The simple desk management where everyone has an assigned desk is gone for good. Most organizations today are utilizing some form of flexible desk arrangement, like hot desking or desk hoteling.
There are multiple reasons why companies are doing this – from optimizing the real estate footprint to providing better and more flexible work schedules to their employees. However, with flexibility comes complexity. Managing hot desks is a lot more difficult than managing fixed desks.
Following is our list of ideas on how to streamline your hot desk management processes we gathered from working with hundreds of hybrid companies around the world.
Before we dive into it, it’s worth noting that the two main goals to improve how you manage your desks are increased space utilization and improved employee workplace experience.
Hot desking can cause a lot of anxiety to your employees and make it even harder for them to come to the office. You really should manage the process well in order to provide an outstanding experience to your people.
Here’s a short summary of the 18 ideas to improve how you manage your space:
The first step and arguably, one of the more difficult ones is to come up with the right number of hot desks for your employees. The most common and easiest way to start the process is to plan 1 desk for every 2 employees or 50% fewer desks than employees. This is a good starting point that you can then expand with assumptions including:
Based on these assumptions, you can develop a more rational and adjusted desk-to-employee ratio. You can read more about how to define a future-looking workplace strategy here.
The second step is to redefine the working zones in your offices. Office neighborhood seating is an effective way of organizing your office around activities, projects, or functions. Office neighborhoods can be based on a variety of needs:
Regardless of the type, office neighborhoods try to ensure everyone’s got access to the people, spaces, and amenities they need to get the most out of their days. You can read more about office neighborhoods here.
Even if you plan your desk-to-employee ratio really well you may still end up with more people in the office than desks. That’s why many organizations plan for additional seating that doesn’t require booking (ad-hoc desks) and people can just come and sit. These can be nice, large shared working benches or semi-private seats, or other types of working spaces. Usually, organizations plan for an additional 5-10% overflow seats.
Pro tip: never use an Excel template sheet for desk booking.
One of the main challenges with hot desking and the lack of a permanent desk is that you can’t leave your personal belongings on the desk. Most likely, someone else will be using it the next day, right?
That might feel a little uncomfortable at the start, however, people get quickly used to it. Adding personal lockers or some sort of even open storage can alleviate these concerns and make the life of your employees easier. They can just leave some of their personal belongings there.
Noise in the office that prevents us to focus and do our best work is the number one complaint you can hear from employees about any office space.
That’s why during COVID and after it, so many people that do more focused work felt a lot more productive at home where noise and distractions are far less.
We won’t argue about the benefits of working from home, not at all. We love it! However, the office has its own benefits and we can actually make it far better for everyone by soundproofing if not all, at least some areas of the office.
For example, we may create quiet zones (office neighborhoods) where people can book desks if they need to do focused work.
Another challenge of hot desking, especially for some roles like Finance, Engineering, etc, where you may need a very custom working setup, is that you can’t build your workstation setup – with keyboards, monitors, laptop stands, etc. That concern is also something you can easily overcome and make the life of your employees much nicer.
The solution is to introduce different ready-to-use setups where people can easily find them on an interactive map and book them based on their needs. This is an important feature of a good hot desk booking software system.
You can even go one step further and ask employees what amenities they need. You can create a pulse survey with the right questions.
Using shared desks may also concern some people from a hygiene point of view. Different people have different perceptions of cleanliness. One of the most important elements of making hot desking a success in your organization is to ensure very good cleaning procedures. You have to ensure that all desks are sparkling clean every single morning. I know it sounds way too obvious but it’s one of those things that can be easily missed.
While most likely you will have a proper desk booking system that shows visually where desks are, nice, clear, and consistent desk numbering can help a lot with navigating in the office. Remember that flexible working means that most people will work on different desks often enough so it’d be much easier for them to be able to use the desk numbers in a consistent and understandable way. You can incorporate number patterns, such as Floor Number-Neighborhood Code-Desk Number.
