Hot desking, also known as hotelling, is a flexible working arrangement in which employees do not have a dedicated desk or workspace and instead use any available seat or area within the office.
This approach allows organizations to make more efficient use of their office space and can lead to cost savings, increased collaboration, and improved flexibility for employees.
However, for human resources (HR) professionals, implementing hot desking can bring with it a number of challenges. Here are several considerations for HR managers to think about when looking to implement hot desking in their organization:
The single most important consideration when implementing hot desking is ensuring that employees are on board with the change. This means communicating the benefits of hot desking clearly and providing training and support to help employees adapt to the new way of working. Here is a short list of some of the benefits that hot desking brings to employees:
To make hot desking work, employees need to be able to easily find and book available desks. Hot desking that relies on a “free for all” when employees arrive at the office is doomed to fail.
HR managers can avoid this through the use of a desk allocation and booking system, which allows employees to see which desks are available and when. Ideally the system will allow employees to check (and reserve) desks before they leave from home.
Hot desking can raise concerns about privacy and security, especially when it comes to sensitive personal information. HR professionals should work with IT and security teams to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect employee privacy and data security. These requirements will be different for every workplace but here are some common considerations:
1. Making sure the system has a different level of data access available to guests, employees, and administrators. Not all functions will need access to all of the data.
2. Making sure that automated off-boarding procedures are in place to ensure employees don’t continue to have access after they have moved on from an organization.
3. Establishing early on what data needs to be included in a hot desk booking system and what data is not necessary for other staff to find. For instance, it can be useful for staff to be able to find someone who speaks a certain language, or one who has the right credentials to be legally able to witness a document. However, it is unlikely that it would be necessary to know an employee's age, date of birth, or home phone number.
Another challenge when implementing hot desking is figuring out how to handle storage and filing for employees who no longer have a dedicated desk. Cloud storage offers an obvious alternative to paper files, but where it is necessary to use physical assets, lockable cabinets can be provided at a departmental level.
At an individual level staff will need access to lockers where they can leave laptops, a change of clothes, non-refrigerated food and other personal items.
With hot desking, employees are likely to be sitting at different desks and using different equipment. It's important to ensure that employees have access to ergonomic equipment and that they are trained on how to set up their workstations for optimal comfort and health. It certainly helps with adoption if the majority of the furnishings are relatively standardised. That way employees don’t need to learn to operate multiple types of chairs, standing desks, docking stations etc.
It is also important to carve out spaces for employees who have special physical needs, such as those who require access to wheelchair accessible workspaces and bathrooms.
If your organisation is using a desk allocation system, you should be able to have administrators or heads of department reserve certain spaces for certain people on an as-needed basis.
Hot desking requires a level of flexibility from employees and HR professionals should be prepared to provide flexible working arrangements that support the needs of different employees. This may include offering employees the ability to work remotely or at different hours, depending on the nature of their role.
In smaller organisations it can be easier to allow staff to define the limits of this flexibility for themselves. However in most organisations HR Managers should consider which decisions need to be made at an organization level, versus which decisions should be made by department and team managers, and which need to be left to individual employees.
Implementing hot desking can bring a number of benefits to an organization, but it can also be challenging. By carefully considering these seven key factors, HR professionals can help ensure that the transition to hot desking is a smooth one and that employees are able to adapt and thrive in this new way of working.
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