Hot Desk vs Own Desk: Is It Always Good to Share?

Hot desking is one of a number of modern workplace trends that can be loosely filed under the category ‘flexible working practices.’

In a nutshell, hot desking involves breaking from the tradition of making a desk available for each individual employee in an office environment. Workspace availability therefore becomes a matter of first come, first served, and so ties in well with business operations that encourage a lot of remote working – in other words, where all employees are unlikely to be in the building at once.

But does that mean that hot desking is only really suitable for certain types of business? And how does the loss of a personal desk make staff feel? Here, we think through some of the pros and cons of hot desking versus own desking, and try to highlight some of the key considerations business owners need to weigh up if planning a switch.

When hot desking makes sense

The major benefits of hot desking from an employer’s perspective are saving space and resources. A cramped office jam packed with desks can easily become a more organised, coherent and pleasant environment just by removing a good portion of the office furniture.

Advocates of hot desking claim all sorts of benefits arising from this, from helping to boost productivity to encouraging better collaboration amongst staffby having them mix with different people from day to day. But surely the biggest incentive for employers is cost savings – figures of up to 30% are claimed, arising not just from reductions in office furniture, but also in desktop IT equipment.

It is, however, important to qualify this last point. If you are using hot desking to support flexible and remote working strategies where staff spend significant amounts of time away from the office, you are likely to have to invest in personal laptops and mobile phones for everyone in place of desktop equipment.

Certainly flexible working is a natural fit for hot desking, where staff carry their essential equipment with them and move back and forth fluidly between offices, home or other work bases. It also makes sense if a company has a large proportion of part time workers, field and sales staff or operates in shifts, when there is a large turnover in terms of different personnel in the office at any one time.

Own desk comforts

Hot desking raises some obvious logistical issues which need to be thought through carefully ahead of adoption. The worst case scenario is that you end up with more staff in the office than you have spaces to sit and work. Careful modelling of staff ‘traffic’ in and out of the office would need to be carried out in advance, with the number of desks provided erring on the generous side.

Whilst hot desking supporters claim the switch to a de-cluttered, dynamic environment can boost productivity, that is by no means a universally accepted truth. There are plenty of people, for example, who would feel much more comfortable having their own desk rather than being unsure about where they are working and who they are sitting next to each day. This is a case of understanding and accommodating the personalities of your staff.

Finally, employers need to consider whether hot desking suits their purposes, aside from saving money on some office resources. A key issue is oversight, not just of the work being done, but of things like attendance and timekeeping. Another factor is, with so much fluidity in people moving around, is time being wasted on communications as staff search for colleagues they need to speak to? And how are things like team meetings managed?

Overall, hot desking has created a buzz in the business world as it shows alternatives to geographically fixed working practices are viable. But its main advantage – flexibility – should also be the watchword for any business weighing up whether to adopt a hot desking approach. The key is to organise work spaces and practices in ways that suit your business best, not simply follow a trend.

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