The hybrid work model involves a lot more than implementing hot desking or activity-based working. Although it may look a little outside of the scope of desk management, offering more phone booths and private seating options is extremely important for improving the overall workplace experience for your employees.
Because many of us spend more of our time on zoom calls. Like it or not, that’s the future for many of us. Some of the best options for such roles are to either have soundproof hot desk zones where you can freely talk or offer a lot of phone booths or private seating suitable for chats.
Our research clearly shows that people are coming to the office to collaborate. The success of your hot desk program lies not just in how well you manage the desks, which is important, but also, in how well you manage and incorporate meeting and collaboration spaces in your offices. You may check and get inspired by our very extensive article on meeting room management ideas.
Workplace experience apps have come a long way, and desk booking software now offers advanced features such as desk check-in and auto cancellation. You can set up a policy that if the person doesn’t check in for the day, the desk can be freed automatically. Such features can dramatically reduce the number of ‘ghost bookings’ thus improving the actual space utilization. The more advanced systems allow for checking in many different ways – from auto check-in using the access control, through check-in via QR codes, IoT devices, or using an easy-to-use mobile app.
Other than required check-ins, you may want to integrate a lot more policies and guidelines in order to streamline the hot desk management processes. For example, you may consider things like:
There are many other options that the more advanced and even free desk booking systems will allow you to set up.
Providing clear guidelines and quality training programs where you educate people on how to use hot desks can improve everyone’s experience.
For example, how to leave the desk after finishing the day. Or, noting people that they should not eat lunch at the desk. Also, you can use the time to promote boy scouting – always leave the space cleaner and better organized than how you found it.
Make sure employees understand your company’s guidelines related to booking and using hot desks. You can see our hot desking guidelines at OfficeRnD to the right. Also, you can check our detailed hot desking template guide here.
It’s no fun walking around the office trying to find the desk you booked. It’s stressful and frustrating, especially when you’re in a hurry. A great way to improve the workplace experience for people is to adopt a wayfinding system that can help employees navigate indoors.
Probably, one of the most important ways to improve, both the employee workplace experience and to increase the utilization of space, is to incorporate a great booking app. The hot desk booking experience, although sounds simple, is in fact, quite a complex process because of all the intricacies we just discussed. Our advice when choosing a booking app is to focus your attention on how easy it is for people to make a booking. Is it like a one-tap or click type of thing? Keep it simple and your employees will be grateful.
Note: You can also use excel for it and we have a pretty awesome hot desk booking template here.
Using an app to book a desk is usually a great experience, however, not all of us love adding more apps to our phones. When choosing a booking system, you must consider how well integrated it is into your whole technological stack. Does it allow your employees to book directly from Microsoft Teams or Outlook? Google Workspace, Slack, or Chrome? The more options you can give your employees, the better the chances are to achieve high adoption and better satisfaction.
We’ve discussed already a lot of the modules that oftentimes come with centralized hot desk management software. It’s important to note though that such as system can get all of these well-integrated into a connected system. All the way from managing the resources, meeting spaces, amenities, displays, check-ins, policies, bookings, etc. A single unified platform will ensure a great and consistent user experience for your employees.
What’s even more interesting is that such a system will also collect a lot of data that you can put to good use.
Just like other workplace technology solutions, desk booking systems capture data that you can analyze to find patterns in space usage. Are there certain people or teams who often book desks but don’t show up? What are the most utilized days of the week (Wednesday or Thursday)? Are there specific neighborhoods that are a lot better utilized than others?
Access to actionable information is invaluable to understanding desk usage patterns, which can help you improve your space in the long run and make sure your employees can make the most of it.
We are never alone when talking about desk management and the future of work. Get in touch with me at [email protected] to add idea number 19. Or spread the word by giving us a share.
Since you made it that far, you can sign up for a personalized workplace consultancy and a demo of OfficeRnD Hybrid here.
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