People once described offices as a place with fixed workstations, private offices, walled cubicles, and assigned seating, but today’s workplaces are significantly different.
Over the past years, companies have considered the concept of hot desking for employees who only needed to come to the workplace periodically. However, the notion quickly changed from reducing unused office space to a hybrid work arrangement that solves problems for the company and its workers due to the pandemic.
Nowadays, it’s a widespread practice among coworking providers and other businesses. It removes assigned seating and offers employees the option to choose where they want to work within the office.
With the development of new technologies and software that improve flexible workplace management, it’s becoming an excellent option for companies that wish to adapt to the new work trends. Here’s everything you need to know about a hot desking office, including its benefits, challenges, best practices, and whether it’s the right pick for your workplace.
What Does Hot Desking Mean?
How desking is a work arrangement that allows workers to find and work at any free desk, seat, or workstation in an office. In other words, hot desking removes assigned seating and lets workers choose the place where they want to work.
As a flexible work arrangement, it rose in popularity over the past decade thanks to coworking providers and other organizations that adopted it to offer employee choice and flexibility in the workplace.
However, hot desking isn’t precisely a recent term. Businesses first began meddling with this work arrangement in the 90s. Some people also believe the concept originated from the “hot racking” practice within military organizations that dates back to the 16th century. More than one crew member would use a single bunk bed on rotation to reduce sleeping space in this practice.
Like hot racking, a hot desking office can help companies reduce expenses on space and equipment. In a traditional work arrangement, whenever an employee isn’t in the office, their workspace goes unused. Hot desking allows companies to use their space efficiently and even downsize the floor plan should it prove necessary.
How Does Hot Desking Work?
Once a company decides to implement hot desking as its work arrangement, it eliminates seating requirements across the workplace and provides address-free workstations that its staff can use.
Many businesses also invest in designing various unique spaces — from lounge areas and conference rooms to private rooms and open workstations.
In practice, each employee can choose whatever table, desk, or workstation they wish to work at every day. Ideally, all individual workspaces should have access to power outlets, relevant tools and technology, and the internet. Moreover, workers should have easy access to communal amenities such as the kitchen and printers.
Hot desking offers employees the autonomy and flexibility to select a particular workspace based on the task at hand. For example, a worker who requires a place to work in focus can opt for a workstation or private room. On the other hand, employees who need to collaborate on a project can book a meeting room or any communal area.
Nonetheless, a hot desking office isn’t a fool-proof arrangement, and, as with anything, there are both pros and cons of hot desking. If you’re considering moving away from the traditional assigned desk model, it may be helpful to know which benefits and challenges come with it; in other words, pros and cons of hot desking.
Benefits of Hot Desking
Apart from the autonomy and flexibility that employees get, there are other benefits of hot desking:
In a traditional office space with assigned seating, unused workstations are just wasted space. Meanwhile, hot desking as a work arrangement enables businesses to make better use of their workplace. They can meet the average demand and cut any excess working spaces if need be.
As companies plan the workers’ return to office transition, many consider the impact of a continued remote-work policy on the office’s occupancy rates. In other words, as the new work trend might have a portion of the staff working some parts of the week remotely, businesses might find themselves with excess office space.
With hot desking office, companies can address some of these issues by enabling them to make the most of their available office space. This way, they can provide workers with excellent flexibility and mobility within the workplace.
Additionally, it may help organizations save some expenses on facility management services and leases. For example, GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical industry company, employed this work arrangement before it became popular and reported savings of up to $10 million annually.
Increases Productivity and Collaboration
It is one of crucial benefits of hot desking. Companies are relentless in their search for methods that encourage collision between employees to foster and enhance collaboration, encourage employee innovation, and creativity. Most employees value these arbitrary interactions between colleagues as well. Some even consider it one of the primary motivators for heading back to the office.
Hot desking makes workers walk around the office to reach a workplace, resulting in exchanges with people they might otherwise never talk to or even see. It can easily cause and advance these workplace interactions, creating new connections between workers. In addition, it can bolster individual productivity and team collaboration.
The reason is that hot desking makes companies reconsider their office layouts. They have to allocate space for collaborative projects such as meeting and lounge rooms and some areas for focused, individual work.
Offering various workspaces in a hot desking office allows companies to increase the potential places where their employees can interact, enhancing their performance and collaboration.
Challenges of Hot Desking
A hot desking office has evident benefits for employers and employees, but it can present significant hybrid work challenges should a company implement it poorly. Here are some of these critical issues:
Can Lead to Poor Employee Experience
Some companies try to cut costs when they implement new workplace strategies, and in doing so, they might fail to meet the needs and expectations of employees. For example, when businesses don’t implement hot desking appropriately, it might lead to workers spending too much time searching for a desk instead of working.
It can also cause confusion regarding where they can work and lower productivity if a company doesn’t design its workstations correctly. Some common issues are poor acoustics and shoddily apportioned areas.
May Hurt Company Culture
Hot desking office might make it challenging for employees to be physically close with some colleagues and team members. It becomes even more difficult for companies that implement hybrid strategies that let employees decide when and how they work in the workplace.
