How hot desking can work in your office for the benefit of your company and employees


The term “hot desking” isn’t new to us. It’s a workplace design that tends to be a hit or miss due to how it’s implemented within the company, for employees, and along with other factors. Nowadays, hot desking makes its way back into the workplace as a viable option for companies interested in downgrading their office space rental, shifting schedules amongst employees, and cost-saving.

Last 20 April 2021, the German-Philippines Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (GPCCI) held a webinar entitled “Hot-Desking: From Small Changes to Full Re-Planning of Workspaces During the Pandemic” on how companies can safely implement hot desking while keeping in mind the health guidelines laid out by the IATF. The event was moderated by the Executive Director of the GPCCI, Martin Henkelmann. The event’s speaker, IDr. Charisse Gail Bantiling of Trends and Concepts, extensively discussed the benefits of hot-desking and how it can positively affect employees and company culture if implemented correctly.

“As a workplace strategist, we rarely base our ideas on opinions, let alone trends. We look closely at data and informed facts. The growing popularity of hot-desking is a testament to the benefits it can bring to the workplace. But there is always, in anything else, two sides to every story. While hot desking provides attractive benefits, we are also considering the potential pitfalls of this kind of arrangement,” said Gail as an introduction to what hot desking holds.

By definition, hot desking is an arrangement that involves sharing desks from different shifts, depending on what is free. It is a non-reservation-based kind of hoteling, and it’s a flexible working solution seemingly valuable for companies with flexible working arrangements. It is somewhat similar to a free address. Hot desking and virtual offices are branches of co-working that involve sharing spaces, whether it be desk office or business address. Essentially, hot-desking arose as a strategy to save on space and to cater to the needs of the employees who largely work outside of the office.

Among the benefits hot desking provides, to wit:

  1. If you are traveling interstate, and your time is on the road but need some space to get work done, hot-desking gives the flexibility to share spaces. It can be rented by the hour, day, or week, occasionally by the month.
  2. Hot-desking has the higher employee desk ratio. Hot desking offers a versatile solution to a specific demand which is occupancy.
  3. A margin of 30% cost reduction because of space optimization of resources and facilities.
  4. Hot desking promotes a more social and collaborative office culture. When people and ideas interact, new ideas are bound to take hold. An organization where collaboration is encouraged is more likely to tap into the creativity and the ingenuity of its workforce.
  5. Due to its adaptable kind of arrangement, you get to meet new people or teams. Hot desking can essentially help you grow your business network.

There are two branches of hot-desking, one is hot-desking at your company and the other as a service. Hot desking at the company usually gets a bad name or reputation from people losing their dedicated space, and on top of that, the challenges hot desking brings to the facilities team on its cleanliness and maintenance. Luckily, for people using hot-desking as a service, the package usually comes with the facility maintenance fee. However, this goes without saying, hot-desking proves to be effective only when policies are established.

With the benefits stated above, hot desking also has its drawbacks. “While hot desking might be a great fit for certain roles or departments in the company, other types of work might be at a disadvantage in the open or organic workplace landscape. If the space is not designed optimally and the policies are not established, hot desking could be a hot mess,” informed Gail.

  1. Hot desking could be disruptive without a system. Imagine employees arriving early, claiming desk, some may come later, scrambling around, looking for a space. And on top of that, because of this setup, employees don’t have a dedicated space to leave their valuables. Employees may find it difficult to locate their colleagues because without a system or any technology to assist, there is no way to tell where they are sitting.
  2. We have to consider that we are bringing different personalities under one roof; you have the social butterflies on one side and the introverts on the other and this means different working styles. Imagine sitting next to a group of people amidst a chaotic brainstorming situation. It can potentially distract even the most focused or patient worker.
  3. Hot desking if done incorrectly can potentially cause high traffic, especially when we are expecting a lot of people moving around.
  4. While it sounds positive that you constantly meet new people, building a deeper and more meaningful business relationship could be challenging in a hot-desking arrangement. People shift around the office, there are different schedules, and different workstyles. There is no tightness or bond in the community because of chance encounters or these encounters were just too short for deeper conversations.
  5. Hot desking could potentially be an unhealthy environment. Without facilities, strict policies, and workers respectfully practicing these rules, hot desking might not be hygienic.

 

Weighing on the benefits and drawbacks of hot-desking, Gail shares how companies can make this type of design work in their office. “Before we decide on putting money towards an idea, we take time and study it. We look at its liability, profitability, and the likes. And this goes to saying, the design. Before we jump into designs and conceptualization, we take time to research if the idea works.”

Through the design thinking process, we’ll learn more about the potential user and their tasks. According to Gail, “We want to be able to identify what problems we want to solve and in the case of hot-desking, there’s the idea fit for business and culture. We always have to consider what works and what we can do to make it work. And once we are able to identify, observe and learn, we then evaluate our findings.”

The next step is ideating and prototyping. We start the solutions, we connect them both to theoretical, behavioral, and data-driven kinds of frameworks. We then test it and see how people interact with the idea and again we put greater emphasis on users or employers because they are the biggest business drivers.

To make hot-desking work in this current landscape, companies have to consider the following: technology, interiors, lighting, acoustics, policies, social distancing, and hygiene measures for safety.

Hot-desking offers plenty of positivity, despite some people raising eyebrows about the idea, especially in today’s landscape. Hot desking may still be relevant. The workplace is not a one-size-fits-all. Once steps have been taken in understanding if the idea is a good fit defining what works and what could work, using strategies, and utilizing technology to your advantage. Hot desking will be able to work. For it to be effective, companies have to be the champions of the concept and the value that it provides.

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