The Hot Desking Debate: Is It Productive for Employees?

August 19, 2022

We’ve seen many changes to working practices over the past few years. As companies move towards more flexible ways of working, hot desking is one such practice that has risen in popularity. It’s been cited for being an effective solution to capacity issues in offices, but others have questioned whether it helps with employee productivity.

Here, we investigate hot desking, looking at the pros and cons to determine whether it could be a viable choice for your business.

Table of Contents

What is hot desking?

Hot desking is a system where employees do not have their own, permanent desk. Instead, they will pick a desk to work at each day or be given one based on availability. This system often works in tandem with flexible working arrangements, when a certain number of employees may be working from home or offsite at any given time.

The pros of hot desking

There are many advantages to hot desking, which all kinds of businesses could benefit from.

Lower costs

One of the main benefits of implementing a hot desk policy at your business is that you can cut costs. Hot desking will usually be combined with flexible working or shift work, meaning that you won’t have every employee in the office at the same time. Instead of having empty desks for those that aren’t on-site, you can spend less money on rent by operating from smaller premises.

Better collaboration across departments

Hot desking encourages networking and collaboration. Employees will find that they sit next to different co-workers every day, or they can specifically plan to book seats next to people that they need to work with that day. This can allow for more efficient working, saving an employee time having to walk to different desks, and allow for better communication, with face-to-face conversations instead of email correspondence. When people are given the opportunity to work with different people, they may also find they can be more creative, as well as improving the social culture within the office.

Allows for flexibility

Hot desking sets the tone for flexible ways of working. Employees will be used to being mobile rather than tied to their desk, allowing them to choose where they work from. People who are able to work flexibly are often happier and more productive, as they’ll be able to choose the best location and time to carry out their work efficiently.

Hot desking also evens out the playing field for remote workers. When there is no longer a requirement for people to be seen at their desks, everyone can benefit but the change in working culture will significantly benefit remote workers. Everyone will be working to communicate more effectively, rather than just with the people who are in their immediate physical vicinity.

More efficient working

Hot desking encourages employees to work in a more streamlined way. When people have to pack their desk up at the end of every day, they’ll likely be more organised and allow less clutter to build up in their workspace. A tidy workspace will mean employees can work more productively, helping people to focus and work efficiently.

Option to have different desk types

Hot desking allows for an office setup that incorporates different types of desks, including standing desks, sitting desks, individual areas and collaborative working spaces. People will have the freedom to choose what type of workstation they require on any given day, allowing them to work most productively. This is unlike in traditional office setups, where people are stuck working at the same workstation in the same environment no matter what sort of work they are undertaking.

The cons of hot desking

Whilst hot desking undoubtedly has potential advantages, there are also some drawbacks to working in this way.

Challenges to communication within teams

If your employees are used to sitting with their team or department, separating them could cause communication problems. Teams may find it harder to work together when there is a physical distance between them, instead having to rely on digital communication. This can be a difficult change for some people to adopt.

Disruption to routine

Some people may find it difficult to have to set up their workstation in a new place every day. This can be disruptive and also mean time is wasted at the start and end of every day preparing and packing up equipment. People might also find it tricky to adapt to working in a new environment every day, especially if they have been used to being in one location for a long time.

No allowance for personalisation

Hot desking does not allow anyone to personalise their workspace. This can have a negative effect on productivity, as people will not be able to work in an environment that they’re comfortable with. When employees are able to put their individual stamp on their workspace, they will usually be happier and so be able to work more productively.

Stricter cleaning policies required

Contamination may be a concern for employees who are hot desking. Stricter cleaning policies will be required to ensure individuals will be able to work at a clean workstation, without passing on germs and illnesses to others. Not only does the employer have a responsibility to look after employees’ health and wellbeing, but higher transmission of germs could mean in multiple people being off sick, which would affect the productivity of the business.

Limited convenient storage

When employees are hot desking, they won’t have the convenience of storing files and other equipment in their desk drawers or nearby cupboards and shelves. Instead, they will have to carry their equipment with them or use central storage and filing systems. This could mean less productive working, as people will have to spend time moving to another location to find the tools or paperwork they need.

Is hot desking right for your business?

Hot desking will not work for every business. You should speak to your employees and analyse your working practices to determine whether the benefits will outweigh any disadvantages for your company.

Hot desking will likely work if you have many people who are remote or hybrid workers, or if your employees work in shifts. If you do implement hot desking in your workplace, you will have to work on an efficient policy to ensure its success. You will have to decide what type of booking system you have, if any, and how priority will be given to each employee looking to book a desk.

If your business is likely to have every employee in the office at one time, or if people are reliant on working with their specific team members, then hot desking may not work for you. Your employees may require a permanent workstation with their department to foster productive working.

If you’re looking to gain more information on different types of working arrangements, including flexible working requests, we suggest taking a look at our article on flexible working requests. This article provides valuable insights into the legal obligations and considerations that employers should keep in mind when responding to flexible working requests from their employees. For readers interested in exploring how digital tools can assist with remote and hybrid working, we recommend checking out an article on digitising HR. This article provides insights into how businesses can use digital tools to streamline HR processes and support hybrid working arrangements.

If your company needs HR support, Vero HR can help. We can provide you with a dedicated HR services to effectively manage your workforce. Contact us to find out how we can help your business.

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