The workplace has always been filled with changes and new trends, some of them more popular than others. As flexibility in the workplace grows, a new office trend has begun to develop, commonly known as “hot desking,” wherein employees move around to different workstations, rather than having a permanent desk of their own. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has made such a significant impact on the world of physical workspaces, hot desking is drawing more attention. Will COVID-19 eliminate hot desking? Or could the pandemic actually inspire greater use of this flexible approach to a physical office?
What Is Hot Desking?
The concept of hot desking has slowly entered more workplaces over the last decade, primarily in situations where companies are looking to eliminate the more traditional office model. Gone are cubicles and desks with fixed landlines. The new goal is a collaborative workplace where individuals from different areas and backgrounds can work more closely together, promoting a more creative and flexible office setting. In general, hot desking works by allowing individuals to work where and when they want. Hot desking represents an organizational workplace system in which employees use desks at different times. This type of system helps to maximize workspace efficiency and enables offices to function with less real estate. While all hot desking situations are somewhat different, they share a few common features.
Most hot desking setups offer shared WiFi, a place to take calls (whether in a private phone booth or with a permanent phone connected to a desk), larger meeting rooms that people can book; a central area with a printer; a locker or other space to store personal items during the day; and in some cases an additional monitor, VGA, or HDMI connection. Hot desking setups can be found in private companies and in collaborative shared workplaces (similar to WeWork).
Greater Collaboration and Creativity
The benefits of a hot desking setup go well beyond simply a more efficient use of space in the office. Hot desking is associated with greater collaboration, creativity, and innovation. Whether it is in a private office or a collaborative workplace, hot desking brings together individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds and specialties, often leading to fresh perspectives and new opportunities. Particularly in a co-working environment, hot desking leads to more social interaction with individuals focused on other specialties. People often meet new partners, clients, and even investors through hot desk introductions. Research has shown that hot desking is valuable in forging new business relationships and promoting entrepreneurship, as well as helping to drive innovation. In this environment, people can work whenever and wherever the inspiration strikes them, and they have an opportunity to work with and share knowledge with whomever might be working nearby.
Hot Desking Amid the Pandemic
The shared nature of workspaces in a hot desking situation has raised some concerns from various groups about the safety of such a setup amid the global pandemic. Recent guidance has suggested that companies avoid this type of setup altogether due to safety concerns with shared office equipment and social distancing in an open office setup. In the past, remote working setups and hot desking went hand in hand, as offices minimized the number of employees coming in for regular in-person office hours and increased the number of people working from home. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many offices have concerns about the safety of such a shared environment. And of course, by definition, such a setup commands less space than a traditional office (especially since part of the idea is to maximize space and limit unused real estate).
However, others believe that a hot desking setup could actually improve the working situation and gain popularity in a post-pandemic world. There are many ways that this setup could be made safer for employees, including increased cleaning protocols and pre-booking a desk in advance for the entire day. With remote workers becoming more common, flexibility in the office is essential to the workplace of tomorrow. Hot desking may remain an integral part of this new office setup, allowing employees to have a space to set up if and when they need to come into the office space for a meeting.
The Future of Offices
Research indicates that as many as 90% of employees may be considering continuing to work remotely at least one or two days a week in a post-pandemic world. With people demanding more flexibility than ever, organizations will be hard-pressed to provide a dedicated space for every employee. Hot desking can provide companies with a simple solution to this dilemma. Workers could book desk space in advance, allowing them a place in the office when they need it, while improved cleaning procedures could help to ensure staff safety.