How to Deal with Hot Desking Anxiety

Woman stressed at work

The trend of co shared office space is on the rise, despite the… unusual circumstances we’ve encountered this year.

While many have opted to work from home, many crave a semblance of normalcy, of coming into work and working at a desk with other people surrounding them.

That is why more and more employers are providing the option of hot desking.

While hot desking has been popular among both employers and employees in recent years, it has, unfortunately, given rise to another unfortunate side-effect – hot desking anxiety.

Although it is not the best side-effect (not by a long shot), it does tend to happen relatively often. That is why it is necessary to find ways to cope with hot desking anxiety, especially if that is to be your routine in the foreseeable future.

Why Anxiety is Undesirable at the Workplace

Man stressed at work desk

Now, we all know anxiety is common, but it is often not taken seriously as a problem.

And that, in itself, is a problem.

Anxiety can take a toll on every aspect of someone’s life, which, in turn, can take a toll on their work. Let’s face it, our work is linked to our personal lives in numerous ways. No one simply shuts off when they get home. And, since work is such a large part of our lives, it is important that we ensure that it is to our liking, as much as possible.

That is why anxiety is not a desirable outcome of a work day.

There are quite a few effects of anxiety in the workplace:

Higher Employee Turnover

If employees experience anxiety in the workplace, they are less likely to be satisfied with their job. And when that happens, they will try to find employment somewhere else. If you don’t consider this a problem, remember that hiring new employees and training them can cost a lot of money and time.

Missing Deadlines

A lot of employees fixate on deadlines as the cause of their problems, which actually contributes to missing deadlines altogether. And that, of course, is not something your company needs or wants.

Interpersonal Relationships Suffer

People that suffer from anxiety tend to avoid their coworkers, which can affect their productivity. Work in general is a collaborative environment in which workers benefit from connecting with their colleagues. With anxiety in the way, however, the workers’ performance will suffer in the long run.

The Company’s Image May Be Damaged

Word of mouth is a tricky thing. If companies have a higher rate of employee turnover, any potential employee will think twice before applying for a job there. And, it seems employees are nowadays more interested in having an engaging atmosphere and a collaborative working space than what their actual job description will be. If this is not something they see in a prospective company, they will turn right around and find employment elsewhere. Which means that a company will remain without the best of the best.

What is Hot Desking Anxiety?

Woman at work desk

When one reads such a question, it seems pretty self-explanatory – anxiety caused by hot desking, right?

Well, yes and no.

Hot desking anxiety can be caused by a mixture of things pertaining to this practice, but it can also be caused by one particular aspect of it. Here are some of the most common causes of hot desking anxiety:

Worrying Over Seating

In the case of companies that have flexible working hours, employees can come in anywhere from 7 to 10 am. And therein lies the rub.

As is the mantra of the entire hot desking concept – first come, first served – workers who come early will have the chance to take the best desks for the day.

But this only means that people who come later because they are probably more productive later in the morning do not have many options to choose from. So, instead of sitting where they think is comfortable, they end up sitting where they can.

And this is where anxiety kicks in. Some people are inherently uncomfortable with such changes and it seems that such a system does not account for those workers. Which, as we’ve already said, can lead to problems in the coworking space.

Setting Up Desks

It definitely is time-consuming to set up and plug in each and every day at a different place. Yes, this can be solved by using a laptop, mainly, but sometimes, depending on the workload for the day, workers have to connect to a second monitor, or even use the internet network directly.

And there is another issue here – problems at the work station.

Sometimes, in the case of hot desking, when an employee encounters a problem at that particular work table, they will simply move to another, without telling the IT department. Which, later on, causes problems for another employee using that particular hot desk.

No Personal Space

While it is deemed as one advantage of hot desking, not having a place to call yours, to put it bluntly, can cause anxiety in some workers.

Many employees spend a lot of their time in the office, and without a personal space, they may feel uncomfortable, which can lead to them losing focus.

Personalizing space is not that difficult – a trinket here, a photo there, even a potted plant or two. But, with hot desking, that is often not doable as no one is certain whether they will remain at that particular seat the next day. You simply cannot leave anything behind at the end of the work day when you’re at a hot desk, as the desk needs to be clean for the next occupant.

Many feel that hot desks are impersonal and in turn, this can cause employees to feel a lack of belonging to the company, which reduces company loyalty and motivation. And this can lead to even more stress.

Poor Memory

Unconsciously, people attach memories and associations to objects that are around them. This can aid memory in the workplace immensely.

