What Is Hot Desking?

May 06, 2015

Hot desking is where workers do not have their own permanent desks, but are allocated work space according to their requirements on an ad-hoc basis. In practical terms, it means sharing a desk with one or more other people. The desk is ‘hot’ because it’s being used all the time.

Employers with staff members who do not have overlapping shifts or who are out of the office most of the time to make more cost effective use of office space. This system of working is also well suited to firms who have staff who are frequently out of the office, like salesmen or service staff are out on calls. Their desks would not be used most of the time. Space within the building does not have to be set aside for them exclusively and permanently. This square footage costs money in terms of rent and overheads.

In the late 1980s office rental costs in major financial centres exploded. Hot desking became common where staff shared desk space or terminals. In the finance industry these would be occupied 24/7 by different traders following the global markets.

In hotdesking, the company provides a pool of fully-equipped desks which are occupied as required. Hot-desking is possible where a firm’s databases and services can be easily accessed via internet, wireless or telephone links.

Some people don’t like hotdesking as they prefer to have a desk that they can personalise and call ‘theirs’. It’s a sense of territoriality and personal space. It may also affect staff morale; if they have their own little corner they can call their own they feel more loyalty to the company. This must be balanced against the financial cost to the company of having empty desks during the working day. Usually, finance wins out over sentiment.

Also, with the advent of the internet, employees used to hotdesking can also work from home.

This can be more convenient, in that it allows more flexibility as to when and where work gets done. Employees can log in at home, check their emails and answer them, then come into the office to ‘touch base’, then go out again on a call.

The negative side is that people who really need a space to work may be pressurised into coming in early to work so as to grab their favourite spot, just so they can sit down and do a days work in comfort. In this case, the company should let people book their hotdesk beforehand. It’s silly if employees are fighting to get a place to sit down and work. Hotdesking is most efficient when it’s used to maximise use of office space which might otherwise be empty; not add more pressure to employees.

On the plus side it may increase interaction amongst employees who might not normally meet each other. People can also choose where they want sit; near a radiator or air conditioning unit or away from them. This can create a more comfortable environment, long-term. Interaction with colleagues can increase enthusiasm and thus, output.

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