Hot Desking : A Must-Know Hybrid Workplace Concept

Published: March 30, 2021

What is hot desking? Well, have you always longed for that “seat with a view” in your office? But only if you land up at the office before everyone else in the morning could it be yours? And to ensure that you sit on it every day, you must reach early daily. Well, in a nutshell, that’s hot desking for you.

No strict or permanent assignment of seats – people can take up a desk of their choice from what’s available.

With offices reopening and people returning to the workplace, concepts such as hoteling and hot desking are gaining momentum in the hybrid workplace scenario. While we have already covered hoteling, it is time to explore hot desking.

Bonus Tip: What is Hoteling

What is Hot Desking? What Makes it Hot?

Originating in the 16th century to utilize bunk beds on ships, hot bunking as it was known was quite popular. Sailors working in rotational shifts would share the bunks. As for offices, hot desking became a thing in the 1990s as employees would take whichever seats were available to them. Like all management theories, hotdesking became an in-thing for multiple reasons. Of which the three most popular ones are:

1. Better Collaboration and Productivity

Improved inter-departmental rapport strengthens relationships and promotes teamwork. It also provides a crucial insight into the functioning of other teams. Believers, thus, say hot desking fosters a more collaborative work atmosphere and boosts overall productivity. Surveys prove that 70% of managers and 87% of employees say flexible work arrangements increase productivity.

2. Space Utilization and Cost-Saving

More often than not, a certain percentage of your workplace goes unutilized for various reasons. Here are utilization rates in the pre-COVID era with remote work at its pinnacle.

It isn’t just space – it’s cost. It could be significant to have multiple offices or pay-per-seat in a shared workspace. Hot desking could save you that money.

Say, the sales team is visiting once every week for reviews. They could use the desks of people not in the office that day. You think it would be chaotic? Absolutely not – if you use technology to book desks and have it integrated with your attendance systems.

Also Read: How to Save Real-Estate Cost

3. Clean and Tidy Workstations

It is the aspect of cleanliness that makes hot desking so relevant today. As employees are more likely to clean up after a day’s work, it helps the housekeeping staff to sanitize the desks with lesser obstructions.

What are the Common Challenges in Hot Desking?

A flexible seating plan like hot desking sounds brilliant as a concept. However, it comes with its challenges. At best, these can be overcome with time and tactical planning. The most common ones are:

1. Efficiency suffers

Teams usually sit together because it promotes easier and better collaboration. Traditionally, managers prefer this setup as it aids better supervision and guidance.

Hot desking disincentivizes running up to a colleague’s desk for small queries. This is a major shortcoming of the strategy.

2. Approach to on-the-job training undergoes a drastic shift

Imagine you have just joined a company. For the first few days, you need to know your team, how work happens, and learn about your new job. The best way to do it is to be seated close to your reporting manager or the team.

By the time you reach, you find no desks around where most of your team is seated. How do you cope with that? Your designation, years of experience, and seniority do not matter – it’s a new company, and you need to learn. On the face of it, hot desking seems to be the problem.

3. Impromptu meetings take a backseat

It isn’t a problem limited to new employees. If you have a quick update to disseminate, you would prefer to do it by turning your chair around than gathering your team in the meeting room. Inviting 5-6 people from different parts of the building for a 2-minute session doesn’t quite make sense.

In a survey that included 5000+ offices, a respondent said, “Every floor is a new adventure to find out where meetings are or where colleagues are located.”

Apart from the above three, the other popular argument is that most employees dislike uncertainty and frequent changes. A fixed desk is a manifestation of stability, certainty, and belongingness. Hot desking disrupts it to a certain extent.

Is Hot Desking the Right Option for Your Company?

An essential prerequisite is the actual availability of unutilized space. You can save costs on that space or utilize it better through hot desking.

In a hybrid workplace model, hot desking success depends on several factors, like the nature of work, team size, space availability, and demographics. To make it work, you need to consider all your business’s realities. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t exist.

Hot desking might be a challenge for large teams within each function. However, it is still possible within areas or designated floors.

With a detailed plan and clarity on the objectives, hot desking is a strategy that works for many. You may pilot it with a lesser number of employees. But given the pandemic scare, ensure all safety measures are in place before acting on your plans.

How to Implement Hot Desking, the Next Steps?

Going the hot desking way without technology supporting you would be unwise. Ad hoc desk allocations would lead to chaos and increase the threat of the virus. (Remember it stays on for 4-72 hours on different surfaces.)

Once you have ensured all safety measures are in place, you need to have the right technology to enable hot desking.
Hot desking requires a desk booking application, but it isn’t the only solution. You need to digitize your entire workplace management with a host of tools to reap the benefits of hot desking.

Here are a bunch of solutions that could make your hot desking strategy a resounding success:

1. If you have just begun, you need a return-to-office planner to streamline the process. A planning tool will help you decide the number of employees you need to call in on a given day.

2. A team planner can help you know employee’s availability to manage work schedules and seat availability better.

3. In the COVID hit times, you need to couple it with employee seat management to implement social distancing guidelines without adversely impacting space utilization.

4. For desk-on-demand, you need technology to know which seats are occupied and those that are available. Three types of solutions can help you do it:

  • Passive Infrared (PIR) Sensors: These are essentially infrared motion sensors connected to a central desk management system. It collects data in real-time and provides a list of available desks.
  • Image Sensors: Also referred to as smart sensors, these overhead detectors are used to determine desk occupancy, location, and count. Often a single sensor can monitor up to 10 desks in regular times sans social distancing.
  • Docking Stations: Unlike the other two, it does not involve an external sensor. Employees need to dock their laptops and enter a code for the seat to be marked as “occupied.”

5. You would also need an intelligent meeting room booking solution that readily integrates with your desk management solution. The seats left vacant during the meeting can be used for visiting sales personnel for an hour or two.

6. A cafeteria slot booking tool can help employees plan and schedule their visits in advance. By syncing it with the desk management solution, housekeeping staff can sanitize the desk space between the café visits. Also, employees do not have to worry about someone else taking it over in their absence.

Recommended Reading: 5 Features for a Hybrid Workplace Management Tool 

If you plan it well and leverage technology in execution, hot desking would transform your workplace for the better in the long term. Manual planning of hot desking and reliance on spreadsheets has proven to be grossly inefficient for many in the past. It is a brilliant strategy that works like nothing else when coupled with technology.

WorkInSync offers the best hot desking solution. You can opt for a demo to witness the full capacity of hot desking benefits.

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