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Hot Desking: Is it Heaven or Hell?

Hot desking - advantages and disadvantages

Ho tdesking: Heavenly or Hellish?

The ultimate guide to the advantages and disadvantages of hot desking.  

Hot desking is the Marmite of the office world. It evokes strong feelings and is hotly debated.  Employees either LOVE it or HATE it.

As with any product or services, there are hot desking models that are beneficial and have a positive impact and there are those that have a negative outcome.

Hot desking facilities are designed to enable companies to save money on wasted office space, give employees flexibility, and provide a creative, vibrant environment.

…So how can hot desking be embraced and implemented to ensure that it has a positive impact for all?

Let’s start at the beginning…

What is hot desking and why does it evoke such a strong response?

Hot desking advantages and disadvantages

Hot desking is a relatively new way of maximising the use of your existing office space.

The term hot desking is thought to originate from a navel term “Hot Racking” where a group of sailors would use the same bunk on a rotational ‘shift’ basis. The benefits were obvious. With space on board ship at a premium, it meant that the ship could devote less space to sleeping and the space saved could be used for something with a higher priority.

In the simplest terms, hot desking is when an organisation has fewer desks than employees. Each desk is used by more than one employee at different times of the day or week.

By employing a hot desking environment, large companies need less space. Less space means reduced costs. This is particularly beneficial for large companies based in prime city locations where the cost of real estate is exceptionally high. (eg London, New York, Amsterdam)

In Erick Veldhoen’s theory of Activity Based Working (AWB), hot desk facilities were envisaged as part of the activity-based environment which could include open seating, booths, conference rooms, coffee lounge areas as well as hot desk facilities. The crucial element being that the variety of spaces enabled employees to choose an environment appropriate to the tasks that they wanted to complete on that day.

Hot desking tends to be used by companies who have flexible working structures whereby not all employees are in the office at the same time.

Data gathered by Jones Lang LaSalle  indicates that “The average worker is at their desk 40% of their working day”. This being the case, there is a strong argument in favour of hot desking models which would enable companies to use the desk during the remaining 60% of the working day. 

What has caused the rise in Agile Working?

This agile working trend is growing. According to Jones Lang LaSalle’s article How Europe’s cities are embracing flexible space, the amount of flexible working space (flexi-space) has increased by 35% in the last three years. 

There is a combination of reasons for the rise in hot desking.

Technology has evolved.

Office computer networks no longer rely on hard wired, server-based systems. Instead, many companies have moved towards cloud-based systems which do not reply on physical connections.

VOIP telephony has also become common place enabling calls to be forwarded to mobiles or other numbers of choice.

These changes, combined with increasingly fast broadband means that it is now possible to login and work from anywhere in the world.

Add to this, the fact that companies and employees alike have embraced flexible working hours and it becomes easy to see why hot desking is such an appealing option for employers.

So, what does ‘good’ hot-desking look like?

What are the advantages of hot desking - Heath House Conference Centre Staffordshire

Done well, hot desking environments can have an incredibly positive impact, with many benefits for both employers and employees.

Benefits of hotdesking environments include:

  • Enabling companies to maximise the way they use office space and make savings.
  • Frees up space which can then be used for beneficial communal areas like coffee lounge, games space, gym equipment.
  • Gives flexibility for employees to decide where they want to work and when.
  • Encourages inter-departmental collaboration which can increase creativity, idea sharing and productivity.
  • Promotes networking and reduces communication barriers.
  • Encourages an inclusive and egalitarian approach which reduces negative effects of hierarchical structures and office politics.
  • Encourages a stimulating and healthy environment where staff feel motivated, valued and empowered.

Hot desking space is not limited to company buildings. There is a growing number of hot desk facilities within independent settings like business centres and work hubs. These also play a crucial role. This off-site hotdesking option give slightly different benefits which include:

  • Pre-booked hot desk space, with options to book a specific space on a routine basis.
  • Potential to enable companies to sell office space and use a combination of home working, hot desking and meeting rooms.
  • Enables employees to choose hot desk facilities close to home and reduces travelling time which in turn reduces stress and improves work life balance.
  • Promotes networking with like minded individuals from different companies.
  • Encourages idea sharing and problem solving on a broader basis.
  • Provides options to book private pods or desks within co-working areas.
  • Often provides a higher level of care and service, making employees feel more valued and empowered.
  • Options to leave personal items on site for the following day.

