Have you heard about hot desking? By assigning desks to tasks instead of to employees, this trend in office working optimises space and productivity.
This way, an office can have a number of workstations dedicated to specific tasks and the employees rotate or move around to each desk as is needed. It works very well for employees with flexible or varying work schedules.
Hot desking arose as a necessity for offices with too many employees and not enough space. However, the efficiency of the organisational system has led to it becoming a trend, not just for offices looking to conserve space but also for those wanting to increase productivity and efficiency in the workspace. This is incorporated into the modern idea of an Activity Based Workplace, which works off the same concept of employees not having their ‘own’ work desks, lockers or work areas.
The system raises a number of obvious questions. Most of them pertain to storage, while other questions are concerned about employee happiness and comfort in such a situation. We’ve looked at the most pressing concerns and compiled a list of advantages and disadvantages of hot desking in contrast to traditional office seating.
3 Advantages of the hot desk system
- Floor space
One of the key ideas around hot desking is to free up valuable office space by reducing the number of desks or workstations. An office may need more space for a number of reasons. Apart from making room for necessary office equipment or features, or more leg room or space to move around in, reducing clutter will improve the general atmosphere of the area.
Hot desking allows more flexibility in the workplace. Each workstation can be used as is needed, or for a particular task. This means that multiple purposes can be fulfilled in one small space instead of being spread out around the department. It also allows more flexibility in the working lives of employees; their schedules can feel less like routine, they can move around and sit at different desks every day, and their environment changes each time.
- Networking and a community environment
The constant rotation of desks in such a system means that an employee will have someone different seated next to them each day. This allows new connections to be made, both in terms of friends and companions as well as professional networking. Employees from different fields can share knowledge or observe new skills, broadening their own horizons and finding inspiration and motivation in each other.
Some disadvantages of hot desking
- Storage and setting up
A major argument against hot desking is that storing things at a desk becomes impossible, as an employee won’t be working at the same desk again the following day.
This means that work documents, flash drives and even stationery need to be moved with an employee every time they move. The same applies to their personal affects; coats, handbags and lunch packs need to be stored in lockers or coatrooms if the employee doesn’t want to haul it all around with them during the day. This is also time consuming as every day employees need to unpack and set up all their work before beginning the actual work, and then packing it all up again at the end of the day.
- Nesting and personalisation
While the system can be effective, many employees may be resistant to the change. We often feel more comfortable and stimulated when surrounded by own things, and working at a sterile desk devoid of any personalisation can negatively affect productivity and creativity. Not having a desk to call your own can result in lower moods and lack of motivation or productivity.
- Disruptive to hierarchy
For understandable reasons, employees may arrive early in order to claim a particular desk as their own, and use that space exclusively instead of participating in the hot desking rotation system. This can lead to arguments and dissent amongst colleagues, especially those who work later shifts and are left with the least desirable desks to sit at. This also creates a social division of the ‘elite’ claiming the best seats while the ‘outsiders’ sit in the periphery. Desk hogging and not complying with the system will lead to some employees feeling isolated.
Will hot desks work in your office?
Hot desking needs to be carefully orchestrated in order to be effective, say the experts. Employees should be on board before switching over to using hot desking in the office, and everyone needs to agree to the rules. It can take some getting used to but with some initial effort and sacrifice, it can lead to a more efficient work environment for all.