Design Engineering
Showcase 2020

Personal Space in the Age of Hot-Desking

Design Engineering MEng
Dr Weston Baxter
Space Invaders

As technology has shifted the global economy from industrial-production to knowledge-development, the workplace has changed. Specifically, we have observed the rise of hot-desking, the set up in which workers don’t own a desk and instead pick from the available spaces daily. This has given flexibility and freedom to workers but its introduction has been associated with decreases in productivity and belongingness for workers, cons which have been linked to the loss of desk-ownership that comes with this switch. This project focuses on designing interventions which support ownership over space in hot-desking contexts, restoring this lost sense of productivity and place.

 — Personal Space in the Age of Hot-Desking
Final design of the fold-out workspace concept.


This project uses the framework of psychological ownership to investigate and understand desk-ownership and its effect on productivity in hot-desking contexts. The project closely follows the design research methodology, starting with an extensive ethnographic research study across multiple working contexts, then moving into continuous cycles of ideation and evaluation, integrating elements of the design thinking process to facilitate the creation of varied and effective user-centred interventions. A detailed process for user-testing and validation was also developed, which can be enacted post-pandemic.


The project presents two developed interventions which hope to foster feelings of possession over a temporary workspace, alleviating the negative consequences associated with hot-desking practice.

The Fold-Out Workspace

The fold-out workspace is a portable workspace, made of synthetic leather or suede, which folds out sequentially to become a soft working mat and desk organiser, ensuring workers always have an optimised workspace with all the items they need, creating a sense of familiarity and competence, which empowers productivity. When the product folds up it becomes a protective laptop case, which stores and carries their essential items, minimising the effort of clearing, moving and setting-up a workstation. Its design is strongly rooted in the psychological ownership theory with the workspace itself aiming to become a psychologically owned object which, through its use, makes the development of ownership over temporary space easier and quicker.

Ritual Creation App

This intervention helps workers create their own morning ritual, which through its completion in a space, helps them take ownership of the workspace and transition into ‘work-mode’, making them feel more focused and productive as a result. Through the onboarding process, workers personalise their ritual with unique elements, making it their own, and are then guided through its use each day. This intervention exists at the intersection of ritual design and psychological ownership theory and it is hoped that completing the actions in a new space serves as a possession ritual helping workers take ownership of that space, making them feel comfortable and productive as a result. In order to maximise feelings of efficacy and productivity, the ritual integrates day planning and work tracking, as the more competent it makes workers feel, the more effective it will be in facilitating ownership.


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