How to enable flexible desk management in a Covid-Safe workplace

Could a flex desk office be the new normal?

At the end of 2019, over 75% of workplaces globally were rolling out flexible desk strategies to enable more efficient use of real estate. Now, with Covid-19 accelerating the trend of remote working, flex desking is fast becoming a necessity to safely return to the workplace. In fact, as the result of Covid-19’s impact on real estate, 30% of all office space will be consumed flexibly by 2030, according to a JLL survey. 

Why? Simply because a flexible desk policy integrated with the right desk management software can increase the ratio of employees to desks. This can potentially reduce the real estate footprint significantly, while still encouraging a more collaborative working environment. According to a PwC survey, 30% of employers anticipate reducing their real estate footprint in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which means a higher demand for a smaller amount of spaces. So it seems flex desking is on the rise and essential to ensure employees have the spaces they need when they need them.

Maximum flexibility will be the guiding principle for the workplace in the new normal and employees will decide which space suits their needs. To reinvigorate collaboration you need a flexible workspace where your teams feel safe and comfortable and there are a number of different ways to achieve this. We explore and de-mystify the most popular here:

What is hot desking?

Hot desking is the most common flexible desk strategy where employees do not have assigned seats or any formal reservation system, employees simply choose where they would like to sit on a first-come, first-served basis every day. From the employees’ perspective, hot desking allows greater flexibility, without the need to reserve or check in/out. 

Does hot desking really work?

However, in a post-Covid world with more and more people working remotely and only coming to the office for meetings, hot desking could easily become a logistical nightmare without a desk proper reservation system – resulting in employees not able to find a space to work, ultimately discouraging them from coming into the office.

What is desk hoteling?

Another common flex desking strategy is desk hoteling, which allows employees to reserve the desk they want to use for the day in advance but still gives your employees the freedom to choose the space they want to work in. One of the main advantages of desk hoteling is the valuable usage and occupancy data facilities team can capture for planning purposes.

In theory, desk hoteling sounds like a better alternative to hot desking. But in the new normal, this approach can still pose a safety and hygiene issue to organizations with hundreds, or even thousands of desks in multiple office locations that now need to be managed, thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. According to a recent Gensler survey, 68% of employees would like to see a reduced number of shared workspaces because of safety concerns when there is no process or technology in place to track whether facilities are being used and then cleaned effectively before being made available for use again.

What is activity-based working?

Activity-based working is similar to hot desking. This model gives employees access to a variety of workspaces where they can rotate, including desks, huddle areas or meeting rooms. 

Activity based working environments have been found to boost productivity, as employees are able to work in spaces that are most suitable to their tasks. For example, they can work somewhere quiet to focus on individual tasks, or have the space to collaborate with their own team.

What are office neighborhoods?

Office neighborhoods break away from the confines of some of the examples above, and it closest to agile activity based working. They usually feature plenty of open workspaces, with a mix of private areas. While they appear similar to many open-plan offices, they feature communities of 30-60 people whose jobs revolve around the same interests or projects. Each office will feature layouts that are conducive to the employee’ needs.

Choosing the right flexible desk strategy

When it comes to making flexible desking work for your organization, whether that’s hot desking, desk hoteling,  activity-based working or office neighborhoods, success is all about the implementation and investing in the right technology makes all the difference. Companies need to have proper technology in place to support the transition to flexible working.

However, three big questions remain: 

How to create a Covid-Safe flexible desk experience? 

Employees need to feel safe when they return to the workplace and seeing clear measures in place to promote social distancing and additional hygiene procedures. Reducing touchpoints and clear visual communication are key components in any back to work strategy. There should be no doubt as to which desks are clean and available for them to use. 

Touchless desk check-in

Many organizations are already investigating how to reduce touch points in their offices, but some are looking at different touchless technology that does not require physical touch – for example, smart wireless charging that allows a one-touch action that triggers a number of smart experiences. 

When employees place their phones on a Chargifi wireless charging spot, they check-in and claim a desk, without having to speak with anyone or touching any shared screens, while simultaneously charging their phone. Going contactless will also help manage clean desk policy more effectively by keeping desks free of cables and easier to clean.

Visualizing desk occupancy status

For employees to be confident when hot desking, employees will need to be able to identify available and clean desks easily. Visual indications plays an important role here. The Chargifi LightRing, for example, uses the globally recognized traffic light sequence where green means ‘go’ and red means ‘stop’. When this is deployed across every desk, employees can see by glancing at the LightRings across the office which desks are available:

The Bluetooth Beacon inside each Chargifi Spot makes it easy for employees to locate available desks and the Chargifi LightRing flashes to welcome the employee to the exact desk. This is particularly useful for large offices or offices where some employees work only occasionally and maybe unfamiliar with the layout.

Once desks has been cleaned, the janitorial staff can simply place their fob key on to the Chargifi Spot to turn the desk green again, adding back to the pool of available desks for safe use.

Using data to optimize desk availability

With a lower office capacity in the new normal workplace, there is a greater need to use data to understand how desks are being used, and make better data-driven office space planning decisions moving forward. As employees make booking requests, facilities teams can access data on how different spaces and assets are being used. 

For example, Wifi APs or sensors can give you data on how many people are in an area and Chargifi Spots offers hyperlocal desk occupancy data. Analyzing this data helps pinpoint which desks and spaces employees use most – extremely valuable knowledge to ensure the reconfigured offices meet employees’ needs.

Supporting social distancing at work

With social distancing policy in mind, many organizations will need to rethink their office layout and desk planning. By integrating your IWMS systems with Chargifi Cloud, facilities teams can set social distancing and density rules to manage which desks are made available for employees to use. 

Chargifi’s hyperlocal occupancy data and floor plan view offers real-time desk reservation and occupancy data to help monitor and enforce social distancing. Touchless check-in with the workplace app also supports contact tracing through user authentication, which records who was using a given desk and who was sitting next to them.

By integrating Chargifi with your workplace management system, desks can be freed up for maximum availability. Workflows can also be customized to notify relevant teams and service providers such as cleaners, HR or facilities so that organizations can efficiently manage their workspaces with peace of mind.

Providing clean and safe desks is now a critical requirement for every organization that wants to welcome its employees back to the workplace. The right technology that reduces touchpoints and is visually intuitive can make a big difference.


Whatever strategy your organization adopts, we are here to help and make it work – get in touch with our team to get started.

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