In the past, office organization followed a straightforward layout. The typical employee was assigned a cubicle and dedicated desk, and that would likely remain their workspace until they were promoted or moved to a different department.
But over the past two decades, the look and feel of a productive office design has changed dramatically. In the name of improved collaboration, increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and a more integrated workforce, many enterprises have transitioned away from the old model. Instead, they’re adopting an open-plan office concept that utilizes a method known as hot desking.
Have you considered deploying a form of hot desking or hoteling in your own office?
If so, before you initiate such a measure, you should first carefully weigh the hot desking advantages and disadvantages.
What Is Hot Desking?
Hot desking is a modern workplace organization system where desks aren’t assigned to specific employees.1 Instead, a workstation is utilized by various employees at different times throughout the day, on an ad-hoc basis.
With this approach, the employee has the power to decide where they work within the office.
But the flexibility granted by hot desking isn’t just limited to the individual desks themselves. Thanks to an open floor plan, the entire office space can be easily reconfigured to fit specific tasks or team requirements to be as effective as possible.
Hot desking originates from the sailing term known as hot racking.1 On Navy vessels where bunk space was limited, sailors on different shifts would share the same bunk. While one was on duty, the other would take the rack, and vice versa.
Hot desking operates according to a similar principle.
For businesses located in cities where a shared workspace is an expensive commodity, hot desking ensures that the existing office space is fully utilized around the clock by employees on different shifts. Done properly, it can increase desk efficiency and reduce a company’s capital investment costs.
How Does Hot Desking Differ from Hoteling?
Hoteling is often mistakenly used as a synonym for hot desking. While they operate on a similar principle, they’re not the same practice.
The benefit of hoteling is that it takes the general concept of hot desking and adds an element of scheduling. Workstations operate on a reservation system. So, if an employee wants to use a desk, they’ll need to sign up for it.
Such a system provides the same flexibility of hot desking while adding structure, which is especially important for enterprise-level companies.
For a more comprehensive look at hoteling vs hot desking, make sure to read up on the topic to familiarize yourself with the two different seating arrangement systems.
What Are the Benefits of Hot Desking?
Hot desking has been tried and tested since the 90s, and has only grown in popularity since.1
But what advantages can be gained by installing this office management system? Let’s examine a few:
Compared to the conventional office setup, hot desking can be far more cost-effective.
Under the traditional office setup, a business requires an office space large enough to accommodate every single employee’s assigned office, cubicle, or dedicated workspace.
Such a system may have worked in the past with a fully in-person office, but it doesn’t fit well with today’s hybrid environment where employees may come in and out throughout the day and night. According to Deloitte’s The Workplace of the Future:
“Most of the companies in our survey eliminated fixed desks and are now using hot desking, which further reduces the number of desks required. By 2020 the number of fixed desks for every ten knowledge-intensive workers is expected to decrease from eight to seven. The overall office space in companies will therefore fall.”
By reducing the office’s square footage and the number of desks and related supplies, you can reduce the costs of running an office by as much as 30%.3
More Employee Interaction and Collaboration
In an assigned office space, an employee is more likely to interact with the same few people every single day—specifically, those in a person’s immediate proximity. But such a setup can create an insular workplace where you might “work with” another person for years without ever having a meaningful interaction.
A hotdesk layout can change that. It acts as a structural icebreaker that encourages employees to interact with everyone in the company. Basically, hot desking work creates what Harvard researchers dub “collisions.”4
Collisions are random encounters between various people within and without an organization. Such unplanned, crossfunctional interactions can dramatically boost performance and creativity. Furthermore, according to the same researchers:4
“Spaces can even be designed to produce specific performance outcomes—productivity in one space, say, and increased innovation in another, or both in the same space but at different times.”
Increased collaboration can bolster a business’s productivity and profits. Moreover, it’s an essential way you can foster a robust and lasting company culture.
A Better Setup for Hybrid Workplaces
Do your employees operate on a hybrid work schedule where they split time between home, the road, and the office?
If so, hot desking is an optimal situation for mobile, remote, or traveling employees. It eliminates the pressure associated with “being at your desk” and combats stratification or infighting that could arise between in-person and remote employees.
