The saying ‘everything old is new again’ is one that keeps cropping up, and the recent trend towards the return of hot-desking is a prime example. First introduced in the 80s, hot-desking involves employees no longer having their own office space, or even their own personal desk, the company creates a revolving desk roster that employees can sign up to on an as-needed basis.
Ideally, this prevents space being taken up by employees who might not use their desk regularly and increases flexibility in the workspace. But there are some issues with hot-desking, and before moving toward using this practice, there are some important things to consider.
As mentioned, hot-desking is intended to increase employee flexibility and make good use of space and is also thought to improve collaboration among employees. Employees can have the opportunity to meet people from other departments that they might not meet otherwise, which might create a more social office culture and a personal connection that might benefit cross-department work.
Hot-desking is tailored for a flexible and mobile office, and flexible and mobile employees, and depends on technology to make it run as smoothly as possible.
However, the practice requires careful management. While it might be an appropriate way forward for staff members who aren’t in the office very often, there are some health and safety issues that arise from multiple people using a single workspace over the course of a day.
For example, office workstations should be set up for the employee’s needs, and the appropriate equipment for each employee also needs to be provided. It’s also worth noting that there are hygiene and cleanliness issues that occur if employees are using the same piece of equipment, as well as psychological issues with being isolated from supervisors or colleagues.
There is also an increased risk of repetitive strain injury and related muscular disorders if the workspace is not set up just right, or if ergonomic office chairs are not used correctly.
Hot-Desking Ain’t So Hot
Unfortunately, no matter how well it’s managed, the simple fact is that most employees very much dislike hot-desking. Surveys have found lower levels of staff satisfaction in hot-desking environments, including irritation that there is no room for personal possessions, frustration over workstations that are thought to be in better positions, and annoyance about having to pack up and carry papers around, as well as over noise from colleagues in open-plan offices.
The perceived lack of privacy and the inability for employees to set up a ‘nest’ from which they can perform focused work are also significant issues. Taken together, these problems mean that hot-desking can actually decrease productivity. Significant time is wasted each day, for example, just in getting the workstation ready to use for each individual before they can be comfortable and perform a focused task.
And being able to really focus does seem to be the most important element in terms of increasing productivity – much more so than collaboration or socialisation. In ominous signs for the hot-desking trend, co-worker interruptions, visual and auditory distractions all combine to reduce the ability to perform focused tasks..
How to Deal with the Heat
If your company is determined to push the hot-desking trend, here are some questions you can answer for your employees to help them manage the change. After all, satisfied employees mean a better office environment, and more productivity for the company!
- Are all desks free to use? Do you need to book them? Are there restrictions?
- How does the telephone system work? Do land lines still exist? Is it transferred to a different desk each day? Or is everyone mobile now?
- Does everyone have a laptop, and if so can they be connected to all desks? Do your employees have roaming profiles?
They will also benefit from the following tips, which should be considered during any kind of workplace switch:
- Get organised by using a task list or tickler file
- Take the opportunity to reduce the amount of files
- Figure out how to store your reference material
- Make sure you learn which tools you use each day
- Ask what you need to do if you need some time alone
- Learn to focus and learn to deal with interruptions
Finally, these daily tasks will help them keep to a routine, which is crucial in this kind of flexible environment:
- Clean the desk to ensure a clean and tidy space, especially when there is illness going around in the office
- Change the desk setup, especially your chair and monitor height, so that you have an optimal work environment
- Enjoy being social by making contacts and learn about possible areas for future development
Featured photo credit: Morgan Lovell via morganlovell.co.uk