However, it can also significantly improve company culture by encouraging employees to interact with more people when adequately implemented.
Hot Desking Best Practices
As mentioned, changing an organization’s work arrangement comes with unique challenges. Companies that switch to hot desking without considering these issues and developing adequate strategies might harm themselves.
Still, there are several ways to manage these problems. For instance, the following hot desking best practices can ensure your company’s transition into hot desking goes as smoothly as possible:
Support Virtual Collaboration
Workers with unassigned seating might struggle to find a place where they can take calls and video conferences. Try to provide various locations that allow workers to easily collaborate with other workers virtually, considering things such as noise and technology.
Apart from that, it’s also helpful to hold regular video or audio check-ins with the team. Employees with a hybrid work schedule that’s mainly remote might find themselves a little isolated and might appreciate the effort. Checking in once a week is more than enough to improve everyone’s motivation.
Have Enough Work Settings for Everyone
Although some workers might be highly mobile, everyone on the clock should be able to be in the workplace at once without issues. Employees should also be capable of finding the space they require to complete their tasks in the best way, as the architecture firm Gensler recommends.
For that reason, it’s essential to provide areasor hot desking offices that can accommodate different working styles and behaviors. Some places should be somewhat energetic and easy to access, while others should be more private and quiet.
Clean and Maintain the Office
This practice is one that every company should be doing, regardless of the hybrid work arrangement they might implement, but it’s even more critical for a hot desking office. Sharing desks and the increased use of them significantly increase the hygienic and maintenance concerns.
It would be best to give the workplace a deep cleaning every week or so, scouring every surface employees might have touched and disinfecting them. Door handles, desk bottoms, computers, kitchen items, furniture, everything requires a good wipe. Of course, workers also need to clean their desks regularly and take the proper measures.
Provide Personal Storage Spaces
In this work arrangement, employees don’t have a permanent place to store their personal belongings and work-related material. It’s considerably helpful to provide them with an alternative such as lockers.
Have an Etiquette Policy in Place
Some might consider that a policy on basic desk etiquette isn’t necessary, but hot desking best practices can become problematic without one. A hot desking office should at least have a few rules in place. After all, it can significantly impact employee collaboration.
It also lets everyone hold each other accountable. At a minimum, a hot desking etiquette should include guidelines on proper booking, where to store personal belongings, and cleanliness standards.
Invest in the Correct Tools and Technologies
Businesses that want to implement hot desking require the right tools and technologies. It goes all the way from collaboration apps and cloud-based services to monitors, keyboards, and other devices.
Employees should have everything they may require to have a productive day regardless of the desk they choose. Nevertheless, even if ergonomic chairs and desk risers are valuable additions, the tool that a hot desking office would benefit the most is an easy-to-use booking system. An ideal one would offer interactive booking, flexible administration, and analytics.
Google, in particular, implements an internal system of intelligent hot desks. It remembers the settings of each employee with the aid of their work badges, and once it scans them, the desk and monitor adjust to the correct height and angle, respectively.
Allow Employees to Have Influence in Their Schedules
This is one of the hot desking best practices. Flexibility is critical to maintaining the employees’ happiness in a hot desking office. Nowadays, everyone has to juggle so many responsibilities, such as working and educating their children, from the confines of home. Workers with kids back at home might have difficulties regarding the time they can come to the office.
Of course, it’s hard to accommodate everyone unless the company is a small one, but it should try to create schedules that should work for most employees. If the company makes it possible for workers to modify their work arrangement, it needs to describe the required conditions in their hybrid work policy and whether they can change it back.
Ask for Feedback Regularly
Whether companies went ahead with the change before or after the pandemic, it’s essential to ask employees what they think about the change. Some basic methods are anonymous employee surveys and short one-on-ones where they can share their thoughts.
Some businesses might find it hard to collect effective employee feedback from everyone, but that’s expected. As long as enough people respond, it’s possible to measure what the general employee thinks about hot desking accurately.
However, remember that some might see hot desking unfavorably at the beginning. It wouldn’t be unusual to receive more negative comments at first. Even so, companies need to consider both sides objectively, especially if a common thread emerges from either of them, and these overarching themes should be the first thing a company tries to tackle.
Is Hot Desking the Right Choice for Your Company?
Hot desking isn’t a work arrangement suitable for every company. It might not be ideal for your particular industry, company culture, or employees’ work style. For instance, if your organization frequently deals with sensitive and confidential information, a hot desking office might not be the right choice.
Another thing to note is whether the concept of continuously changing desks could disrupt the workflow of certain departments and specific teams. Hot desking might also not be advisable for businesses with high staff turnover and, consequently, frequent trainees.
Still, it’s good to remember that hot desking isn’t an exclusive hybrid work arrangement. You can adopt a model where part of the staff has their personal space and rotate as hot deskers now and then. Also, with the current tools and technology available, hot desking has never been easier to implement.
Try to evaluate your company’s needs and listen to staff feedback to identify whether hot desking best practices is the correct hybrid office model for you in this new work trend.