As the workplace shifts and becomes hybrid, traditional ways of organizing office spaces follow. Employees seek greater freedom and flexibility, and organizations naturally reconsider the need for vast offices where everyone has their own desk.
This is at the heart of the recent popularity of hot desking – the practice of reducing office space and using it only when needed, without individually assigned desks.
While the practice has its charm for certain groups of workers and is definitely more cost-effective, it may also present challenges for some organizations. For example, reducing desks and shifting to a less personalized space may impact company culture and disrupt employees’ routines. It may also challenge companies with more rigid hierarchical structures and require them to reevaluate their organization.
For that reason, prior to adopting a hot desking policy, HRs and operations managers need to consider its pros and cons. They need to evaluate whether and how they might implement it locally. To help you understand hot desking and consider its usefulness to your organization, we outlined its major advantages and disadvantages.
Want to know if hot desking is right for you? Keep reading!
Hot desking – also known as desk sharing or desk hoteling – is a method of office design and desk allocation in which employees don’t have their personally assigned desks. Instead, the total number of desks is reduced and, depending on the company policy, seats are reserved in advance or are taken up on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The rationale behind this practice is based on the need for companies to adapt to changes in working culture and the increase in employees who work remotely at least part of the time.
Once an organization adopts a more hybrid approach to work, introducing hot desking makes more sense, since all of its employees rarely if ever get together in the office at once.
As with any shift in the operation of a company, hot desking offers a number of advantages and disadvantages. It impacts material costs but it also influences company culture as well as how individuals feel in the workplace. Here are the different pros and cons of hot desking.
Before that, you might want to check our guide on office hoteling policies.
It’s not by chance that hot desking is becoming more popular. There are a number of tangible benefits that this practice brings to the workplace. These include the following:
To begin with, hot desking is much more cost-effective than traditional office arrangements. Due to the reduced number of desks, employee overhead costs are lowered. This frees up resources that can be put to other use.
Hot desking is very inclusive toward mobile and remote workers as it allows them to participate in the office workplace more freely. If desks are not “owned” by employees, there’s less emphasis on filling a certain desk and being present. That allows for greater flexibility and acceptance that some employees are more mobile than others.
More social company culture is naturally promoted when seats are not individually assigned and desk neighbors change daily. Communication across teams increases, and the working environment becomes more collaborative, which helps any business grow.
This also creates a certain freshness of experience that may sometimes go missing in more traditional settings. However, keep in mind that you’ll likely need a solid hot desking policy to avoid issues that can hurt teamwork and collaboration.
Space is generally better utilized when desk numbers are scaled down or fewer desks are used. Clutter is reduced and a tidier environment is created since desks need to be cleaned and vacated daily. This opens up the space and reduces visual stimuli which also has a good effect on concentration and productivity. It also creates a good impression on clients who are visiting the office.
To make hot desking work at its fullest potential, it’s recommended to invest in ergonomic office furniture.
If everyone is equal before the desk schedule, workplace hierarchies are naturally flattened and the office becomes a more equal playing field. This encourages greater networking and relating in a more immediate manner both horizontally as well as vertically.
Moreover, this also tends to help individuals in decision-making positions to get a better grasp of how things are “on the ground”.
Of course, hot desking is not all roses. It’s better to be familiar with the downsides so that you can watch out for them or even prepare to address them from the outset. Some of the disadvantages most frequently reported by companies include:
Employees may come to experience their workplace as less personalized due to the lack of assigned places. If the office starts lacking character, it may feel sterile and alien which can affect company culture and people’s sense of belonging to the company. This, in turn, can impact productivity and work satisfaction.
Yes, the greater equality promoted by hot desking may be experienced as an unwelcome form of disruption in companies that have more rigid and vertical structures. If your company strongly emphasizes distinctions between employees, managers, and executives, a hot desking approach will need to be tailored to accommodate this feature.
While hot desking may decrease office utilization and employee overhead costs it can potentially increase IT-related costs. Or, at the least, it is likely to stretch an IT department’s resources.
One of the tools available to manage the situation is to introduce hot desk booking software. Such a system will open up IT resources for managing the new office setup, such as maintaining workstations and networks, while employees are given the freedom to choose their desks themselves.
To create the neat and tidy environment that hot desking promises, you may need to implement new health, safety, and cleaning policies that will maintain impeccable hygiene. This will require employees to exercise greater care and responsibility and possibly develop new habits.
Furthermore, you must also consider those employees that have more particular needs. In a traditional setting, employees with special needs have a guaranteed workplace that is tailored to them.
You will need some special hot desking accessories. In a hot-desking environment, you will need to introduce changes that allow them to participate as easily as before.
By the way, you can easily do that with a desk booking system at no cost.
Employees who are used to a routine and a fixed setup and those who feel a need for greater privacy will experience some disruption. While they may be able to adapt, such disruptions may lead to dips in productivity. Be prepared to experience some turbulence in the meantime!
Read more about this in our guide about hot desking in 2023.
While communication may ultimately improve, in the beginning, it may occasionally break down. With people located in different places each day, tracking employees down can become difficult. To deal with the situation, you will likely need to set up new communication channels and policies to make sure that important messaging reaches everyone concerned.
On the other hand, this is not a real issue if you have remote work policies in place which already require setting up reliable communication channels.
For more info, check out our article that delves into the most important differences between hot-desking and activity-based working.
One of the ways to establish whether hot desking might be good for you is to carry out a survey among your employees. With greater input, you may conclude that your company is fit for the challenge and that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Or, alternatively, you may find that there is little support for this type of arrangement.
Moreover, you can always try out hot desking on a smaller scale, such as with only one team, before making decisions about the whole company. And if it doesn’t work out, you can scale back to your usual arrangement.
Hot desking isn’t for everyone. Whether it is right for your company depends on your culture and how much your employees are used to working at the office. You should also include in the mix what value is placed on having a separate and individual space. The bottom line, the point of hot desking is to improve productivity, collaboration, and communication. And, ultimately, this is what you need to keep in mind when coming to a decision.
At OfficeRnD, we help companies transition to hot-desking and hybrid ways of working. If you’re curious to see what the OfficeRnD Hybrid software can do for you, check out the product features or book your demo to see the platform in action.
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