Hot-desking: Key things to make desk sharing work

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Hot-desking – where users share desks – needs careful consideration to make it work. From enforcing a policy around leaving items out, to ensuring that you have sufficient desks available. This article explores key considerations needed to successfully implement a hot-desking environment.

Ensuring that you have sufficient desks

One of the most important considerations with hot-desking is ensuring that you have sufficient desks available. While a big component to moving toward hot-desking is to reduce office space requirements, it is also important not to go too far – if you have too few desks, suddenly people will be crammed in, and sentiment towards desk sharing will decline. 

When determining desk requirements, consider the maximum realistic number of people that are going to need a desk at any one time, rather than the average number. If the number of people that come into the offices fluctuates, plan for the days where a higher number of people will be in, rather than a lower average. 

Ensuring the setup is roughly comparable to your regular desks

Part of the challenge with hot-desking is employee satisfaction with the arrangements. Employees don’t want to feel like they have got the raw end of the stick – a setup worse than their counterparts that have a permanent desk. This may be particularly true in situations where the employees now sharing desks used to have a permanent setup – who may now feel like they have lost one of their previous perks.

Consider the environment (such as the location, noise, and windows), consider the size of the desks provided, consider the general appearance of the room. While some of these may be factors that are out of your control, to the extent possible, ensure that the hot-desking environment doesn’t feel like the clear worse environment to be working in.

Ensuring that each desk is approximately the same

As well as looking for approximate comparability between the hot-desking spaces and more permanent offices, it is also useful to consider approximate comparability between the hot-desking spaces. A problem that can arise with hot-desking is that employees lay claim to a particular area – looking to mark their territory. Resentment between employees can arise if someone else uses a desk that has been claimed, in many ways undermining the notation that desks are available to anyone.

Ensuring that the desks are roughly comparable can help avoid situations where employees lay claim to their favorite. If there are no clearly better and clearly worse desks, there is less reason for desk claiming. 

Enforcing a clear your desk at night policy

One policy surrounding hot-desking, that you need to at least consider whether you will enforce or not – is whether to have a specific rule requiring desks to be cleared at night. There are clear tradeoffs with this – on the one hand, it may add disruption to the working day, requiring time to be spent unpacking and packing up desks. This time may feel wasted if someone knows that they will be in the office the next day. On the other hand, if you don’t have a policy that desks need to be cleared at night (or don’t enforce the policy), people may quickly start to lay claim to their desks.

Addressing storage issues

A final component of making hot-desking work is ensuring that options are available for storage. This can make enforcing the ‘clear your desk at night policy’ easier. While regular offices likely have a large amount of built-in storage, hot-desking areas typically (or deliberately) don’t have as much visible storage around the desks. Depending on how paper-based the office environment is, ensuring that there is some way of storing personal and work items can be important to getting employee support.