Have More People than Desks? Don’t Get Burned by 6 Hot Desking Pitfalls

May 18, 2023
Hybrid Work
Table of Contents
Have More People than Desks? Don’t Get Burned by 6 Hot Desking Pitfalls

TL;DR Article Summary

Hot desking is a workspace strategy where employees share desks, allowing for flexible work arrangements. While it offers benefits like space optimization and cost savings, challenges include: 

  • Technical Considerations: Integrating desk booking software and coordinating with IT teams present technical challenges.
  • Managing Change: Employees may resist the shift away from personalized desks, especially if software usability is lacking.
  • Hygiene Concerns: Maintaining cleanliness standards and providing ergonomic equipment become crucial for employee well-being.
  • Potential Distractions: Shared spaces may increase disruptions, affecting deep work productivity and requiring a balance of synchronous/asynchronous work.
  • Ensuring Fairness: Ensuring desk availability and fairness through clear policies and reservation protocols is vital.

Following in the footsteps of companies like Salesforce and Apple, Amazon becomes the next name to enforce a return to office mandate—requiring most of its employees to be in the office at least three days a week. 

Now, companies are seeing spaces—downsized during the pandemic—become too small for the influx of people. When Google asked employees to return to the office in February, employees had to alternate days and share desks with colleagues. And when Tesla ended all remote and hybrid work last year, employees flocking back to the office were met with inadequate desk space.

“The experiment on [fully remote work] is over… technology is not yet good enough that people can be fully remote forever, particularly on startups.” — Sam Altman, the Co-founder and CEO of OpenAI

Employers are calling for the real need for “real estate efficiency.” And despite the lack of office space, companies are mandating a return to the office, with CEOs often citing the movement as a means to increase employee productivity and engagement. 

Sam Altman, the Co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, said that “the experiment on [fully remote work] is over” and that “technology is not yet good enough that people can be fully remote forever, particularly on startups” without a loss of creativity. Amazon’s CEO Andy Jassy stated that “collaborating and inventing is easier and more effective when we’re in person.”

Needless to say, managing the return to office has been challenging, with some employees opposing the mandate and preferring the flexibility to choose when and where they work. 

In the annual ‘People At Work 2023: A Global Workforce View,’ ADP Research Institute found that workers with hybrid working arrangements were most satisfied with work flexibility, both in hours (60%) and location (62%). Employees enjoy coming into the office to socialize or to collaborate with their teams and colleagues, while taking advantage of staying home for more heads-down work. 

ADP Research Institute found that workers with hybrid working arrangements were most satisfied with work flexibility, both in hours (60%) and location (62%)

All these factors led to the rise of hot desking, where employees share desks with others. The concept of hot desking is simple, but the logistics of implementing it can be challenging without the right tools. From finalizing policies to managing expectations, here are six potential hot desking pitfalls to be aware of before implementing: 

1. Technical Considerations

Companies will usually need desk booking software to implement hot desking effectively. Integrating desk booking software may present technical challenges if you have specific requirements or unique infrastructure. Implementing a desk booking system requires time and effort to set up the software, train employees, and integrate it with existing systems or processes. That requires coordination with IT teams and proper planning to ensure a smooth transition.

2. Change Management Is Hard

It’s challenging for humans to adapt to change. Introducing a new system to employees may require change management efforts to ensure smooth adoption. Employees who are used to having an assigned desk that they can personalize may be hard-pressed to let go of that comfort. Additionally, if the desk booking software is not intuitive or user-friendly, employees may find it frustrating or time-consuming to reserve desks, which can lead to a negative employee experience, lack of use, and decreased adoption.

3. Office Space Management & Logistics

Hot desking requires a well-designed office layout and infrastructure to support flexible work arrangements. Organizations will need to consider if they have an adequate number of desks, appropriate seating arrangements, access to technology, and other amenities. Retrofitting existing office spaces or designing new ones to accommodate hot desking can pose logistical challenges.

4. Hygiene and Well-being Issues

With increased desk sharing among multiple employees, it becomes critical to clean these spaces regularly to maintain hygiene and sanitation standards. Setting up a Hygiene and Sanitation Standards Checklist helps ensure that all employees follow the same protocol for maintaining office cleanliness. Additionally, employees who share desks may struggle to adjust their work environment to ensure their well-being. Providing ergonomic equipment, guidelines, and education on workspace setup becomes critical to mitigating potential health-related challenges.

5. Potential for Increased Distractions

The potential for disruptions increases when employees work in a shared space with others. Even though the casual “Hey, you got a minute” or “Could you look at this real quick” aren’t time-consuming individually, they can disrupt employees’ focus on their work throughout the day. That is especially damaging to deep work productivity, as employees can never find an extended period of time to concentrate. Explore how providing a blend of asynchronous and synchronous work can help your team stay collaborative and productive.

6. Maintaining Fairness and Expectations

One of the biggest hot desk problems is ensuring desk availability and fairness. Employees may face difficulties finding an available desk during peak times, leading to frustration and decreased productivity. Developing clear policies and protocols for desk booking while considering factors like priority groups, team needs, and reservation limits, can help address this challenge.

Will Hot Desking Work for My Team?

Hot desking is a flexible workspace arrangement that can adapt to meet the needs of all teams. 

If your organization is fully hybrid, hot desking allows employees to maintain a flexible work schedule that leads to better work-life balance. Employees benefit socially and creatively when they go into the office to collaborate with others, which can improve employee engagement and lead to more innovation. Days that employees work from home can be allocated for deep work, which can increase productivity and employee retention. A Stanford study conducted over nearly two years showed employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among those who could work remotely. 

If your organization is fully remote, there is still an opportunity to leverage hot desking for productivity and collaboration. While remote workers are not required to come into the office, they might still want the ability to do so for specific projects or on certain days. At a time when more Americans are experiencing feelings of loneliness, your remote employees can benefit from a physical space where they can socialize and collaborate with their colleagues when they want to.

If your organization is fully in the office, hot desking can still help to promote collaboration, flexibility, and efficient space utilization. Employees can work in different office areas depending on their tasks, projects, or preferences. Certain industries (e.g., highly regulated markets) can benefit from the ability to reserve specific desks and spaces in an office. In those situations, organizations can partition office areas depending on people’s job roles and levels of access to meet compliance.

Leveraging Hot Desking for Your Business

While hot desking offers flexibility and cost-saving opportunities for organizations, it is not without its challenges. From gaining employee buy-in to carrying out the logistics, navigating the complexities of hot desking requires careful consideration and proactive strategies. As the demand for hybrid work increases, hot desking may become an essential tool that answers the call and creates a workplace of the future. Therefore, organizations must address these challenges head-on to optimize the benefits of hot desking while ensuring the overall satisfaction and productivity of their employees. 

Looking to implement hot desking for your business? Check out these nine best practices to help you transition to hot desking. If you’re ready to start scheduling and booking desks and rooms, create your free Skedda account today.

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