February 24, 2020 Last updated March 13th, 2020 92 Reads share

How to Make Hot-Desking Successful in the Workplace

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Are you interested in introducing hot-desking for your business but wondering how to make it work in practice?

Hot desking is on the rise, with two-thirds of companies predicting a move to hot-desking by 2020. The appeal is clear—use your office space more efficiently and you can save money without affecting productivity.

But managed badly, hot desking can lead to disrupted work, an increase in staff sickness, and lowered morale.

However, fear not—there are ways to make hot-desking work well for both you and your employees. Let’s take a closer look.

What is Hot-Desking?

Hot desking describes a set-up where employees don’t each have a fixed desk, but instead use a different one each day depending on availability. In some companies, desks are allocated as people arrive each day, while others allow them to be booked in advance.

Hot desking has become increasingly common in recent years, driven largely by the high cost of office space. If you consider business travel, remote working, vacations, sick days, and off-site training, it’s clear why in many offices there’s considerably less than 100% of the workforce physically present at any one time.

In this situation, the total number of desks could be reduced without compromising staff members’ ability to use a desk when needed.

What Are The Benefits of Hot-Desking?

The greatest benefit to hot desking is cost savings, due to having fewer desks—and thus less overall office space—than staff members.

Sitting in different locations each day and talking to different people nearby can boost creativity by jolting people out of their familiar routines. It can help break up silos and encourage greater collaboration across departments.

Greater sociability within a workplace is linked to less stress, greater engagement and loyalty, and all-round happier employees.

The level of tidiness required by hot-desking translates into more organized employees. If you’re only using a desk for one day, you can’t just leave a pile of papers on your desk “to deal with later,” or litter your keyboard with candy wrappers. And a clear, tidy desk can help boost concentration and productivity.

All sounding good so far?

Hold on—don’t rush out to implement hot-desking just yet, because there are common pitfalls you need to be aware of.

What Are The Drawbacks of Hot Desking?

A major disadvantage reported by some hot-desking employees is the stressful impact of repeatedly having to find a desk to work at, rather than just using the same one each day. This can disrupt productivity, while constantly sitting with different people may make it harder to build strong working relationships.

Not having access to the right equipment and a lack of space to store personal belongings can lead to disrupted work, frustration, and lower staff morale.

And shared equipment is more likely to carry more bacteria, which can lead to higher rates of illness and staff sick days.

Sounding like more trouble than it’s worth?

Fear not—with a few tried-and-tested strategies, you can ensure hot-desking is implemented in the smoothest possible way.

Top Tips to Make Hot Desking Work

So, having considered the pros and cons of hot desking, what are the best ways to ensure you maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks?

#1 Plan and Communicate Effectively

Making hot desk work is about much more than the practicalities—you need to win hearts and minds to your cause.

This starts with good communication about what you’re planning and, crucially, why. When you talk to your staff about what you intend to do, frame it in terms of the benefits it offers them.

An effective approach is to introduce hot desking as part of a broader shift towards more flexible working practices, including remote working and flexible start/finish times, if feasible. Many workers would like greater flexibility so this will help the change be viewed positively.

Draft a short hot-desking policy and share it with all staff in advance. Outline what the company will do to make it work (see points below).

Mention any exceptions to the policy and explain the rationale for these. The nature of some roles means they’re not suited to hot-desking and need a permanent desk instead—receptionists, for example. And people with certain disabilities may need adapted equipment which would be easier to leave set up in one place than move each day.

Give opportunities for people to ask questions and raise concerns about the plans, and show a willingness to listen to feedback and adjust plans as appropriate.

Once you switch to hot desking, don’t treat it as a done deal. Check periodically on how it’s working for everyone and see what adjustments may be needed.

#2 Make it Easy to Find Colleagues and Resources

You need a way to keep people informed of who’s sitting where on any given day. If your office is small enough that anyone can see at a glance where everyone else is, then you don’t need anything more.

However, for larger organizations, you should consider some kind of tracking system. This could be a simple whiteboard where people can write their names against the relevant desk each morning. Or you may prefer a digital solution to booking and tracking desks, such as OfficeSpaceSoftware, Condeco, or Comfy.

In addition, a floor plan of the office showing the location of printers, kitchens, lockers, meeting rooms, and other shared resources will be helpful for staff (especially new starters) and visitors.

#3 Provide Adequate Resources

To minimize disruption and frustration for your staff, you need to get the practicalities right.

This means providing an adequate number of desks, and ensuring each one has essential equipment such as a monitor, keyboard, dongle, and comfortable chair. You might need to invest in some new hardware to ensure all desks provide the same level of comfort and quality.

Make sure there are enough shared resources such as printers and drinks stations throughout the entire workspace. Nobody wants to trek up and down three floors each time they need to print a couple of pages or get a glass of water.

Provide lockers or other safe storage places for staff to put their personal belongings. Lack of space to store personal things is a major gripe of unhappy hot deskers.

Make sure you provide plenty of antibacterial wipes or other cleaning materials so it’s easy for people to keep desks and equipment clean.

Consider whether you need to introduce new technology to make hot-desking easier. Depending on what your business does and how staff need to work together, this might mean tools for better communication, or cloud-based document storage such as OneDrive, Google Drive, or IDrive.

#4 Offer Flexibility

Rather than a rigid policy that insists everybody must sit in a different desk every single day, it’s sensible to offer some flexibility and compromise to reflect the realities of people’s roles.

For instance, “zoning” means designating areas for specific teams. So, they will still hot desk within that area, thus maintaining that flexibility, but without losing the ability to easily interact with other team members close by, rather than potentially having to walk to the other side of the building to talk to them.

You can implement zoning on either a long-term basis or as a temporary arrangement for specific projects.

“Hoteling” is another popular approach which means staff can reserve desks in advance, rather than having to search for one when they arrive. This can be done via either the software or whiteboard approach mentioned earlier.

The Takeaway

Hot desking provides a great way to streamline your operational costs but must be approached with care to ensure staff don’t end up with disrupted workloads and negative feelings about it.

By communicating with staff about it early and often, providing adequate resources and information to enable people to do their jobs, and adapting as you go, you can make hot-desking work well for your business.

Have you introduced hot desking in your business? What’s worked well and what have the challenges been?

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Jody Williams

Jody Williams

Jody Williams is a freelance writer and editor for hire. She helps businesses get more web traffic and conversions with engaging, actionable content. A former project manager, she's ace at translating complex and technical information into clear, user-friendly writing. When not writing, she reads voraciously and likes paddleboarding.

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