A first-come, first-served basis system enables employees to show up and get to work immediately without having to worry about working in the right place.
With a normal office setup that uses assigned desks, half of the desks may be left vacant at any given time because employees are on a business trip, working from home, sick, or on vacation.
But a hot desk environment would eliminate much of the waste that would otherwise occur.
A Cleaner Office
When people have an assigned space, they tend to become more comfortable and less worried about maintaining a clean work environment. They may leave documents, notes, pens, food, and drinks scattered around the area. It’s their office or cubicle, after all, so they can decide how tidy the space will (or won’t) be.
But clutter can cut down on productivity—and it can also contribute to employee conflicts.
With hot desking, workers are encouraged to leave no trace—to make it look as though no one was working there—and to be respectful of other employees who may use the workstation after them. Since someone else may use that space next, it’s only right to leave the desk presentable for them.
This is a more fastidious approach toward ensuring workplace cleanliness.
An Equalized Workplace Hierarchy
Hot desking can eliminate the managerial hierarchy of the traditional office space, making for a more egalitarian workplace. When everyone is intermingled, you can break up entrenched structures and facilitate collaboration across all departments and teams.
For example, an intern could sit next to and learn from an employee who’s been with the company for decades—someone who they may otherwise have never had a reason to interact with.
This setup can be especially useful for senior staff who are often in meetings or on the road, and, as a result, don’t spend much time at their desk.
What Are the Potential Drawbacks of Hot Desking?
Depending on your business, hot desking may not make for the ideal office environment in spite of the benefits above. Some companies have experienced issues that caused them to rethink this approach, such as:
- Conflict over limited space – Although this issue can be largely avoided with careful space planning, there may be times when there are too many employees in the office and not enough desk space. Or, employees may jockey for the best spaces. This potential problem is why many businesses opt to transition from hot desking to hoteling.
- Less personalization – Some employees prefer to have a space that is their own—a place that they can personalize, leave items, and return to for a sense of routine. Hot desk setups can make an employee feel like an office drone, since the setting tends to be sterilized and impersonal.
- Collaboration issues – If your workflows require you to interact with the same people daily, the constant desk shuffle can cause frustration since you will constantly have to track down those people in a new spot.
- Hierarchy disruption – While this can be positive, it may also cause its fair share of negatives. Having an established business hierarchy and chain of command is an important way for many businesses to ensure that the company is operating at peak efficiency. For companies that lean heavily on the delineation between employees, managers, and C-suite executives, such a setup could impede business operations.
- Lack of routine – Some employees prefer to have a routine they follow each day. Constantly changing up workstations can impede their ability to settle into that daily process.
- Increased strain on IT – Although hot desking can reduce many of your capital investment costs, it may increase the costs of your IT department. More will be required of the IT team since they still need to monitor workstations and network security even as employees shuffle from station to station.
Design the Optimal Hot Desk Setup with Juniper Office
Hot desking is one part of the broader trend of the decoupling of the office and its workers. It empowers employees, granting them the freedom and flexibility to move around the office as they see fit. Designed properly, such a system can increase a hybrid office’s productivity, reduce costs, encourage employee interaction, and support office cleanliness.
Do you want to install a hot desk setup in your office?
At Juniper Office, we can help you design and furnish the optimal hot desk solution for your company’s unique needs. You can meet with our design team to build a space custom-made for your business—so that you can enjoy all of the benefits of hot desking without the potential drawbacks.
Contact us today to learn more about our design services or office furniture.
- Management Today. Hot-desking: hot or not? https://www.managementtoday.co.uk/hot-desking-hot-not/article/1334680
- Deloitte. The Workplace of the Future.2 https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ch/Documents/consumer-business/ch-cb-en-the-workplace-of-the-future.pdf
- Verdict. The Effectiveness of Hot-desking: Is This Really the Future of the Workplace? https://www.verdict.co.uk/effectiveness-of-hot-desking/
- Harvard Business Review. Workspaces That Move People. https://hbr.org/2014/10/workspaces-that-move-people