Hot Desking

24 Jul

A long time ago, I worked for an agency called HHCL. In fact it was so long ago that when I began there, it was still called Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury. HHCL had some pretty mad ideas. As well as  using plastic buckets to advertise a bank (First Direct), having an office modelled on the Starship Enterprise and creating ads that made you laugh (Tango) cry (Fuji) and think (Ronseal), HHCL wanted to make the work place as effective and brilliant as possible. This meant creating a standing only meeting room so meetings didn’t drag on, it meant having an agency intranet before most agencies had heard of the word, it meant creating a TV show four times a year instead of having company meetings – and it meant hot desking.

The Radical Office Mobility Pilot (ROMPing) wasn’t a new idea – agencies in the States had been doing this for a while – but we were the first in London to bring it to life. We all had our own digital IDs that opened our desktop on any computer in the office. We named one end of the Agency Tahiti Beach and the other Smog Central. This was in the days when people still smoked at work – the more you smoked the closer to the Smog end of the building you sat.

The single biggest change with ROMPing was that creatives had to forsake their offices. ‘Why should we be treated any differently?’ we asked. We should sit out in the open with the planners, producers, account people, PAs. We were about egality. Even-handedness. The future.

What idiots. Relinquishing our creative offices was the single most foolish thing we did in advertising. I take full responsibility. I even came up with the term ROMPing and helped push it into reality. Steve Henry hated the idea. Creative offices have an aura. They are sacred spaces, dedicated to the outpourings of two brains. They are places where creatives can sing, play music, watch videos, call their partners, fart, muck about, bounce balls off a wall – in fact all the things they CAN’T do in the vast call centre of an open plan office. They are places where ideas can be born, nurtured and developed. Walking into a creative office is, and should be, slightly intimidating. In here, the idea is king.

I haven’t had an office since 2004. I miss my office. It’s time to reclaim the real estate and get our own creative space back. It’s time to create an environment where ideas can be nurtured, where voices can be raised above a low whisper, where YouTube clips can be watched with the volume up. I don’t want to listen to someone ordering photocopier cartridges, or booking airtime, or discussing data. I want to hear gas bursting out of an arse, noisily. To every creative who sits at a workstation in a vast, anodyne room experiencing life through headphones, I apologise. It’s not too late to turn this juggernaut around. Let’s get our creative offices back

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