How to Better Hot-Desk for Employee Satisfaction

Hot desking might sound trendy, but it’s been a workplace model since the 1990s. The concept focuses on workers taking any open desk available rather than being assigned to one specific space, cubicle, or office. With most of our technology portable — laptop, smartphone, tablet — it was a natural evolution that we wouldn’t be limited to one workspace when all of our equipment has been made mobile.  

It’s been steadily gaining in popularity within the last 30 years. A 2017 survey found that two thirds of companies were considering the switch.  And 2020’s dramatic shift to full-time work from home has led the remaining companies that may have overlooked the option to reconsider it. 

Today, as businesses adjust to a hybrid work model, with employees rotating in-office and work-at-home shifts, office spaces are becoming more and more deserted. It’s led many office managers to reassess their empty seats and office spaces. 

Businesses are always looking to cut costs and empty workstations have been a drain even before the hybrid model became popular. One calculation showed an average loss per year of nearly $20,000 just in looking at office vacancies due to vacation time away. Looking at the expenses that come with expansive office spaces, it’s easy to see why they would be an obvious place to minimize costs by shrinking their physical footprint. 

Before diving head first into hot-desking, it’s important for business managers to assess some of the implications to employee satisfaction. While cutting costs is always a priority, employee satisfaction, retention, and recruitment are also essential parts to any thriving business. No manager wants to cut office space costs, only to lose current and potential employees because of the environment that’s been created. 

Do Employees Need a Home Away from Home Space?

One of the key concerns with employee satisfaction and making the move to hot-desking is whether losing that personal “home-base” at the office will affect employee morale. Afterall, for decades prior, desk spaces, whether a cubicle or a luxurious office, were points of pride, decorated and adorned to the employees personal tastes and preferences. Take that away and did you remove some of the employee’s investment in the company? 

Not so, at least according to one study, which found personal dedicated spaces were less important to employees than “spatial factors,” such as how comfortable the workplace furniture was.

Avoid a First-Come First-Served Model

Employees can become frustrated, to put it mildly, if the office hot-desk model is based on who gets to the office first. This leaves some employees, like those on a different shift or those that have to drop a parent or child off at daycare at a constant disadvantage. Things can quickly spiral out of control without a good system, such as POC virtual Seating Allocation System, in place to allocate seating. 

Pilita Clark’s editorial piece from 2019 for the Financial Times describes some of the worst case scenarios of competitive behavior if hot-desking employees are left to their own devices. Everything from “claiming” a desk by way of a draped coat over a monitor to employees leaving for work hours before their shift starts to call dibs on a coveted workspace — can be avoided with a functional system that allows for oversight and reservations. 

With some studies showing that employees in an unmanaged hot-desking model losing up to two weeks a year on workstation searching, it’s essential to get this part of hot-desking right. 

Team Building Initiatives Help Keep Staff Connected

Some studies have shown a correlation between shared workspaces and employee disconnection. Without using the same space every day, employees can miss out on having “work neighbors” that lead to friendships and happier environments. 

To mitigate negative side effects, including what one study described as the loss of supervisory support, it’s important to set up times and activities that facilitate employee bonding and relationship forging. An effective managerial style and workplace culture improvements can be essential parts to easing the transition into hot-desking.  

Articulate the Benefits

It’s natural for employees to be resistant and wary of change. If management simply rolls out a new hot-desking model, throws a innocuous sounding label on it like “fresh desking” and provides little guidance, staff will likely respond less than enthusiastically. Instead they may focus on what they’re giving up — their familiar spot, their personalized desk arrangement, and their neighbors. 

It’s important to be proactive about the switch and prepared to answer questions. Highlighting these benefits to staff can help:

  1. Added autonomy – Let the staff know that their needs will be heard and effort will be made to give them the environment they need at any given time. They’ll be gaining the freedom of greater mobility and work-from-home options. 
  2. More equality – Hot-desking eliminates some of the office hierarchy of workstation status, making team members feel more equal and more valued.
  3. Greater collaboration – Hot-desking can eliminate the need to search for meet-up spaces within divisions and departments. It can give flexibility to work independently or with others.
  4. More options – Employees won’t have to dread getting stuck in a space they hate for the duration of their tenure. Instead, they’ll get to move around and not be locked into one space.

Activity-Based Work Works

Different types of work require different types of environments. Hot-desking holds the promise of allowing for greater flexibility in this regard than a static workspace. If some days an employee needs a quiet place free from distractions, in a hot-desk model they can reserve that. Conversely, when staff needs to work as a team to collaborate, that type of environment can be there ready for them.

It helps having a virtual reservation model, like POC’s Seating Allocation System to take the guesswork out of delegating spaces. One study found that staff may need some nudging to switch environments, making it important to have oversight over space allocation.

POC’s Seating Allocation System is a custom-made SAAS solution that can help transition a traditional team into hot-desking one and with this process can eliminate many of the headaches current hot-desking work environments encounter. Ending the hunt for free space with a user-friendly booking solution POC helps businesses optimize their seating space by implementing ‘use by need’ and assist with employee hot-desking satisfaction. 

With the Seating Allocation System, employees can reserve spaces, using precise office models, from the back end, the result is the ability to plan ahead and track employee seating with the help of agile tools and features. Thus, creating a more intuitive hot-desking strategy more grounded in the needs of the team. 

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