Unconfirmed reports suggest a hot-desking social worker discovered a vacant desk last week. Although it is thought the discovery was made somewhere in the Midlands, the social worker in question has refused to confirm the exact location for fear others may muscle in on her treasure trove.
‘A discovery like this, if true,’ states Professor Wilde, a palaeontologist at Ealing University, ‘would represent quite a significant find in the social work field. Vacant desks were thought to have become extinct after the austerity of measures from 2008 onwards, so uncovering one today would be quite something.’
Owing to its extreme rarity, there have been reports of bands of social workers travelling to the locality in the hope of making a similar discovery. However, Professor Wilde adds: ‘The chances of finding another vacant workstation nearby will be minimal indeed. For social workers, we are talking a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence here.’
Since the cutbacks a decade ago, local authorities have been keen to capitalise on the potential savings of closing office space and promoting mobile working. Defending the practice, Colin Howell, chief executive at Middleton Council, advises: ‘Reducing office space can save a local authority a small fortune in facilities management, and has the added benefit of encouraging new and creative ways of working.’
However, as Sue Jones at the Claireville Research Institute puts it: ‘Although seemingly attractive, hot-desking runs against the field of play in the current social work climate. Just as the profession becomes more desk bound – they take away all the desks.’
Despite these concerns, the controversial practice continues, leaving social workers nationwide looking for places to work. But, if these latest reports are true, then at least one practitioner is sitting pretty.
‘Of course,’ concludes Professor Wilde, ‘the irony is that once a vacant desk is uncovered it is inevitably quickly occupied, so even if these reports are genuine – and there is nothing to say they are – that desk won’t be vacant any longer, leaving us in the dark if it had ever even existed in the first place.’
For the UK’s social workers, then, the search for an elusive workstation goes on.
Matt Bee is a social worker and writer. Every Monday he brings his unique tales of social work parody to socialworktutor.com.