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Pros and Cons of Hot Desking

Hot Desking Office

The need for static work space is dwindling as more and more rely on cloud computing for business. Less data is being physically stored on employee’s desktop computers, with emails, files, instant messages, and call systems being accessible from any authorised machine or device. This means that employees are no longer as tied to a single computer as they once were.

What is hot desking?

Hot desking, also known as “hoteling”, is a way of organising the office so that office desks are shared between workers instead of each employee working from their own personal desk. Hot desking is a complete shake-up of traditional office structure. With no assigned desks, workers can take an available desk of their choice depending on their preference that day.

The concept isn’t new or unique, as most people have experience with being able to log in to their account from any machine at school or at the library. In fact, the term “hot desking” itself is thought to have originated from “hot racking” — the naval practice of sharing the same bunks with other sailors to maximise space. Crew members who are returning from their shift will swap places with those asleep on the rack (or bunk), hence why the rack is still “hot” —or warm— as it is constantly in use.

Why hot desking is the future of office organisation

Open Plan Office

For medium to large enterprises, hot desking can massively reduce costs through space saved, as you will only ever have as many desks as you need at any one time. If your business has employees who work different shifts or schedules, or employees who frequently attend meetings or events outside of the office, this can prevent numerous empty desks taking up valuable office space as well as reduce your overall furniture and equipment costs.

The benefit to the employee is mobility. Employees aren’t confined to a single desk but can work from their preferred space. Their requirements on a day-to-day basis may change from quiet to lively areas, or from a standing desk to a seated, from nearby the meeting room to nearby the staff room, and so on. Mixed seating can also boost productivity, and even prevent the development of office cliques and tribe mentality in your company culture as employees of different job roles are more scattered around the office.

In addition to the better utilisation of limited space, you’ll also find that the office becomes tidier and less cluttered in appearance as a result of the transient nature of hot desking. Due to employees not having the ability to decorate their cubicles or desk areas with personal items, you are essentially enforcing a more minimalist aesthetic. This makes desks easier to clean, tidy, and organise.

Why hot desking may not be right for your business

Office Hot Desking

Hot desking has less advantages for small offices with few employees (all of whom rarely leave the office during work hours), where office space is less of a concern.

Where removing the need to decorate desks can benefit the company, it may feel more oppressive to the employee. When they spend the majority of their waking lives in the office, having a home away from home can help them to de-stress or feel more comfortable at work. Hot desks can feel very impersonal, and this in itself may reduce company loyalty due to the employee not having that particular place where they “belong”. Whether it’s personalising their space with photos, trinkets, or a Rubik’s cube —or even using their desk space for storing an emergency umbrella, change of clothes, snacks, or pain killers— having that permanent space of their own connects them to the company so that they don’t feel transient even if their work space is.

With hot desking, employees can’t just pick up their bag and go at the end of the day. This means: no leaving post-it notes, stationery, chargers, documents, lip balm… They have to pack everything away, and take it with them.

This factor alone can make personal desk space crucial to employees who are tied to physical filing systems. For those employees, hot desking is simply not feasible.

One popular solution to the storage issue, that doesn’t take up as much floor space as each employee having their own desk, is by providing each employee with a permanent locker to store their personal belongings and have a space of their own.

Another barrier to hot desking is that you may require additional technology. For example, you may decide for each desk to consist of a “laptop dock”, requiring all employees to have a company laptop each. This requires additional costs and additional IT support. Your IT infrastructure needs to be capable of supporting this kind of set-up, so you will first need to have your particular organisation assessed.

You should also account for the time that it takes everyone to find a seat in the morning (ensuring that there is enough seating for everyone at any given time), before “plugging in” so that they can get to work.

At the end of each day, or even between employees, desk areas should be cleaned properly to reduce spread of viruses between employees sharing desks. This may add to your janitorial costs, otherwise you will have to trust each employee to disinfect the desk after use.

Is hot desking right for your business?

There are many advantages and disadvantages of hot desking, but this type of office structure will certainly suit some organisation’s more than others. There is an obvious benefit to companies and agencies working in the creative industry, as employees can move around the office depending on work tasks and activities, promoting increased levels of collaboration in projects and improved flexibility for teamwork. If you, however, manage a small team of less than a dozen people then you can probably just stick to yelling across the room.

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