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Hot Desking: Achieve a More Flexible Way of Working


 — June 16th, 2022

Hot Desking: Achieve a More Flexible Way of Working

Over the past two years, the working world as we know it has changed dramatically. In 2020, overnight, millions of employees switched from working in the office to working remotely.

It has since become apparent that more flexible working arrangements are here to stay. In fact, according to a recent report, 72% of workers now prefer a flexible work model over returning to the office full-time.

This desire for flexibility has seen the rise of the hybrid working model, where employees spend a portion of their work week in the office, and the rest of the time working remotely.

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Many organizations opting for this type of flexible model have also chosen to repurpose their office space to adopt a new system where most desks and workstations are now shared between workers.

This system is called hot desking. Early studies have indicated that as many as 46% of workers feel they are more productive in a hot desk environment compared to working at a single desk.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at what hot desking is and how it works.

What is hot desking?

Hot desking
is an organizational workplace system in which employees use available desks at various times on a first-come, first-served basis.

This system is implemented in workplaces with flexible schedules where not all employees are working in the office simultaneously.

In the more traditional office model of the past, companies assigned each team member their workspace based on their department or what was available at the time.

Today, employers are implementing hot desking to maximize space, improve desk efficiency and reduce real estate costs.

It also offers employees the freedom to easily collaborate on projects and encourages more fluid communication.

Why has hot desking become so popular?

As already mentioned, the rise of hot desking goes hand in hand with the increase in flexible working. During the pandemic, multiple lockdowns forced companies to alter their traditional work model and adopt a more relaxed approach to working.

Although it has become safe for employees to return to the office, many have made it clear they want to hold on to the same freedom they had during the pandemic.

A study on remote working has found that 77% of employees felt more productive when they were allowed to work remotely. Furthermore, flexible working offers employees a better work-life balance, reduces stress, and offers better job satisfaction.

However, not all workers can work productively and effectively from home full-time for several reasons, like having young children or insufficient space.
The main idea with hot desking is to allow employees to work part-time in the office without having to take up a workspace full-time. They can find any available desk or free spot at a bench when they arrive in the office

What is the difference between hot desking and hoteling?

People often confuse hot desking and hoteling as interchangeable concepts due to their similarities. In both hot desking and hoteling, users choose from a variety of workspaces based on their needs and no employee has a set workstation.

However, apart from this, there are key differences between the two. In a hot desking arrangement, desks are assigned on a shift-based or first come, first-served basis.

Hoteling takes a slightly more formal approach and requires employees to book their workspace ahead of time, generally with desk booking apps or software. These desk assignments generally last for a longer period, often until the completion of a certain project.

What to include in a hot desking policy?

Before implementing hot desking into your organization, it’s essential to understand how it will work. The rules of hot desking can vary slightly from company to company, so find out what works best for your business and create an official policy around this.

For example, will hot desking operate company-wide or just in specific departments? Your policy must have a distinct set of rules for employees to follow. Some rules to implement into your policy may include:

  • Reserve a desk in advance
  • Keep personal items on desks only during work hours
  • Be mindful of colleagues around you before starting meetings or long phone calls
  • Take your lunch in the kitchen (or another designated area), and don’t keep food on the desks
  • Protect your and your colleagues’ health by keeping spaces clean and sanitized

How to make hot desking work for your organization

Find the right balance

If an employee comes into the office and has nowhere to sit, it can cause anxiety, frustration, and even resentment. Getting the correct ratio of workers to shared desks is key to ensuring the system works. It’s also important to remember that not everyone should participate in hot desking: employees who typically spend 80% or more of their time at their desks should keep an assigned desk.

Use desk booking apps

Desk booking apps are a straightforward, easy way for employees to plan and pre-book a desk in the office. Although these apps are more often used for booking desks on a long-term basis, like hoteling, more and more companies are implementing them into their hot desking policies. This is because when workers have a say in where they sit, it has a positive impact on their creativity, focus, and productivity.Furthermore, real-time data on which desks are used at any given time and the ability to see trends over time make it easier for your executive team to plan for future real estate needs.

Keep shared workstations clean

An unhygienic workspace can leave employees feeling unsafe and uncomfortable, causing them to be less productive. It would help if you prioritized cleanliness to keep your employees at ease using shared workspaces.To reduce healthcare risks, equip each workstation with safety kits consisting of hand sanitizers, antiseptic wipes, and cleaning supplies.

Get regular feedback

Feedback allows you to understand what is and isn’t working for your hot desking policy. Regularly surveying employees can help you determine what changes, if any, need to be made. The information obtained from these surveys will also provide helpful data, such as determining if space planning ratios are working.

What are the benefits of hot desking?

