Blog - Hot desking – is it for you?

Hot-deskingHot desking has been a hot topic in office design and use conversations for me lately, partly in conjunction with “Activity Based Working” (which I have previously written about in my recent Canterbury Today article ‘A New Way of Working’ which looks at the benefits of ergonomic person-centred workspaces) but also, as it is viewed as a reasonably new trend right now.

Cost effective? Perhaps.

Saving money is often the underlying reason for installing hot-desks when creating a new office space. With commercial floor space at a premium these days, if 15-25% of your staff members are out of the office at any one time, sharing the space seems to make perfect sense.

Obviously, this is going to depend on the industry or type of business you work in. For instance if you have an active sales staff, they are likely to be out visiting clients or prospective clients at least 50% of the time, so hot desking could be a suitable option.

A good fit for the team?

Although it’s considered quite innovative, hot desking is not really that new. In some industries the practice of sharing a workspace is just how things happen naturally. It has been long used in places such as Telecom and in other call centre settings where people often work varying hours on rostered shifts

As effective as it can be however, hot desking does not work for every office situation.

One challenge I heard from a young lawyer recently was that when she arrived at a new job in quite a large office with a hot desking set up, she didn’t know who was in her team and where they all were, so integrating with the them was not an easy experience.

Another challenge could be that if you are part of a team and arrive at work to discover that half of your team members are on the other side of the office, you’ll spend quite a lot of time walking back and forth across the room to talk to them, losing focus and thoughts (as well as disrupting other people) as you walk back and forth across the room to talk to them.

I’ve also heard grumbles from people that there can be a bun fight to get the best desks – usually by the window. This hardly makes for a harmonious work environment.

Clear the way

Paperwork and personal items can also get in the way when hot desking. If you work with a lot of reference material or files – think of accountants and lawyers – moving piles of paper every time you arrive at work, is simply impractical. “Ah ha”, you might say, “but we’re all going paperless aren’t we?” According to a study done in Australia on Activity Based working, it can take up to three years of pre planning for a company to be ready to go paperless. Three years. That’s a lot of thinking ahead, and even then, you are still likely to have to manage some pieces of paper that your clients or suppliers bring in.

While ‘clear desks’ are an accepted policy for many government departments, photos of children, grandchildren and other happy images must surely create more positive emotions and a better work environment than an austere desk, partition and surroundings? Don’t you always feel better with some pleasant images to look at or something that makes you smile in the day?

Plan ahead and involve your team

So, back to the hot topic at hand – yes, hot desking can definitely generate ongoing savings in the right situation. With less initial outlay for furniture and maximising use of space in terms of rent and floor space, it can be effective in some situations, however, their use is not a one size fits all solution.

There needs to be buy in from the people who will be working at them and they definitely need to come with other work spaces available for team meetings, small and large, thinking/focussing spaces, quiet reading spaces, somewhere peaceful for people to eat lunch.

If you’re thinking about whether hot desking would work in your organisation, why not involve your staff in the discussions, find out what they would like, think would work, and why, and give the organisations reasons for considering this option. Hot desking can be a creative move, but their introduction needs everyone to feel they are a part of the end result and that there are a range of options for different working styles.

Interested? Try it and see

If you’re unsure, how about trialling the idea with a small team if possible and see how it goes? I am planning to keep my eye on this hot topic in the coming months and would love to hear your feedback. In the meantime, have at how your staff work and engage them discussions on how it might work effectively. Could be a hot topic for discussion!