Flexible work arrangements are turning more widespread these days. And since employees have a chance to work from home at least part-time, their desks and workstations may remain empty for a substantial portion of the week. Such a situation is a paragon of inefficient use of office space and business resources. But how to solve this problem? Well, hot-desking can become a perfect solution.
In this article, we will explore the concept of hot-desking along with its main advantages and disadvantages. We will also explain which things one needs to consider when implementing this office management system in order to make it produce maximum benefits.
Hot-desking is a flexible workspace organization system in which employees don’t have personally assigned workstations but share the same ones with each other at different periods.
In other words, when hot-desking, the company creates a co-working area with a pool of separate desks or a shared work surface. When necessary, an employee comes there and occupies any vacant place / desk / workstation for a timeframe. The next day, they may return to the office but sit at a different desk. Thus, the only permanence that hot-desking offers is daily relocation from one workstation to another.
Since hot-desking is pretty much a synonym of workplace flexibility, it is associated with many benefits of the latter. However, hot-desking can easily intensify those benefits and also provide some unique positive effects on its own.
Here are the main of them:
- Lower costs — By using hot-desking, companies increase their real estate savings. The numbers are particularly high for large enterprises that have to rent huge facilities in order to accommodate a few hundred (or even thousand) of personal workstations for their employees. The establishment of a shared working area allows for a more optimized use of space and, as a consequence, results in lower occupancy costs, including expenditures for utilities and property insurance.
- Improved professional collaboration — Open and shared working space promotes employee collaboration like nothing else. In case professionals from multiple departments work in the same zone, the effects can be even more favorable — the discussion across the disciplines helps to find more innovative and effective solutions than the discussion among similarly minded individuals. In addition, knowledge sharing contributes to employee competence, whereas cooperation increases intrinsic motivation to work on tasks and get them completed. Hence, hot-desking can be used as a tool to boost productivity and creativity.
- Higher employee satisfaction — Hot-desking lets employers address the primary demerit of remote work — the loss of social connections. It grants employees a chance to spend some time in the company of colleagues. Therefore, hot-desking can strengthen team cohesion and help workers feel at least a bit happier about their social life, which, in turn, will reflect in their performance and loyalty.
In his recent article for Forbes, Simon Constable described hot-desking as one of the most damaging practices a company may apply. Some drawbacks of hot-desking he used to support his arguments with are as follows:
- Difficulty to find key people — Since team members are dispersed across the working area and have no personal workstations when hot-desking, you have to undertake more effort to search them out every time you need to meet. This prevents one from resolving professional problems in a fast and efficient manner.
- Lower-quality on-the-job training — The same impossibility to quickly locate the right person when in need of help may seriously undermine the quality of training. It can lead to a higher number of performance mistakes, as well as trainees’ psychological discomfort and dissatisfaction.
- Meetings should be arranged in advance — You cannot have an occasional on-the-spot micro-meeting with all the relevant colleagues since summoning them from different parts of the co-working area — if it’s large enough — may be time-consuming and counterproductive.
In addition to the above disadvantages of hot-desking, it’s appropriate to note that not every individual would feel comfortable sharing their working space with others. Having an assigned desk and decorating it with personal items are two of the things that allow many people get cozy at the workplace and enjoy the office environment in the first place.
Besides, distractions are harder to control in co-working spaces. For a professional who has to be very focused while working, it won’t do any good to sit next to a person whose job mainly involves active communication with clients and colleagues.
Lastly, shared workstations are not always the safest option in the context of the epidemic — one has a much lower chance to catch a germ when sitting at a permanently assigned desk that nobody else works on.
So, Is Hot-Desking Good (and Safe) for You?
The long list of hot-desking disadvantages surely looks discouraging. But don’t be in a hurry to reject it too soon. The benefits hot-desking can produce are still very much real. Though it may not be suitable for every company (e.g., for overly formalized and hierarchical ones or those regularly dealing with sensitive data), hot-desking can become a perfect solution for a plethora of businesses.
As such, it’s usually easier to manage shared office environments in smaller companies where people know each other relatively well. However, even large enterprises like Deloitte are quite successful in implementing it.
Organizational culture is key here. Thus, prior to adopting hot-desking, you need to consider the cultural aspects of the workplace along with your team’s size, business needs and employee interests:
- Do you seek to reduce real estate costs?
- Do you want to drive innovation and promote collaboration?
- Is your workplace informal enough to perform efficiently in the context of flexibility?
- Do you let your employees work remotely?
- Will they be alright with desk sharing?
- Will you be able to create separate co-working zones for team members whose processes may cause distractions to others?
If you answered “yes” to at least some of these questions, there’s a high chance that hot-desking will work for you pretty well.
Below are a few recommendations on how to get the best out of this office management system. Be sure to use them to attain the best results.
How to Make Hot-Desking Work
- Create a policy and communicate the rules — How will hot-desking be realized in your company? Will it be applied to all employees or just some groups and departments? Will hot-desking employees have some new responsibilities to fulfill and routines to follow? Describe the rules and the process exhaustively (but concisely) and don’t forget to share the information with your staff.
- Apply the hoteling method — To make sure everyone willing to attend the office has a place to work, use the hoteling method, which implies that a person has to reserve a desk for a certain period. Thereby, you will be able to match your team members’ demands with office resources and avoid overcrowding.
- Use zoning and arrange a separate space for meetings — Distractions should be reduced to a minimum, if not eliminated entirely. Thus, it’s better to designate a separate area for everyone who can cause them. Plus, to help employees collaborate more efficiently (and receive high-quality training), you can secure specific zones for those in need to work together (at least temporarily) and establish bookable meeting rooms.
- Keep the shared workstations clean — The fears to get sick with coronavirus are still quite intense. So, you need to pay a lot of attention to keeping desks tidy and clean. To reduce healthcare risks, equip each workstation with safety kits comprised of hand sanitizers, antiseptic wipes and cleaning supplies. Encourage your team members to wear facemasks and disinfect the reserved desks before the start and end of the workday. Check employees’ body temperature on the entrance and don’t forget to arrange the desks following the social distancing rules. Lastly, to make certain everyone is aware of the safety requirements, create a section in your hot-desking policy outlining the importance of good cleaning and self-protection habits at the workplace.
- Provide access to technologies — Technology is a must for proper hot-desking. Thus, equip your co-working area with well-functioning office devices, as well as high-speed Internet. Also, make sure each employee has access to necessary collaboration and project management tools in order to stay in touch and know what’s going on in the team.