The trend of hot-desking which started in the 1990s is where employees do not have an assigned seating arrangement. This office space organization system involves employees using a common workstation during different time periods. It arose as a strategy to save space and to cater to the needs of people working remotely. From MNCs to SMEs, small scale to large scale, hot-desking could bring positive or negative results for your organization depending on how it is being managed. 

Advantages of hot-desking

  • Increased level of communication leading to more professional networks: Changing workstations encourages employees at different levels and in different departments to directly communicate – perhaps for the first time. This improves communication within the office and encourages healthy work relationships  
  • The ability to share workstations with different teams/team members everyday fosters collaboration and innovation 
  • Enhances the possibility of learning new skills: If you wish to learn specifics of a department, it becomes easier to work alongside an expert of that department 
  • Tidier workspaces: Changing workstations every day prevents employees from leaving their personal belongings behind and makes them more organized, promoting minimalism 
  • Reduced cost of space for the organization: Developing an optimized seating plan as opposed to traditional seating plan of per employee per desk, leads to saving up on 30% of the office space, according to Fischer & Kerrn
  • With emerging technologies and the increasing ability to work remotely, organizations are modernizing their office spaces giving employees the freedom to move around

Disadvantages of hot-desking

  • Loss of productivity time in setting up the computer, looking for a desk to work from
  • Risk of employees losing their feeling of belongingness due to lack of having their personal space in the office 
  • For large organizations, conducting short meetings/catchups becomes a time-consuming process if members of the team are sitting far apart  
  • Variability in seating arrangements may introduce new challenges, for instance, employees getting overly attached or territorial with regards to specific workstations, disagreements on who sits where or, some spaces might go unused because of their location 
  • Lack of privacy when working on confidential business matters, owing to the hot-desk layout 
  • But more importantly, hot-desking workpalces may actually be less hygeinic than fixed desk offices. A study by Initial Washroom Hygeine finds microbiological activity 18% higher in hot-desking environments. This means workstations are home to more bacteria. The use of the shared computer mice was a big contributor to the drop in hygiene levels. Hand hygeine by employees is critical to ensuring that illnesses are not spread. Businesses need to be equipped with hand sanitsation facilities, hand-drying equipment and hand sanitizer stations. Anti-bacterial wipes should be available to employees for application on IT equipment. Ensuring sanitary work conditions will go a long way to ensure businesses don't suffer a loss in productivity due to employee absenteeism. 

If done right, hot-desking is a great way to maximize space and create a flexible working environment. However, if your organization fails to manage this system properly, it could turn your workspace into a chaotic nightmare. 

Since hot-desking involves working remotely, this could help businesses tap into new markets and recruit better talent. Businesses need to understand that this system impacts productivity differently depending on location and industry. It is necessary to have knowledge about what the business demands and what employees think about hot-desking.   

Recruitment advice from Michael Page 

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