Should they have an idea, even in the hustle and bustle of the coworking office, they might recall it if they see something that was near them when it first occurred to them.

On the other hand, if people move around often, they can get confused when trying to remember anything. Which is frustrating at best, and anxiety-inducing at worst.


Some believe that loneliness at the workplace is not that common, but many would beg to differ.

One of the main touted advantages of hot desking is increasing cooperation between employees. However, sometimes, workplace loneliness can become far greater than the collaboration aspect. Employees can be surrounded all day by their colleagues but still feel alone.

The sad truth is, when you move every day, it’s not exactly easy to build relationships with your colleagues.

This, of course, is exacerbated by the fact that technology is right there, at the tip of our fingers, and it can replace direct human communication. After all, it’s easier to send an email than talk in person to colleagues we need.

It may be quite uncomfortable to start a conversation with even someone from your team, let alone with someone from another department. This causes people to feel excluded or left out.

In addition, since people work flexible hours, most come and go at different times, which makes it even harder to build a connection. So, at the end of the day, everyone simply rushes home, without even chatting with their colleagues.

And, of course, this leads to workplace loneliness.

Finding Coworkers

Even in the case of assigned work tables, it is not always easy to find the people you need in a communal working space, let alone in the case of hot desking.

Which can prove to be a problem when there’s a deadline or some other pressing issue to be dealt with. You can’t leave a sticky note, you sometimes can’t even ask around, which simply adds to the already existing stress over the workload.

What Can Be Done to Deal With Hot Desk Anxiety?

Woman walking through city

No matter how daunting hot desking anxiety may seem, there are a few things you yourself can do to ease it, and they aren’t as hard as you may think.

But, it requires some reshuffling, so to say, in the spirit of hot desking.

Be as Organized as Possible

Yes, easier said than done, right?

But, simply put, when hot desking anxiety kicks in, it is really beneficial to have a structure in some way.

The problem with hot desking is you can’t leave little reminders and sticky notes here and there, right?

Well, in order to deal with ongoing work, try to keep a task list at hand, or put notes inside a work folder that you can easily take with you when you change your desk. That way, you will be able to access the necessary files when you need them, and you won’t leave behind anything for the next occupant.

Carry Only the Things You Need

This comes hand in hand with being organized and making a plan for the day.

It will be much easier to set up in the morning when you have fewer things to think about. Also, it will be definitely easier to clear your desk when you’re leaving.

Anything that you might need for the day, you can store in the personal locker you can get at the facility.

Bit by bit, you will have learnt how to reduce the number of things you need and be more efficient, perhaps with the use of technology. And this will lead to less anxiety and more productivity.

Take a Break

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should stroll around the premises whenever it strikes your fancy. But, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can use short breaks to change your surroundings. This will help relieve you from the anxiety and pressure.

In fact, while it’s important not to overdo it, as your work can suffer (let’s face it, it is much more difficult to return to a task once we’ve abandoned it than working continuously on it), even a short walk will do your mind plenty of good and enhance your mood.

But, also make sure that you get a proper break. Do not use it to simply browse the internet or go on social media, as this may simply increase the tension you’re feeling. You already spend your day looking at a computer, this should be a time to rest your eyes and mind and recharge your batteries.

What would be particularly beneficial is to take a walk near your place of work, especially if you have a park or any kind of green space nearby.

Take Every Chance to Socialize

Yes, we know, socializing itself can cause anxiety.

But most people are friendly enough at work and do actually want to chat a bit, even in passing. By talking to numerous people, you will effectively reduce anxiety this action causes you. Also, you may even find yourself with a work friend or two in the end.

This will reduce the feeling of loneliness you may have, and, depending on the size of the office space, who knows, you may even end up seeing that person often and form a solid work bond.

Personalize Your Desk as Much as Possible

Yes, hot desking is not too conducive to personalization, as you need to leave your workspace clean after the work day.

However, it’s easy to do it when you take the minimalist approach.

Every day, bring a few of your possessions wherever you go – this can include photos of your kids, your favorite mug, etc. Something small and simple, but something that is important to you.

You can effectively build a mini-personalized space every day, with a simple few additions.

Clean Your Hot Desks

This is particularly important at this time, when cleanliness is pivotal.

While most companies have a daily cleaning policy, it’s not difficult to be prepared yourself. Let’s face it, even before the pandemic, it was always good to have a hand sanitizer, some tissues and keyboard wipes at hand.

As the pandemic itself can cause anxiety, this is a way for you to feel in charge of your surroundings, when a lot of things seem uncertain. 

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