Key hot-desking policies: 3 Rules to make hot-desking work

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Hot-desking comes with many benefits for organizations – allowing space requirements to be reduced, which can be important if considering a hybrid office environment. Making hot-desking work though requires some forethought. Problems can arise, and employees don’t always like the change. This article explores some policies that can help ensure a smooth implementation of hot-desking. 

Policy 1: Clear your desk at night policy

One of the most important policies to a successful hot-desking arrangement is a policy around cleaning your desk at night. While there may be clear reasons why employees don’t want to clear that their desk at night (such as the time taken to get everything out and packed up again, or wanting to reserve their desk for the next day), unless this policy is enforced, then the hot-desking can quickly devolve into assigned desks – where employees lay claim to ‘their desk’.

Some of the problems that you may run into if a “clear your desk at night” policy is not established for enforced include:

  • Space issues: Reserved desks may mean that you simply don’t have enough desks to go around.
  • Tidiness and cleanliness: If everyone leaves their things out it becomes much more difficult to keep the office environment tidy or to clean it at nice. While this may be fine in personal desks, given hot-desking is a shared environment, the mess is likely to have a greater impact on the overall office.
  • Resentment between employees: If an employee is able to ‘claim a desk’, for example leaving personal photos out, then this can be a source of resentment should some else try and take it. 

Policy 2: Conversation policy

The next policy that it is important to consider is the extent to which talking should be condoned at the desk. Different firms will naturally have different perspectives regarding what is desirable in this regard

On one level conversations may be a necessary component of work, and it is important that such conversations do happen. On another level, they can be disruptive for those in the vicinity. Given the people that you sit next to can vary with hot-desking, it can lead to a scenario where you resent having sat next to someone who turns out to be having conversations throughout the day. 

Several different approaches to a conversation policy include:

  • Conversations allowed: No restrictions at all – potentially not even a policy that needs communicating. 
  • No conversations: The other extreme where all talking is barred – similar to a library
  • Short conversations ok – longer ones outside: A compromise which in many cases can strike the balance between needing talk, but also setting the expectation that if the discussion will go on for an extended period, it should be done in a meeting room. 

Policy 3: Eating policy

A final policy that it is important to consider is your eating-at-desk policy. This is the sort of behavior that is fine in a private office, and potentially in a small room (especially if everyone does it), but can be problematic in a hot-desking environment. Some people inevitably won’t like the smell of other’s foods, and particularly if the hot-desking is done in a large room with no ventilation, this could start to have an impact across the office. Laying the groundwork by establishing what is and isn’t ok to eat and drink in a shared space can help avoid this becoming an issues. 

Final thoughts: Establishing clear policies upfront can help avoid subsequent problems

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, and to assume that the hot-desking will work without intervention. The key problem though is that attitudes and practices can be hard to change. If employees get into the habit of behaving in a particular way, changing these behaviors can be difficult.

If someone has decided that a particular desk is theirs, and now has moved all kinds of personal items onto it to help lay this claim, deciding how to return to a clear-desk situation can be difficult. By extension, if this has been going on for months, the change maybe even more difficult to make than if it is quickly recognized and policies enforced right from the start. Being prepared and laying expectations (potentially developing them with employee involvement), can help side-step these issues before they happen.