Hot or Not – Pros and Cons of Hot Desking

Man sitting in office with headphones and laptop

Modern times have brought about the re-evaluation of everything, and office space is not an exception.

People working in traditional offices fifty years ago, in their cubicles and closed offices would observe in complete shock the changes that have been made to their nice, secluded, personal sanctuaries.

Now, more than ever, the need for complete transformation has become obvious.

Due to the pandemic, traditional office spaces have to become a thing of the past. Modern times also call for re-designing office space, since all those employees coexisting in the same place at the same tame is a big no-no.

Hot desking has come a long way – from a revolutionary change, to a concept dealing with major health issues. Ever since it appeared, it presented a controversy. Many people praised them, and, on the other hand, many people dismissed them.

But what is all the fuss about?

What is Hot Desking?

Coworkers at desk

Hot desking as an idea appeared in the last decade of the 20th century and has had differing opinions surrounding it ever since.

It refers to a single space, usually a work table, shared by many workers during different time spans. It is based on the policy – whoever comes in first, choses the spot where they will work.

It was introduced as a way of making everything more efficient and getting rid of redundant office space.  Its synonymous expression is hoteling. However, these 2 forms of office seating arrangements have some differences.

When it comes to hoteling, people usually call to reserve a space, so nobody could use it. With hot desking, there is no such limitation. You are free to use the space whenever you want, as much as you want, except when the seat is not available.

One could understand how hot desking became all the rage with the increasing popularity of shared work spaces, open offices and working from home. The flexibility and many other perks of this type of working made it very attractive to companies wanting to make office spaces as productive as possible.

As in all other business-related matters, if you are truly considering hot desking for your business, the best thing you can do is take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of having hot desks.

Well, worry not, because we’re here to help.

Why Should Companies Consider Having Hot Desks?

If you are looking into hot desking for your business, you might already know that there are quite a few reasons for including hot desks in your business routine. We have listed a few:

1) They’re Affordable

We would have to agree that saving money in the time of Cov-19 is a prerequisite.

Many companies have had to close their business for good, and those who didn’t had to find every way possible to save money. Quitting long term leases, sending the majority of workers to work from home, and the rest to collaborative working space was the only way to go.

Having multiple employees sharing one place is extremely cost effective. For company owners, which very often have to lease office spaces at a very high price, this could mean cutting down costs in these turbulent times. That is why many coworking companies that offer co shared office space have become so popular. They have many perks, but hot desking certainly takes the cake.

2) They Stimulate Teamwork

Many people working at the same work station encourages collaboration, expressing diverse opinions and giving the employees the right push and inspiration to do their jobs more productively and successfully.

The positive, friendly atmosphere that hot desks radiate with will help you feel more comfortable at work, surrounded by your coworkers and socializing. Being together like that can seriously benefit overall communication among employees, which is definitely something every company needs.

By separating them in offices, you are destroying the possibility of people exchanging experiences and helping each other learn how to do their job faster.  Even if you think you couldn’t possibly have anything to talk about with the person sitting next to you, spending a prolonged period of time together will do its magic. You will soon start to talk about everything, which is a first step towards establishing a good and healthy relationship between colleagues.

3) They Offer Flexibility

Man working on laptop

Whether you decide you need to work with other people that day or you just need a space with all the needed gadgets so you can finish your work, hot desks are a choice for you. If you really want to sleep late in the morning, just come later to work.

Many find this type of arrangement, where they can come to the office whenever it suits them, very stimulating. The endless possibilities that this type of coworking space offers are definitely worth considering.

It was the need for flexibility that drove big companies away from traditional office arrangements to coworking companies, in the first place. Even though many doubted it, hot desks are actually rising in popularity against all odds, because of the fact that they have to be adjusted significantly due to the health measures.

4) They Satisfy the Basic Human Need for Socializing

Humans are social beings, and, therefore, need personal contact to exist, and to thrive. Having this in mind, and the fact that companies still need enthusiastic employees, stimulated by their surroundings, it is certain that we will not see the end of hot desks in the Covid-19 era. 

5) There is No Hierarchy Here

Although this does sound like the beginning of a dystopian young adult novel, we promise you, it’s not what it sounds like.

Well, not really…

Basically, it is a familiar fact that employees often avoid working with their seniors because they feel scared of criticism or some undesirable outcome.

