Hot Desking and Working from Home: part 1

Hot Desking and How it Works

Hot desking is now being successfully adopted by a growing number of businesses which scraps the old idea of assigning an employee to a desk, surrounded by the same people day in, day out.

Businesses are facing mounting pressure to accommodate employee’s flexible working requests, and with more people working from home (see part 2 of this article) or working flexible hours, it does not make business sense to have a wasted seat. That’s where hot desking comes in.

The point of hot desking is to reduce the overall footprint of a business. In most hot desking setups, the number of seats available in an office will gradually shrink to the point where there isn’t enough for every employee, making days where individuals work from home a necessity. This obviously happens over time as employees gradually adjust to the new culture, and it’s important that it’s managed well overall.

The culture then changes over time, from all employees coming in every day,  to each employee coming into the office on only set days (usually via a rota system) when there is a seat available, promoting cross-company social integration and flexible working at the same time as reducing the company’s overall carbon footprint by reducing the number of employees travelling to and from work daily.

Keith Beekmeyer from Newpoint Capital Limited, says: ‘Reducing our carbon footprint through something that has additional business benefits was one of our reasons for having a working from home policy created for us. It’s a great way for companies to show they’re taking into consideration environmental concerns as well as helping their employees to enjoy a much more flexible way of working.’

There are a great many benefits to your employees from a combined hot desking and working from home policy. Focusing on the hot desking aspect for this article, let’s look at some of those benefits.

  • Decluttering:-

    • Hot desking forces employees to be more ordered and minimalist, and although it means they can’t add their own personal touches to their desks as they’re now a shared space, the end result is a cleaner and more organised workplace.
  • Getting to know all your co-workers:-

    • Sitting in the same spot every day, surrounded by the same co-workers, gives you a very narrow social circle within a company. Hot desking encourages the healthy mingling of staff outside the one Christmas office party each year, and affords new opportunities to learn about other people’s skills.
  • Owning your environment and workspace:-

    • Happiness is the key to productivity. If a workforce is happy, motivated and positive, the difference in their working day and interactions with customers is palpable. People have different needs in order to feel happy, and although for some working outside of your most comfortable environment may be daunting initially, eventually you’ll see that having the flexibility to move around and sit where you want is hugely empowering.
  • Choose your neighbours:-

    • Some people may thrive on conversation and discussion, while others prefer the quiet and calm. With hot desking, you can choose which environment suits you best to result in greater levels of productivity for you, as an individual.
  • Gives employees autonomy:-

    • Hot desking is as much a cultural change as it is a physical one. As workers are able to change what their day-to-day environment looks like, it allows a great deal more flexibility when it comes to their social and home lives. Whether they’re attending an event, or simply need to be back in time for the school run, employees are afforded greater choice when it comes to working remotely when they need to. With hot desking, people are no longer tethered to their desk.

The company itself will also get benefits from the successful implementation of a good hot desking policy. These include:-

  • Modernising your company infrastructure:-

    • Although hot desking encourages employees to move around the business, their experience and interaction with the company still needs to be the same regardless of where they work. To facilitate this, companies are moving the entirety of their internal business systems to the cloud, allowing employees to access everything they need remotely. HR, payroll, printing services, even joining meetings and chatting with colleagues, can and should be available from anywhere in the building. Importantly, employees will no longer need to rely on that dodgy fourth-floor printer to pick-up their work! You’re streamlining your business and improving the productivity of your employees in one fell swoop with a good hot desking policy.
  • A cost saving exercise:-

    • As traditional work environments typically created a specific spot for each employee to work in, those areas would go unused when that person was out of the office or off work that day. Hot desking allows businesses to significantly cut down on all that wasted space, as not every employee will need to be provided with a traditional desk every day. This not only cuts down on equipment costs, but can allow companies to downsize their operations into a space that is more affordable, while still maintaining a productive workforce.

Potentially, particularly in the early days of implementing the policy, both you and your employees are going to have some ‘teething difficulties’. So here are some principles to make space sharing work in the early days.

  • A clear desk policy.  Establish that whenever people are out of the office for more than a certain time – say 1 hour – they must clear everything that’s theirs from the desk. Having team lockers to put personal belongings in is essential for this.
  • Well organised team/company storage. Piles of files can’t be left on desks – so there needs to be a team storage solution, like shared bookcases/cupboards etc, for the things that will never leave the office. It will also increase company efficiency to adopt the discipline of returning files to team storage and making them accessible to all.
  • Shared libraries of reference materials have the benefit of reducing duplication and preventing personal silos of information.
  • Have the same agreed compendium of essential information at each desk and/or online. E.g. key dates, fire escape routes, important telephone numbers, etc.
  • Ban personal touches, like photos or posters or mottos, on the desks. Each desk could technically ‘belong’ to anybody, so the only things you need to have displayed are the fire escape plans, phone numbers etc.
  • Create a beautiful office environment. Provide attractive pictures, planting, water features, etc and this will greatly assist to justify the restriction on people putting their own belongings on their favourite desk.
  • Ergonomic work positions. Getting in the best and ergonomic workplace layout will help people accept working in different positions.  Chairs must be adjustable – or some will claim they have to sit in a certain place each day, thereby defeating the object of hot desking in its entirety.
  • Laptops are preferable to desktop PCs.  That is because they can move everywhere with one member of staff, and any specialist software installed moves with them.  This will prevent people laying claim to one particular space for IT reasons and enable more effective flexibility.  When working in one position with a laptop for a long time, a keyboard and mouse, laptop stand and/or additional screen should be used.
  • Provide ample touch-down space to cope with peak demand. That is, places where people can connect their laptops to work for short periods.  These can be touchdown bars, or locations in resource areas, informal meeting/refreshment areas etc.
  • Work in non-exclusive team areas with fuzzy boundaries.  It’s good to keep the team connection and work with each other to share space effectively.  But space sharing will not achieve the maximum benefits if teams become exclusive.  The aim should be to break down barriers, and encourage working across teams. “Qualified Flexible Team Space”, we could call it.
  • Have a good telephony solution. People need to be able to log in to their extension whether in the office or out, and from whichever desk they sit at.