Imagine having to work from the same place, day in and day out, and you feel like it’s starting to get uninspiring. Or maybe you’re constantly working from an environment that’s rife with disruptions, such as your home or a coffee shop, and you just want a place to work from to maximise your productivity. There might also be a project coming up that requires a place for you to collaborate and brainstorm with remote team members. There’s a solution for a lot of these issues that plague employees the world over, and it’s called ‘hot-desking’.
Hot-desking has become a hot topic with the entrance of coworking into the mainstream. It’s not for everyone however, as vocalised by many articles online about the downsides to hot-desking and why it will ‘kill your company’. Still, it’s gained a lot of popularity for good reason.
Hot desks are essentially unassigned workstations within a shared office space. By leveraging hot desks, companies can balance the need for flexible work with the benefits of a physical workplace. With this, they can gain 3 major benefits, as explained below.
The Three Ps: Participation, Productivity and Pliancy
By demolishing cubicle walls, hot desks encourage team collaboration with an open space where employees can actually see each other. It makes completing team projects and small meetings much easier.
Hot-desking also promotes cross-departmental collaborations. With increased access to their teammates' diverse range of skills, employees are able to come up with innovative ideas more easily. A paper from the Review of Managerial Science found that working from a shared space stimulates the finding of entrepreneurship, as well as teams and projects. CEO of Twitter and Square, Jack Dorsey, famously said:
‘We encourage people to stay out in the open because we believe in serendipity--and people walking by each other teaching new things.’
Sometimes, sitting next to the same co-worker everyday can be dull and stale, not to mention if it’s someone you don’t get along with. Hot desks allow you to switch up the conversations around you, exercising participation when necessary. Working in a space buzzing with activity may also improve productivity.
Ever wonder why you work better in coffee shops or the library? It’s not because of the noise level (although it's partly due to the ambient sounds in coffee shops) but who you are surrounded by.
A study on social facilitation explains this phenomenon of increased productivity and performance when there are people around. We tend to get more work done when there are passive spectators and the presence of others completing the same task.
The study also explains that we're more productive when we know we're going to be evaluated. We're afraid of disapproval from others that their presence triggers motivation to work. This proves the benefit of working with people visible around you - especially strangers.
Additionally, hot-desking allows for a change in environment when necessary. Productivity is very mood-dependent and stems from personal preferences in comfort. Would you prefer a place with more lighting or less? Noisier or quieter? Cooler or near a window with sunshine?
Hot-desking lets you choose your workstation according to your personal needs for that day. For example, someone who takes many calls a day would need a corner seat or close access to the meeting booth. Generally, employees will be more productive when they have the freedom to choose where to conduct work throughout the day.
3. Pliancy, also known as flexibility
Hot desks are a great solution for those in jobs that hold plenty of external meetings. They're also ideal for companies that give employees the option to work remotely, but still want to provide employees a space to work from when they choose to work from an office. With hot-desking, companies can offer the best of both worlds in flexible work, but also manage factors such as cost, time, and location.
Assigned workstations, especially from traditional office leases, can be costly if they end up not being utilized at all. They can be inefficient for companies if a fair amount of employees have external meetings, work on ad-hoc tasks that don't require a desk, or choose to work from home.
According to a Vodafone study, UK companies can save around £34 billion by freeing up desk spaces. Those savings that would otherwise go to unused space can be reallocated to growing the business instead.
Hot-desking minimises overhead costs by eliminating desks that are not used. It can even generate extra space when employees who don't need a dedicated computer setup can use laptops that are more compact and doesn’t take up as much as space.
Hot desks are a low-commitment option for companies and individual users since they can be rented for even as short as daily or weekly rates.
Also, compared to the long process of searching for a dedicated office that also tends to entail a long-term lease, booking a hot desk is close to instant. Companies can also make better use of their workforce's time by outsourcing office amenities. All in all, hot-desking saves companies the hassle of sourcing and managing office facilities themselves.
Companies have workforces that are split into different places for many reasons. This can be because of a regional expansion, a fair amount of employees that travel often, or a remote working policy for those not living close to a main office.
Companies can still give them the benefits of having a dedicated workspace wherever they need to be without the hefty price tag or commitment. This is possible with hot desk subscriptions from a workspace providers that have a large regional network, or an app like BOOQED that allows you to book hot desks on-demand in major Asian cities.
With the availability of hot desks, companies can hire and deploy employees across cities and countries while still giving them the best resources to work remotely. Hot desks make it possible to work from anywhere, with less worry for both the company and its employees.
To hot desk or not to hot desk?
Integrating hot-desking with your business strategy requires an open mind and a good dynamic between team members in the company.
One thing to consider when deciding on whether to try hot-desking is the size of your company. For larger companies, hot-desking within an entire main office can become inefficient in finding people, for private conversations and meetings, job-training, and more. However, hot desks can be beneficial for a subsection within the company, such as a sales team, or a remote engineering team that needs to occasionally work together from one place.
There is no right or wrong method to figuring out who gets to use a hot desk in the company, but it does need constant evaluation of individual and team satisfaction and performance.
Hot-desking doesn’t have to mean plunging teams into utter chaos. But, as with all things related to flexible work, it does have its pros and cons, and some getting used to.