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Hot-desking: heaven or hell?

The great divide over hot-desking pits cost savings for companies against alienation for employees

THE COMMERCIAL OFFICE market has taken its share of lumps in the last four years, and according to a new Morgan Stanley report, you can add to that list the phenomenon of hot desking ― sharing desks among staff, usually via some kind of booking or first-come-first-serve system, which one analyst thinks is as big a threat to office real estate as WFH.


“Along with work from home, hot desking is one of the most structurally damaging headwinds facing the office market,” wrote Morgan Stanley analyst Sebastian Isola, in a briefing note to clients. “Were it to be adopted more broadly, the reduction in floorspace requirements would likely have a considerable impact on occupational demand.”


In short, if you can be more flexible with your desks, that means you need less of them, and if you need less of them, maybe your company starts looking at reducing its footprint.


The bad news for commercial real estate is that businesses are very interested in hot-desking. A CBRE report from last year found that half of all companies, small or large, plan to make flexible space a significant portion of their real estate portfolios in the near future. Morgan Stanley’s Ronald Kamdem told Marketplace that they expect companies will “see an opportunity for cost savings” that might make hot desking schemes too attractive to pass up.


Those who have money sunk in commercial real estate will find they have unlikely allies in this struggle: office workers themselves. Many office workers are still grumbling about having to go back to the office at all (and plenty blame the commercial real estate sector for it), but studies have shown they also really hate the hot desk setups that await them there.


“Flexible desking arrangements uniformly breed discontent,” as one Korn Ferry note put it. “Reducing office footprints and offering hot-desking…have not gone well…Why would workers want to come into the office for setups that are less comfortable than those at home?”


Ultimately, it leaves companies in a bind ― do you cut your real estate costs, or try to keep employees happy? With vacancy rates for office space still sky-high in most urban centres, there’s still a lot of opportunity to downsize ― whether the employees who drop by three days a week like it or not. Kieran Delamont


Salary transparency is more complex than we thought

There are many positive benefits associated with salary transparency and some unintended consequences that are starting to bubble up

LAST MONTH, THE Ontario government tabled a bill that would require employers to include the expected salary range for a position in all job postings ― an example of the so-called pay transparency law that has sought, over the last few years, to make this kind of practice the norm.


Many see these kinds of laws as no-brainers ― they tend to reduce income inequality (especially between men and women) and overall, they make job-hunting a much less opaque process for candidates.


But with more pay transparency laws in place, researchers are starting to highlight some of the unintended consequences these laws are having. One consequence researchers have found is that the laws often lead to pay compression (also known as wage compression, it occurs when newly-hired, less-experienced employees earn close to what current employees make) and, in turn, more side deals with individual employees over non-financials, like vacation time and flex work.


“Pay compression will trigger the employees to make idiosyncratic deal requests ― they feel like they deserve more, so they raise their hand to ask for more ― and subsequently our research shows managers tend to grant those idiosyncratic deals,” researcher Leon Lam told The Globe and Mail.


Jobseekers have their own problems with the practice ― chiefly, companies that are uncommitted to the concept and throw out vague, or even downright fake, salary ranges,


“In some cases, this has meant salary ranges so wide they're practically meaningless; in others, job applicants have found the listed figures shrink once they reach the interview stage,” writes the BBC. Few of these pay transparency laws come with enforcement mechanisms anyways, leaving aggrieved candidates mostly out of luck.


Some research even suggests that while it does reduce income inequality, it does so by curbing the higher end of the salary ranges. One study, reports The Economist, linked them to a two per cent drop in wages. “Although the idea of pay transparency is to give workers the ability to renegotiate away pay discrepancies, it actually shifts the bargaining power from the workers to the employer,” said Bobby Pakzad-Hurson, a researcher at Brown University who has studied the phenomenon. His co-author, Zoe Cullen of Harvard Business School, added that “wages are more equal, but they’re also lower.”


