Hot desking. The good, the bad and the flexible.

Hot desking, a concept that originated back in the 1990s but gained significant traction in recent times, promises flexibility, cost-efficiency, and enhanced collaboration. However, like any significant shift in workplace culture, it comes with its own set of pros and cons.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of hot desking. We’ll explore the basics, how to make it work effectively, and offer some guidance as to whether it’s the right solution for you.

First things first, what is hot desking?

Hot desking is a flexible office arrangement where workers do not have assigned or dedicated workstations or desks. Instead, they choose their workspace on a daily, ad-hoc or as-needed basis. Spaces are shared - employees don’t have a fixed desk that is exclusively theirs.

The pros of hot desking

Cost efficiency: Perhaps the most obvious advantage of hot desking is cost savings. By eliminating the need for a dedicated desk for each employee, companies can allocate resources more efficiently. Potentially, they can downsize their infrastructure and office space, reducing overheads like rent and utility bills.

Flexibility: Hot desking allows employees to choose their workspace on a daily basis. This flexibility can boost morale and productivity, as it caters to individual preferences and needs. Whether someone prefers a quiet corner for focused work or a bustling communal area for collaboration, hot desking can provide the variety necessary to keep employees engaged and motivated.

Enhanced collaboration: Hot desking can foster spontaneous interactions and encourage employees from different departments to engage with each other. When colleagues are not confined to specific workstations, they are more likely to network, share ideas, and work together, which can lead to innovation and problem-solving.

Adaptability: As companies grow and change, hot desking can easily adapt to evolving needs. It’s a great solution for businesses with changing staff numbers, seasonal workers, or remote employees who require intermittent office access.
Environmental benefits: Hot desking often leads to a reduction in office space and, consequently, lower energy consumption and a smaller carbon footprint. This aligns with the growing demand for eco-friendly business practices.

The cons of hot desking

Lack of personalisation: The absence of a dedicated desk may lead to a lack of personalisation and ownership. Employees may feel less connected to their workspace, which can impact job satisfaction and engagement.

Difficulty in finding a workspace: In larger organisations or during peak office hours, finding an available desk may be a challenge. Employees might waste valuable time searching for an open space, which can be frustrating and unproductive.

Loss of privacy: Hot desking can result in reduced privacy. Employees may feel exposed, making it difficult to concentrate on tasks that require deep focus. Sensitive discussions might be overheard, potentially compromising confidentiality.

Hygiene concerns: Shared workstations may raise concerns about hygiene and cleanliness. The increased number of people using the same desks and equipment may lead to the spread of germs, which is particularly concerning in a post-pandemic world.

Potential for disorganisation: Without assigned workspaces, employees might struggle to organise their work tools and documents effectively. This can lead to misplaced items, lost time, and decreased productivity.

Resistance to change: Implementing hot desking may be met with resistance from employees accustomed to a more traditional office setup. People may be attached to their personal spaces, and sudden changes might disrupt their routines and productivity.

Striking a balance

To make hot desking work effectively, businesses should carefully consider the pros and cons and aim to strike a balance that aligns with their needs and corporate culture. Here are some strategies to make the most of hot desking while mitigating its drawbacks:

Clear guidelines: Establish clear guidelines and policies to ensure that employees understand how hot desking operates. Provide guidance on desk etiquette, cleanliness, and personal space customisation.

Variety of spaces: Offer a variety of workspaces to accommodate different working styles and tasks. This can include quiet areas for focused work, collaborative zones for group discussions, and meeting rooms for formal gatherings.

Technology support: Invest in technology solutions like desk booking systems and mobile apps to help employees reserve desks in advance and find available spaces easily.

Hygiene protocols: In response to hygiene concerns, implement regular cleaning schedules and provide sanitisation stations throughout the office.

Employee feedback: Continuously seek feedback from employees about their experiences with hot desking. Make adjustments based on their input to ensure that the system works for everyone.

In brief, hot desking brings cost-efficiency and flexibility but may pose challenges like workspace availability, lack of personalisation and privacy, and potential disorganisation. To make this system work effectively, it’s important to set guidelines, provide diverse workspaces and gather feedback to ensure everyone’s happy. Balancing these aspects can create an efficient and fit-for-purpose workspace that suits various needs.