When hot desking first came on the scene in the 1980s, it was fresh, modern – a faster, more efficient way of doing things. Many saw it as the antidote to the tired, traditional office: a sea of desks cluttered with files, dusty, framed photographs and coffee-stained mugs. Others regarded it as a threat to the personalization of the workplace, and a time suck when it came to finding a space to work. Hot desking anxiety became real.
A lot has changed since the 1980s. Faster wi-fi, cloud-based IT systems, and paperless office policies mean we are less wedded to our personal desks; our photos are on our phones, our files floating in the cloud – but it was Covid that delivered the kicker. Working from home had to become the norm and we all realized there must be a way to combine the benefits of home with those of the office: a more flexible approach, more tailored to teamwork than to presenteeism. The question: is hot desking part of the answer or dead in the water (cooler)?
On the one hand, if employees aren’t in the office 9 to 5, five days a week, companies that are looking to rationalize footprint will be reluctant to give them dedicated desks when someone else could make use of that space. On the other, sharing desks in the current climate conjures up a nightmare of health, safety and sanitization issues.
When it works well, hot desking encourages connection, creativity and collaboration between teams. It can lead to serendipitous encounters and break down hierarchies, with different departments and junior and senior staff sitting side by side.
An office set up for hot desking will usually have a clear desk policy, and studies show that an uncluttered workspace is good for productivity. No more messy piles of paper, Post-It notes and dirty cups. And because it works with fewer desks, hot desking can cut real estate costs, as well as freeing up space for breakout rooms or relaxation areas.
On the downside, it can take extra time to find a desk without clear indication whether a desk is available or not. In a post-Covid world, employees will need to be able to locate clean desks easily in order to feel safe and confident when hot desking. Also without an overview of where everybody is sitting, you may waste time searching for your colleagues – a 5-minute chat with a co-worker could involve a half-hour mission to track them down.
Before Covid, such policies were more about etiquette than anything else. Employees who were used to storing cycling kit under their desk, or leaving half-full coffee mugs lying around, needed a nudge to leave the space ‘as they’d like to find it’.
Nowadays, a hot desking policy is a much more serious proposition. Its rules, such as leaving your desk clear, keeping personal stuff in lockers, and not grabbing somebody else’s desk when they go to the bathroom, aren’t just about being polite; they could stop the spread of infection.
That said, a good hot desking policy should still be flexible, reviewed regularly, and reassessed in light of the latest legislation and guidance from the government.
If anything, the demands of the hybrid workplace will need companies to embrace a flexible desking approach on a much larger scale than ever before. But without a proper hot desk booking solution, it could easily become a logistical minefield.
Employees wandering around the office in search of workspace and co-workers, who may or may not be on the premises that day, will be both frustrated and coming into contact with more people than they need to, not to mention all the surfaces they’ll touch on the way, and relying on people to clean up after themselves when they’re done with their desk just won’t cut it.
The answer? An evolution in hot desking (now commonly known as ‘desk hoteling‘) that puts the focus on desk reservation, allocation, health and safety of your employees. Desk booking software, such as Chargifi Wx, is the key to managing hot desks safely and effectively.
A good hot desk booking solution should feature an easy-to-use app that allows employees to book a desk easily with the right amenities they need, check in when they get there, or even book a desk where colleagues are sitting nearby.
The software should also give space planners invaluable hyperlocal data that shows how often each desk is used, for how long and by whom to help monitor and enforce social distancing. Touchless check-in with a workplace app could also support contact tracing, which records who was using a given desk and who was sitting next to them.
With a proper desk booking software, you can overcome the drawbacks of the original hot desking model, enable employees to collaborate safely in their office environment by addressing health and safety concerns. Space planners can use insights from the usage data to load balance across the week, manage cleaning schedules with better forecast and quicker desk turnaround.
We’re witnessing a revolution in the world of work. Static, cluttered offices are making way for a new era of safe, flexible spaces. The pandemic has sped up this transition, releasing the real demand for dynamic, agile tools to manage workspaces in a smarter way.
Hot desking does have a future – but only if it’s backed up with a proper desk booking system. One that allows employees to book desk spaces wherever and whenever they need it, and to connect and collaborate with their team in a safe and productive work environment.
If you’d like a chat or a demo with one of our team to see how Chargifi’s desk booking software could help you meet the challenges of the new era of work, why not pick a time in our calendar to suit you?
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