Hot Desk – Pros and Cons
Hot desking or “hot desk” is not a new invention at all. This concept firstly appeared in the 1980s and, as usual, was a response to a specific need. It was noted that companies employing shifts do not use all desks at the same time, and thus the employer incurs unnecessary costs. To reduce expenses, “shifting desks” came to life.
Hot desking assumes organizing the space in such a way that the positions are suited to various tasks and work style. The company should therefore find a place for a conference room, desks without computers (e.g. for employees who bring their laptops) and, if necessary, supplied with computers and other equipment. Every workplace is used daily by different people from a given department or even the entire company. So you can work in different places in one week, depending on your needs and the availability of desks.
Coming back to the history of this invention, the problem with filling all workplaces was not reserved only for companies working in shifts. Shortly after, more and more companies from a variety of industries realized that they face a similar issue with office occupancy. According to JLL’s research paper done in Australia, up to 40% of desks are empty during the day in local companies. This applies primarily to companies that use new technologies and are open to flexible forms of work, and the IT industry fits in perfectly within this scheme.
According to a survey conducted periodically by Stackoverflow up to 49% of programmers work remotely. Most remote workers enjoy this form of collaboration in Argentina, Mexico and the United States. It turns out that people who work in a flexible form most often combine remote work with hot desking (20%). Let’s now check what are the pros and cons of this work scheme.
Why sit at a hot desk?
At the base of the ‘hot desk’ idea lies a principle that an employee does not have his own desk. They do not come to work every morning to take the same place – they use a desk that is free at the moment, and after work employees take their things back home. In some companies, each desk is already equipped with a computer and IT equipment needed for work, in others only a place at the table is available, and the employee brings his own laptop or notebook.
Regardless of the chosen scheme, it is all about the optimal use of office space. We should bear in mind that renting an office is one of the largest expenditures incurred by the employer. That’s a fixed cost that cannot be avoided or quickly decreased from month to month since office lease contracts are usually signed for years. By introducing hot desking, you can optimize expenses, but you need to properly adapt the office to the new way of working. Does it really pay off?
Hot desking – pros
Companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook or Twitter, as well as many other well-known brands, have already, at least partly, implemented this solution. Here are some arguments for the introduction of hot desks:
Lower office expenses
Studies show that employers can reduce office rent cost by up to 30%. In the hot desking system, you can afford to rent a smaller space, and you save on equipping work stations.
Almost 100% use of available space
Optimizing your fixed office space is one of the most challenging endeavors every employer faces all the time. With flexible systems such as hot desk you may limit the time your office resources remain unused and unoccupied striving for optimal usage throughout the day.
Flexibility and freedom
Employees usually appreciate this atmosphere however some people have a hard time switching to work without their own desk. It’s worth mentioning that IT, e-commerce and gaming industry employees are more open to such changes and usually perceive them positively.
Encouragement to work remotely
It is easier for companies that introduce hot desking to offer their employees at least partial remote work.
Hot desking can encourage employees to maintain order in the workplace. No more left-overs on desks – you always need to clean up after yourself as the next person expects the workstation to be neat and ready to work.
Changing your desks every couple of days, you can meet new people from various departments. What’s true for larger companies is that you may meet new colleagues every single day for years – that’s a huge potential of building a strong network of peers and coworkers.
Freedom of choice
Choosing your desks allows you to choose the most convenient part of the office to work in. You like sunny? Why not sitting next to the window? You prefer a quiet place with a ceiling light? No problem – head to the desired office part and make yourself comfortable there!
Accelerated learning and development
Hot desking is conducive to faster learning – you can take the place next to a specialist in a given field and work with him for the next couple of days.
Hot desking – cons
Work out of a suitcase
Continually unfolding and collecting the items you need can be tiring. Just look at the desks of some programmers – many things have been there for quite a few years.
Challenging cooperation in a team
In this formula, employees identify themselves more with the company than with the team of which they are part of.
The lack of a desk assigned to a particular employee may cause a problem with the ergonomics of the workplace. Employers do not always remember about desks with adjustable tops or appropriate armchairs, which everyone can quickly adapt to each other.
Documentation in danger
Although this may not be a thing for all industries, especially the ones where many materials are in digital form, there may be a problem with storing individual employee documents. Such materials must be constantly moved (e.g. to a designated cabinet), which increases the likelihood of them being lost.
Sometimes there may be a phenomenon of competition for work space. Then the rule applies: first come, first served and early bird takes a better situated desk (e.g. by the window). This can lead to claims and quarrels between employees.
Hygiene in a post Pandemic World
One of the foreseen critical items to ensure this model survives is to also ensure the hygiene factor and have in place proper policies and supplies (gloves, disinfectant, etc.). These are shared desks and can become potentially a breeding ground for bacteria, and especially nasty viruses as a result. It is estimated right now that – varying between countries – there is a large percentage of asymptomatic cases of people with coronavirus, such as a recent article from the Washington Post.
Hot desking is presented as an extremely effective solution primarily when it is presented as one of the elements of organizing office space in a company. It can be a good idea even when a company decides to open a satellite office and employ many temporary employees.
Although hot desking has its drawbacks, it seems that for some industries for instance the ones strongly involved in IT, e-commerce, gaming or marketing the gains outweigh possible obstacles. More and more employees in these industries expect flexible work opportunities, and hot desking perfectly complements remote work. Of course, it all depends on the right equipment in the office and the proper planning of work, so as to avoid situations when some employees wait idly until a desk becomes available. Here a proper office resources management system kicks in and allows employees to schedule desks, rooms or equipment in advance. With a proper combination of resource management tools and work organization scheme hot desking may help your company optimize your office space and employee satisfaction to the fullest extent.