Even when bosses opened their door to everybody, with the “open door policy,” it was rarely used. Hot desking allows people of all titles to work together, regardless of their status. Creative energy is the only thing you need to sit at this desk, and your ability to share that energy appropriately.

6) They are a Good Solution for Those Working Remotely

It is the simplest and the cheapest way for a company to accommodate employees such as people working part-time from home, or people that are mostly doing their jobs on the field.

So, instead of finding them in a shop or in the lunchroom trying to finish the needed ground work, it would be nice for them to have an option to actually sit at a desk and finish it.

On the other hand, since the company is not providing them with a separate office, it is saving money. It definitely is a win-win situation for both parties.

The Other Side of the Coin

Of course, as with most things in life, there are downsides to every little thing, including hot desking.

1) There is No Personal Touch

Woman stressed at office desk

How often have you managed to pull an all-nighter by finding the strength in the pictures of your family standing at the desk, smiling at you? Or the plant you have been nurturing for months?

Well, sadly, at a hot desk, there is no room for your personal stuff, since the seating order is not fixed. This means that, even though you are sitting at one place today, or even this week, it may not be the case next week.

Without a personalized space, where the employees put things that reveal information about their hobbies, families and interest, people can sometimes feel detached from the company. The feeling of belonging is disrupted and thus, the feeling of connection with other colleagues. In order to thrive, people need to establish a long-lasting connection, which is, in the case of hot desks, somewhat impossible. One day you may find a colleague that suits you and that you can talk to, sharing all the things you have in common, but tomorrow that may not be the case.

2) There are Some Disruptions

Not all of us are made with the nerves of steel, nor are we all able to withstand the background noise while we work. Even though hot desking represents an incredible wave of creative energy, some people just cannot function with many people around them, or many disruptions.

Not everybody is satisfied with people sitting around them, talking. Some of them just need their peace in order to work and to be creative. For that type of employees, hot desking would most likely represent nothing short of a disaster.

3) There’s Possibility of Conflict

Just when you thought meaningless quarrels form high school are a thing of the past, you enter the world of hot desking.

How, you may wonder?

Well, imagine living far away from the company headquarters and somebody who lives closer, and thus arrives earlier, always gets to sit at your favorite desk.

First come, first served policy of hot desking can be questionable, especially if you take into consideration that all the employees that work in the proximity of the office, are given an unfair advantage over the ones living further away. Then the ones living further away start going to work earlier in order to take their favorite seat, which is quite a nuisance and incredibly time consuming.

Or, imagine you ask a colleague to save you a seat, which, again, somebody else that came before you, wanted. Conflicts are bound to happen sooner or later.

Just like in high school.

4) There’s No Predictability

In today’s quite stressful times, everything can be a base for stress.

And stress leads to more stress, which then turns into a vicious circle that never ends. Not knowing where you are going to sit today, may increase your stress levels for the day.

Also, there are jobs that require predictability. If you take predictability away from employees, it can influence their jobs and their productivity.

5) Leadership is Put to the Test

Even though it is nice when you feel equal to your superiors in the company, it can cause some discomfort, especially for those whose aim is to prosper and get to that office on the top floor. Hot desking can have you sitting next to somebody that has much less experience than you. Some will not have a problem with that, but some will.

6) They Can be a Health Hazard in This Day and Age

Woman in office with face mask and hand sanitizer

Due to the pandemic, it almost seems like everything needs to go back the way it was.

Social distancing might mean the downfall of hot desks in their original sense. No excessive communication, regular cleaning and coming to work only if necessary are the main features of COV-19 managed office spaces. They would need quite a lot of adjusting in order to keep functioning.

But, it’s not impossible, and really, no one would advise against hot desks, even now, because they are a tribute to team building and communication.

Fewer people working at a single work station, bars between them, a lot of cleaning liquids around and they are good to go.

Is Hot Desking the Right Fit for You?

The answer to this question comes down to individual needs of companies.

First you need to see what type of company you are. If you are a company that solely relies on contractors or other temporary workers, hot desks would be a perfect choice of office space for you.

However, if you have more regular workers, you may considers providing them with more stability, even if you decide to adopt the hot desking culture. In the end, what matters is providing people with a variety of options. Yes, hot desking has some amazing perks, but it is not for everyone.

Hot desking in the Cov-19 era, with so many people sharing work stations, is clearly not a desired solution for employees, not in the traditional sense, at least. Many changes have to be made to the seating order, time spans for each employee, and, of course, the level of cleanliness, which needs to be of utmost importance.

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