Why does hot desking attract a negative press?

Hot desking - the disadvantages

Whilst some hot desk facilities provide a positive working environment, it is equally important to learn from those setting that fail to deliver a positive experience for employees.

Rebecca Reid’s article “Let’s face it, hot desking is the absolute worst” is worth reading as it gives a useful insight.

Her article paints a picture of a frustrating and stressful repetitive groundhog-day-like scenario where employees are forced to frantically compete for last remaining desks; where they are un supported, in a soulless and depersonalised space in which they feel powerless, undervalued and frustrated.

This negative hot desk experience is also echoed in The hidden hell of hot-desking is much worse than you think by Pilita Clark

Negative hot desking experiences focus around the following issues:

  • Significant amounts of time is wasted every day finding an available desk.
  • Familiarity and routine give people a sense of security and comfort. The uncertainty of not knowing if you will be able to find a desk every day creates ongoing stress and anxiety.
  • Additional time is wasted setting up computers and adjusting chairs.
  • Yet more time is wasted at the end of the day clearing away.
  • Being unable to leave any work or personal items on the desk for the next day causes yet more frustration.
  • Being at a different desk each day causes people lose their sense of belonging and makes it more difficult to establish deeper working relationships with colleagues.
  • Being unable to personalise workspace again reduces each persons sense of belonging.

Research by Brickendon looked in detail at the impact of hotdesking and explored reasons for dissatisfaction.

Their research showed that the single biggest cause of hot desking stress came from not knowing where to sit each day. (58% said that this was the biggest cause of stress)

Their data validates anecdotal evidence:

  • 44% were frustrated by the time taken to set up computer
  • 31% identified wasting time looking for a desk.
  • 22% said that it caused them difficulty bonding with their teams.

Overcoming the negative aspects

As with most problems, as soon as you unpick the specific issues, it becomes easy to create solutions.

We have already identified that much of the frustration and negativity around hotdesking stems from uncertainty, wasting time and feeling powerless.

Rebecca Reid’s article, gives a sense of changes to working routines being imposed rather than being introduced through consultation. Which indicates that some of the issues around hot desking could be reduced long before the systems are implemented.

Change of any type is unsettling as is disrupts familiar routines. Hotdesking has the additional challenge of removing each person’s sense of belonging and personal space.

Providing information and giving everyone the opportunity to openly discuss the changes and raise any concerns prevents bad feeling. Involving your work force, particularly millennials ensures that they feel empowered.

A hot desk booking system provides another obvious solution. Several companies have developed software solutions to manage this process. This empowers employees to plan their working hours efficiently and flexibly. This removes all of the stress and anxiety associated with uncertainty.

Independent co-working spaces and work hubs provide another popular solution. By nature, they already provide options to pre-book work space and they will often give clients flexibility to arrive slightly earlier to set up computers and make maximum use of their time.

Implementing hot desk facilities as part of a broader agile working structure rather than the only option is also part of the solution.

Agile working can include a combination of working environments:

  • Mixed formal and informal hot desking space within head office.
  • Options to work remotely from home.
  • Options to book independent hot desk space near each employee’s home and claim back the expense.

Heavenly Hot Desking: Uttoxeter Staffordshire

If you live in Staffordshire, or if you are visiting on business, and find yourself needing some where to work for an hour, a day or a week, please take a look at the hot desk facilities at Heath House Conference Centre.

We are mindful of the negative press that some facilities receive so we have designed out hot desk facilities to over come the issues.

Our hot desks are located in a beautiful Georgian building. The hot desk rooms and co-working spaces are designed to be calm and tranquil spaces where you can work productively.

Our hot desk facilities can be pre-booked, either on a last-minute, as-needed basis, or booked in advance as part of a regular routine.

When you arrive at Heath House, you will be greeted and shown to your desk and you will be offered help and support, setting up your computer and connecting to the internet.

We have a coffee lounge available, so if you need a break from your work, you can stretch your legs and take a seat in our coffee lounge, which is also ideal for phone calls and non-confidential one to one meetings.

If you need private space for a meeting during the day, the meeting facilities can also be booked by the hour, and if you decide that you want a more permanent solution, we offer a range of serviced offices which can be booked for a month at a time.  

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