Ontario’s laws are still in development, so time will tell how effective they will be. Like so many things, there’s a balance to be struck there, between laws that may have the effect of curbing wages in the aggregate, and a change that many jobseekers see as a simple quality of life issue. Kieran Delamont

Terry Talks: Working for Workers Act are you prepared to manage the changes?

The latest iteration of Ontario’s Working for Workers Act was passed recently, expanding on worker-friendly laws already put in place by earlier bills adopted in 2021 and 2022. While not significantly different, the new amendments put more teeth into the existing legislation, and employers need to be mindful of the changes heading into the new year.



The real deal

Merriam-Websters word of the year Authentic ― definitely wasn’t picked by AI

MERRIAM-WEBSTER ANNOUNCED its annual “word of the year” recently, landing on the word “authentic” ― a choice that at first glance seems a bit less obvious than past years (2020’s word of the year was “pandemic”; 2021’s was “vaccine.”)


Like the Collins English Dictionary (which chose “AI” as its word) and the Cambridge University Press (which chose the AI-related term “hallucinate,” referring to AI hallucinations), Merriam-Webster is inserting itself into the AI discourse with its word choice. Underlying it, Merriam-Webster said, has been a consistent uptick in searches for the term ― which they conclude tells us something about where we are at vis-a-vis the rise of AI tools over the past year.


“The rise of AI helped drive interest in the word…We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity,” said Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski. “The line between 'real' and 'fake' has become increasingly blurred. As a result, in social media and marketing, authentic has become the gold standard for building trust ― and authenticity, ironically, has become a performance."


It’s an interesting, almost impressionistic, word to choose for a year that has been nothing if not confusing to navigate. Some are looking at it as a perfect choice because of that, though.


“Authenticity has always been a difficult concept to define,” writes Roger Kruz, a professor of psychology at the University of Memphis. “So, it’s somewhat fitting that as our collective handle on reality has become ever more tenuous, an elusive word for an abstract ideal is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.” Kieran Delamont


Frequent liar miles

Who lies on résumés most? Surprisingly, its high-income earners and people with advanced degrees

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EVERY SO OFTEN, someone sets about studying a question that seems obvious, and they find out that indeed, the answer is pretty obvious. You might file the following study under just such a category: as it turns out, a lot of people lie on their résumé


It’s not just a lot of people – 70 per cent of workers polled by ResumeLab say they have lied on their résumé. What did surprise them is that the most frequent liars are the ones who probably least need to: 85 per cent of people with master’s or PhD degrees lied on their résumés, and 90 per cent throw a couple extra lies into the cover letter, just for good measure.


According to Workopolis, the most common things Canadians lie about on their résumés are their education, the start and end dates of their previous jobs and ― how Canadian ― their ability to speak French.


“It’s disturbing,’ said Resume Builder’s career strategist Stacie Haller, of the ease at which people lie in professional settings. “It has become acceptable in our culture to lie just to get what you want. Just turn on the TV. People are screaming about everyone lying.”


It prompts some to ask whether all this lying is getting out of hand. “While skirting the truth in job interviews is an age-old habit, there are signs that it may be starting to get out of control,” writes WorkLife’s Hailey Mensik. “Hiring managers are perhaps more distrusting than ever in believing applicants are presenting themselves accurately.” (Perhaps Miriam Webster is onto something.)


The problem is, it’s probably going to get a lot worse. Just about every jobseeker is now flirting with, if not outright relying on, ChatGPT to polish up their résumé or whip up a quick cover letter for them. If the AI wants to fib a little, who’s really going to stop them?


All in all, experts really do think people should cut it out. Yes, we all want to land that nice job. They get it, a little fib is just so tempting. But better to stick to the facts.


“It’s important to be honest because you don’t want to end up in the same position, doing the things you don’t want to do again and then searching for another job in six months,” Shayna Royal, director of talent acquisition at Paycor, told WorkLife. “It’s just so important to be honest about who you are, what you value and what you want.” Especially that year you totally spent honing your français à Paris… Kieran Delamont


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