Tidier office

One of the main advantages of hot desking is how it leads to a more organized and tidy workplace. Hot desking means staff cannot leave personal items, like photos, knick-knacks, and stacks of paper, behind at the end of the workday.

A tidy workplace has many benefits; it increases employee morale and promotes a cleaner, safer, less distracting work environment. Along with offering peace of mind for employees, a minimalist work environment gives a good impression to visitors.

Lower costs

Hot desking has the potential to save you high real estate costs as it reduces the amount of office space your company needs. Moreso, as employees share desks, chairs, and computers, it decreases the amount you have to spend on filling the office with furniture and technology.

One study found that hot desking can reduce the cost of running an office by as much as 30%. Being able to cut financial corners and use space more efficiently is particularly helpful to small businesses and start-ups.

It suits hybrid workers

Under a hybrid work model, where staff combine on-site and remote work, it doesn’t make sense to leave a desk empty on days when it will not be occupied by a user.

Even before the pandemic, an average of 15% of workstations were left empty daily due to business trips, training, or employee vacations. Hot desking makes it possible to take advantage of these inefficiencies and free up space.

Improved collaboration

An essential part of any employee’s success within a company is their ability to collaborate with their co-workers. This communication between employees helps to build trust and camaraderie, which are key components to a healthy workplace.

Hot desking allows for the circulation of knowledge among peers and between different levels of the office hierarchy. Employees can work side by side with certain colleagues and managers in a way they may not otherwise have had the chance to.

What are the disadvantages of hot desking?

It may require new IT strategies

Hot desking can be a problem in offices that use a location-based IT model. This means, under company policy, employees must log in from a specific computer to access their work.

Of course, this won’t work for hot desking, as employees will be moving from computer to computer. Instead, a new strategy will be required. This strategy must allow workers to log in at any of the desks being used as hot deskingworkspaces. In this way, workers can choose their preferred desk without fear of being unable to access what they need.

Lack of personalization

One case study found that when employees feel like their work area aligns with their self-image, it increases their sense of belonging. It also helps them feel more comfortable in their space, more collaborative with others, and more enthusiastic about their work.

With hot desking, employees don’t have the freedom to personalize their workspaces with family photos, plants, certificates, etc. This can lead to disengaged employees who feel detached from their work and even lead to higher rates of absenteeism and turnover.

Disruption of hierarchy

Disrupting the seating arrangements in an office may lead to resentment from long-term employees who end up seated next to someone who has just joined the organization. This can often lead to the illusion that the two workers are equal.

A hot desking approach must be tailored to accommodate this feature if your company strongly emphasizes distinctions between employees, managers, and executives.

Can hinder sense of belonging

Research shows that employees who have a strong sense of belonging are over six times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t. To minimize employee turnover and maximize employee morale, you ideally want to create a sense of belonging among workers.

 The problem with hot desking is that it can leave employees feeling like they don’t truly belong in the office. This is particularly apparent if they walk around in the morning struggling to find a free desk

A 2019 study claimed that hot-deskers spent an average of 18 minutes hunting for a workspace. Employees having to clear their desks at the end of each day only adds to this lack of belonging.

Who does hot desking work for?

According to Deloitte’s Global Millennial survey, 67% of millennials feel that flexible or remote working enables a better work-life balance.

Generally defined as those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s, millennials currently make up the largest demographic in the US workforce. However, they are not the only ones who don’t want to sit at the same desk for 40 hours a week; their younger counterparts, Gen Z, also highly value flexible working arrangements.

For both demographics, hot desking and shared office spaces such as work benches, touchdown points, or social hubs, play a significant role in their levels of job satisfaction and productivity.

Neither millennials or Gen Z want to be pinned down to the one spot in an old-fashioned row of desks. They enjoy the freedom of hot desks and how they make it much easier to collaborate with their co-workers on shared projects.

It’s also a win-win situation as employers who have implemented flexible arrangements such as hot desking reap the rewards. The same Deloitte study found that millennials in highly flexible organizations are much more loyal to their employers. It’s clear younger workers are the ones eager to make hot desking work.

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Key Takeaway

Hot desking is defined as a workplace system where employees use available workspaces in the office on a first-come, first-served basis. With the shift to more flexible working arrangements in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hot-desking has become a staple in modern offices.

Hot desking has proven itself to have many advantages such as saving on real estate costs, allowing smoother communication between co-workers, and keeping offices clean and hygienic. Despite its many advantages, like all models, hot desking also has its disadvantages. Among other things, it can leave employees lacking an emotional connection to their workspaces which has a direct impact on their productivity and engagement.

However, by being conscious of potential drawbacks that come with hot desking, you can keep a close eye on how your employees are adjusting. You can also make the transition to hot desking easier for your workers by sharing a list of guidelines and best practice tips, along with regularly checking in and requesting their feedback.

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