Hot Desking: The Pros and Cons

hot desking
What is Hot Desking?

‘Hot Desking’ (also known as flexible work), refers to a working arrangement where employees in an organisation have no assigned workstations. Desks are allocated on a first-come first-served basis. As opposed to the traditional office set-up, workers have more flexibility over where they decide to work in an open-plan office.

The practice of hot desking has been adopted by a number of multi-national companies, including Deloitte and Microsoft. A 2016 study conducted by Deloitte found that “By 2020 the number of fixed-desks for every ten knowledge-intensive worker is expected to decrease from eight to seven”.

Why is it so popular?

Flexible working arrangements are certainly a thing of the present. As more people have the option of working remotely from home or outside office hours, hot desking seems like the practical solution for employees who don’t require a permanent desk.

Organisations may also view open plan offices and hot desking as a way of cutting costs and enhancing collaboration, innovation and communication, leading to an increase in workplace productivity.

Pros of Hot Desking
  • It’s more cost-effective – Hot desking is an effective way for organisations to save on overhead costs. As less office space is being used, organisations invest less on expenses such as desks, office materials, electricity, etc, and can redirect these savings on to more useful resources. It also allows workers to use vacant space more constructively for meetings or as break-out areas.
  • Cleaner work environments – Hot desking results in less cluttered areas as workers must ensure the space is cleared for the next person. Employees do not have the option of personalising their workstations and thus, it creates a more minimalist work space.
  • Appeals to employees – As workers are moving towards more flexible working arrangements, hot desking is an ideal method in catering to these workers. It also encourages a more relaxed and social culture in the workplace, where employees have more face-to-face interaction with others who they may not usually socialise with. This may increase job satisfaction and employee engagement, resulting in a rise in productivity.
  • Greater sharing of information – Assigned desks often means employees work in silos. However, hot desking creates a more flattened hierarchy and allows for different employees to network, communicate and collaborate ideas. This in turn increases the circulation of knowledge and can create a more innovative workplace.
Cons of Hot Desking
  • Higher risk of ergonomic injuries – Hot desking can have a negative impact on a worker’s health and safety. In 2011, The Australian Taxation Office were involved in an 18 month legal battle as an employee suffered from major injuries as a result of hot desking. By implementing hot desking, employees who require a specific and permanent workstation set-up to prevent ergonomic injuries from occurring are not being catered for.
  • Difficulty accessing help – In a usual office set-up, employees are assigned to seats based on their teams, where they can directly seek assistance from each other. This isn’t possible with hot desking. Employees may have to wander around the office or write a long boring email if they require help from a specific colleague, taking more time and effort.
  • Lack of focus – Working in a shared office space and being surrounded by more noise and chatter may be quite distracting for some. This can result in less work being completed and thus, lower productivity.
  • Employees may feel unwanted – It is important for employees to feel like they belong in an organisation. However, hovering around the office in search of a free desk may make them feel like lost puppies. Not only that, but employees might miss having their own personal space in the workplace where they feel comfortable working in.

To read more about the advantages and disadvantages of the popular ‘hot desking’ trend, check out these two interesting articles here and here.

So while hot desking can provide a business with great perks, it’s important to consider the negative impacts it may have on the organisation and the well being of employees. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. While hot desking may work well for some people, employers must also accommodate differences in individuals.

Workstation assessments are the best way to prevent ergonomic injuries from occurring due to hot-desking. Contact Working Wise now on 04 499 0710 to book in a workstation assessment. Our assessor can help individuals set-up their workstations correctly as they jump from desk to desk.

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