The modern office landscape is ever-changing. With focus on flexibility and collaboration in the workplace, we have seen the rise of open office plans and remote working. We’ve seen the cubicle become all-but extinct. One of the newest trends to develop? Hot desking. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at hot-desking . . . and why we don’t really recommend it.
What is it?
Hot-desking is a practice wherein an office has non-allocated desks; workspaces are first-come, first serve and employees have no set places to work. As employees aren’t given a desk, employers usually don’t buy one per person to account for the fact some employees may be working remotely, which cuts costs on both space and equipment.
Why is hot-desking popular?
The ideas behind hot-desking are similar to the ones that spawned the open office. Collaboration, innovation and cutting office running costs.
The party line goes: if employees aren’t confined to working in the same place, surrounded by the same people, they’ll meet and collaborate with new faces. Hopefully leading to crossovers of skills, better employee relationships and a boost in creativity.
When is it useful?
Hot-desking is most useful when your workforce is flexible and work from home at least part time. This is because your entire office is unlikely to be in at the same time, which means there’s usually a desk or two that’s not being used. Instead of these desks sitting there empty, hot desking means you won’t buy them – and that, in theory, you’ll never have wasted space.
Why we don’t recommend hot-desking
While hot-desking may have its apparent benefits, overall we don’t recommend it. Let’s take a look at why.
Employees have no personal space
When you work in an office that hot-desks, you have no personal desk. No place to put knick-knacks or photos of your kids; no place to head straight for in the morning. Especially if you’re bringing in your own equipment, lugging your possessions around the office to find a free desk is another annoyance.
“Once you have found a free desk, you have to unpack all your work things and set yourself up before you can begin productive work (and then repack it all when you leave) – spending more time every day on low-level subsistence activity.” – Source
This can be very unsettling for employees – as well as leaving them feeling under-appreciated and undervalued.
It gets cluttered easily
Because no one workplace belongs to anyone . . . who’s going to tidy it up? If you’re working somewhere before lunch, but during your break someone eats and leaves a mess at the desk, are you going to tidy up their mess? A lot of people would say no – it’s not their desk and it’s not their mess.
What happens if all of your office staff are in?
Most remote workers only work from home a few days out of the week, so what happens when your entire workforce is in the office and there aren’t enough desks?
What happens when your team can’t all sit together?
Even if there is enough room for your team individually, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll all manage to find desks together. This means that entire teams or departments could end up separated – making collaborative work difficult.
Can foster resentment
When an office starts hot-desking, usually the higher ups still have allocated desks. While this makes sense, it can still breed resentment between employees and heighten the feelings of under-appreciation.
Negative impact on staff
However, the biggest reason we don’t recommend hot-desking is because employees don’t like it. Your workforce is highly unlikely to benefit from implementing hot-desking – studies have actually shown hot-desking has negative impact on staff.
A survey carried out by Unison in 2012 showed that:
- 90% of respondents said it had a negative effect on morale;
- 90% said it increased their stress levels;
- 80% said they do not have the same access to peer support; and
- only 15% felt that flexibility and efficiency had increased
As with many “office solutions” aimed at promoting collaboration, the opposite seems to be true. While the idea of meeting and working next to different people every day sounds like a great opportunity to get to know your coworkers and build relationships . . . the reality is much different.
Firstly, it’s difficult to build a relationship with your coworkers when you never sit next to the same one two days in a row. However, it’s can also be difficult to get to know your coworkers at all in a hot desking situation.
Imagine coming into the office everyday, sitting next to someone new and having to interrupt their work to start a conversation. Most people would feel rude disrupting others’ workflow – and people that need to focus may become resentful of people constantly talking to them.
Ultimately, hot desking is a solution that may be beneficial to the business, but is likely not not beneficial to the business’s employees. This is one trend we’re recommend you steer clear from.