By now, most business owners will have heard of hot desking, but with so many mixed reviews out there – how do you know if it’s right for your company?

Read on to discover some of the reasons why hot desking doesn’t work for certain people, and whether it may actually be a bad idea for your business to introduce it.

What is hot desking?

Hot desking involves ridding all employees of their assigned desks and creating a ‘free for all’ seating system instead. There are many variations of the concept, but in its purest form, staff turn up to work each morning and take a seat where they can on a first come first served basis.

One of the key benefits of hot desking lies around cost-cutting for employers. It’s thought that at any one time up to 40% of staff may not actually be in the office due to sickness or holiday, meaning businesses can save money by cutting down on the size of their offices (and the number of desks they house). There are other benefits too – ones that can be felt by the employees of a company – but as will all things in business, what works for one may be the ruination of another. You may fall into the latter category if…

You employ more than 50 people

That’s not to say that hot desking never works for companies larger than this number, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the more staff you have, the more likely you are to end up finding a logistical nightmare on your hands.

If your business is housed over three sprawling floors with hundreds, or even thousands of staff, you may end up losing a serious amount of productive time per week, with staff struggling to find key team members or even an appropriate place to sit. This could be overcome by offering dedicated and limited hot desking areas instead, while still letting staff retain their core workstations.

You don’t want your staff working from home

By nature, introducing hot desking means you’re open to your staff enjoying a more flexible way of working, one where you don’t necessarily know where they are all the time. By that logic, you should also be happy for them to occasionally work from home (if they’re hot desking in another part of the office you may not see them all day anyway).

But if you don’t like the idea of your staff being able to work remotely, you may find yourself dealing with disgruntled and disheartened employees. Not only do they not get the benefits of a permanent desk but they’re also forced to come to the office each day and sit somewhere they potentially don’t want to. It’s a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-kind-of-situation that should definitely be avoided.

You have a high turnover of staff

Whether junior or not, new employees often rely on ‘training on the job’ in their first few months at work. Aka, they need to be able to ask regular questions to the relevant people in order to learn the ropes of their new role. But if they’re sitting in a different place with different people each day, this process may be hindered significantly. 

You rely on regular quick staff meetings

Imagine trying to gather ten people from all over the office for a quick two minute catch up. It could end up taking twenty minutes in total, which soon adds up if you’re having to do so regularly throughout the day. If your teams are all seated strategically, on the other hand, all it takes is a quick swivel of chairs to gather everyone’s attention. 

Your staff spend more time in the office than away

Hot desking often works best in teams or companies that are focused around things like sales, or other lines of work where staff spend a lot of time visiting clients at their offices. If your employees don’t have much reason to ever leave their own desk, however, it follows that hot desking may not be the best idea. For example, web developers who carry out 90% of their work online with the occasional call to a client may be better off setting up shop in a permanent place they can call home.

Some alternative hot desking solutions

Still not sure whether hot desking is right for your company? Here are a couple of alternative solutions that might just provide the perfect half-way house…

  • Introduce dedicated hot desking areas – a select number of desks or even sofas where people can go to sit if they feel like getting away from their desks.
  • Limit hot desking to certain teams – for example, your sales team and client services team.
  • Incorporate a coworking space to your business – give your employees a chance to do the ultimate hot desking by going to a different office location occasionally, while also retaining their core desk in the permanent office. 

Hot desking has many benefits, including creating a more agile, motivated workforce, saving money and eradicating older, often more stifling ways of working. But it has its downfalls too, and so should never be entered into on a whim. Most importantly, hot desking shouldn’t be introduced without first consulting your employees. It is them, after all, who will be affected the most. 

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