Robert Hall Business Equipment

Hot desking in the post-pandemic workplace

From open workspaces to closed offices and everything in between, there are dozens of office designs in vogue in today’s workspaces. But as companies explore new workplace strategies as they weigh up how best to bring employees back to the office after Covid-19, many are exploring reconfiguring their workspaces to meet changing employee demands.

As businesses adjust to a post-lockdown world, many are contending with what the implications of continuing remote policies will be on office occupancy rates, in addition to employee needs in the workplace. Recent surveys have shown that employees want to go back to the office for three main reasons: to collaborate with colleagues, to attend in-person meetings and to have a quiet place for individual work.

This has led to some companies taking a fresh look at hot desking, which is a popular workplace practice among co-working providers and serviced offices, for their own dedicated and private offices.

Hot desking explained
Hot desking is a workplace strategy that started in the 1990s that does away with assigned seating for employees and instead offers them the ability to choose where, and how, they work within a given office environment. There’s no ‘fixed seat’ for a person and workers are free to work at any open seat, desk, table or workstation, which offers the flexibility and autonomy to select a dedicated workspace based on the work they’re doing.

Hot desking offers companies one way to reconfigure their workspaces with a focus on collaborative spaces while offering unassigned individual workstations. Businesses can also invest in designing a variety of unique workspaces that range from private rooms to open workstations, social spaces and meeting areas. So an employee who needs a place for focused, individual work can choose to work in a private room or at a desk. Conversely, an employee who needs to collaborate with colleagues can use a meeting room or communal area.

Pros of hot desks
Hot desking enables employees to choose where and how they work across the office, granting them a level of flexibility and autonomy that doesn’t exist in traditional office settings. It prioritises employee choice whilst at the same time enables companies to make more efficient use of their space offering enough workstations to meet average demand in the office and shed excess working spaces, if the need arises.

The role of the office needs to evolve to favour teamwork over individual work, and hot desking can increase collaboration and productivity. By its very nature, hot desking forces employees to walk around the office to find a workplace, and often ensures they interact with people they might not otherwise connect with. It encourages a creative environment where people get to interact, collaborate and socialise with other teams.

Cons of hot desks
Hot desking works on a first-come, first-served basis which means if you like a particular space then you have to come early to take that seat, or else it might not be available. If improperly implemented, it can lead to employees spending too much time looking for a workspace instead of actually working. Employees could therefore be likely to face difficulties in working well with one another. If the workspaces offered aren’t well designed, lack of privacy can also then become an issue as people don’t get their personal space with lots of activity around them which causes unnecessary distractions and hampers productivity.

Security, or lack thereof, is another challenge businesses encounter with hot desking. Due to the transient design of hot desking, poor implementations can make it hard for individual employees to securely store their personal belongings. But in the age of Covid-19, security goes beyond personal belongings and private workspaces. It also extends to health. Under a hot desking model, employees can choose where they sit, and swap desks as needed. This inherently causes health-related complications and social distancing issues in the coronavirus pandemic.

Stay safe and secure
Our furniture partner, Dams, provide secure storage areas perfect for hot desking and co-working environments, and it’s advisable for companies who adopt these work practises to offer similar storage areas for their employees, too. Their range of wooden and steel storage lockers cover a variety of storage solutions that cater for storing employees’ personal effects, clothing and possessions in all office and workplace environments. Lockers are the perfect storage solution for hot desking spaces to keep business premises not only functional but also clutter free.

With employees not having a fixed desk, this can actually lead to a cleaner, more organised, and professional-looking workspace that can help inspire productivity, focus, and engagement. Workers can finish their tasks for the day, leave the work area with their laptop and phone, collect their personal belongings from a locker and no clutter is left behind, ready for the next working day.

In addition to enhancing workplace security, lockers can also be used around pillars and posts in workplaces to help create zones in the office environment, by using the locker units as a dividing wall and a visual barrier between departments and working groups, perfect for the modern, hot desking workplace. And why not add a countertop to the standing height units for a casual standing meeting area, or even add an over-sized planter on to the top filled with greenery to complete the biophilic, natural workplace look.

Furthermore, companies adopting the hot desking model should also implement a number of health-related measures to ensure workplace safety. These include increased cleaning schedules, social distancing signage, hand sanitising stations, limited capacity in meeting rooms and place mats that indicate what workspaces are clean and available to use.

Plan for the future
The work environment is changing – both in design and purpose. Employees are re-evaluating how they would like to work – at home, in a coffee shop, in the office, hot desking, or a hybrid working model. In return, many businesses are considering what the impact will be of continued remote-work policies on office occupancy rates. More simply, as people continue to spend at least part of the week working remotely, many companies will suddenly find themselves with excess or unused office space.

Hot desking is emerging as a practical solution that provides employees with flexibility and agility in the office, and helps companies save money by making more efficient use of their office space. Like any new concept tested within a business, there are pros and cons inherent to this workplace strategy. But if it’s properly implemented, hot desking can also improve company culture by encouraging people from different teams to interact and breaking down barriers across the business.