through the roof.

For the longest time I continued - in vain - to try and work from home. For Christmas 2014 - after living in the same flat for over a year - I got a keyboard and stand for my laptop - the very ones I am using right now - with the plan of setting up a proper writers desk in my bedroom. Instead of sitting in bed, propped up uncomfortably with my back against the cold wall and the duvet over my feet as was the norm up until recently.

I set up the desk in January 2015:

and put the above picture on Instagram with the caption "Finally got my little writers desk all set up. May my productivity explode." However, it is pretty safe to say that it did not! Last year was a bit of a lost year in terms of my writing. It was a great year in lots of other ways. I met a lovely girl. I travelled to several new and interesting places for my travel blog ( The swimming teaching went very well and my finances finally started to work themselves out. But I was still attempting to work from home and failing miserably.

That all changed recently however - on the 1st of February - thanks to a little thing called hot desking. Back in December I started looking into affordable office spaces again. I had just moved flats and taking into consideration rent, bills and travel expenses, I was saving around £120 a month while living in a flat that I am a lot happier in. So I started looking for flexible, cheap - with a budget of around £120 to £150 a month - desk spaces when I came across something called desk camping or hot desking.

Desk camping started a few years ago, whereby companies with a free desk space in their office would allow a freelancer or startup company to use the space for free. But not many things come for free in London and so as you can imagine I found finding a free space impossible. However what I did find were plenty of offices with the option of hot desking.

"A new way for freelancers and startups to rent desk space" hot desking allows you to have a non-fixed space for a given number of hours per week/month.

One such space is the desk that I am currently sat at writing this post (or as the photo below shows - filling out my tax return. An act which led to a pretty substantial tax return payment and me finally sorting out my finances and getting back into the black).

Once I had chosen an office, based on location, cost, facilities, flexibility, opening hours etc. There were two payment options to choose between. A fixed desk space which costs £250 a month - which I could just about afford at a push - and gives you a permanent desk and 24 hour access. Or the other more affordable hot desking membership which at £120 a month - an amount that given my recent savings on my rent, makes the desk feel as though it's for free - gives me access to a desk for up to 20 hours a week. Which is perfect for me. I don't have a desk to call my own but most days the same desk is free and 20 hours is more than enough. Through my swimming teaching and english tutoring, I work around 28-30 hour per week and so visiting an office for more than 20 hours a week would be virtually impossible anyway.

So I visited the office - which is a short bus ride from the pool I teach at - for a 3 day trail at the end of January and being very satisfied with the arrangement, I started my monthly membership from the beginning of February. And so far it has done absolute wonders for my productivity!

I have started to get myself into a routine. I take Monday's as my "rest day". It is the one day that I don't set an alarm. I get up when I feel ready and head to the pool for my first lesson at 3.30pm. I work all day at the pool on Tuesday, with an important weekly - documentary related - meeting during my extended break. Then on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I get up and head to the office for a few hours before starting my swimming or english tutoring lessons in the afternoon (at 3.30pm, 4pm and 4.15pm respectively). So far I haven't managed to reach anywhere near 20 hours in a week but my hours in the office are slowly building up each week and I am really happy with the way things are going.

I'm sure there are drawbacks. Of course some of you might see this as a large waste of money. Good luck to you if you can work from home. In doing so you would be saving £120 a month compared to me. You will also be saving time that I spend travelling to the office and between the office and pool. You can probably make nicer lunches at home too and probably don't have a noisy woman wearing a headset close by. But unfortunately for me, I have tried many, many times to work from home and it simply isn't possible for me to do so. There are just too many distractions.

Hot desking is therefore the perfection option for me. Of course it is not perfect. I do worry that I will end up fat from all the biscuits, blind from staring at a computer screen for so many hours and ruining my back if I don't concentrate on my posture at all times. However, I have found a space I can afford just a short distance from both my swimming teaching and english tutoring. And due to both the office environment and the knowledge that I need to try and use the hours I have paid for - it will become a very expensive exercise if I spend all day in bed watching Bob's Burgers - I have been more productive in the last 3 weeks than I have in the last 3 years!

So if you're in a similar situation to myself. If you're trying to be creative but you're struggling with your productivity, then maybe think about giving hot desking a go? It's certainly been working for me thus far.


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