Hot-desking. It splits opinion. But there can be no doubt that the popularity of hot-desking in the workplace has taken off in recent years, and this is linked in no small part to the boom in the serviced office sector.
Hot-desking and co-working fit well together as established businesses, startups and freelancers alike seek to take advantage of cost-efficient open-plan office spaces, where they also have the opportunity to collaborate with likeminded individuals and companies.
In fact, most hot-deskers believe that the benefits of hot-desking are greatest within shared and co-working office spaces, according to new research we undertook at Workthere to understand the current state of hot-desking in the UK.
In addition to cost-efficiencies, hot-desking can come with a range of benefits for businesses and individuals alike. Whether you’re a freelancer constantly on the move and jumping between different locations, a large business trying to instil a hot-desking policy throughout the company to reduce costs, or even a manager looking create a sense of collaboration within your department through hot-desking, there are a number of ways to maximise the impact.
With this in mind, we have compiled a guide, based on a survey of 500 UK hot-deskers, to help navigate the world of hot-desking
Creatures of habit
How do hot-deskers behave in reality? Do they get into the spirit of hot-desking as it should be, or are they reluctant hot-deskers that need to be guided into it like the proverbial horse to water?
No matter the make-up of the office space, there are always going to be more popular desks than others, and the battle for the best desks can result in some competition. Respondents to our survey said that 35% of their colleagues take desks that have been un-manned for a period of time.
Meanwhile, 37% of hot-deskers purposefully arrive early just to get the best seats, with one in three refusing to move from their favourite desks at all. Over a third simply move between the same two desks every time.
Many office managers decide to implement hot-desking to encourage staff to mix, thereby boosting relationships and morale. However, breaking a workers’ “routine” is often challenging, with respondents saying that 44% of colleagues simply sit next to the same people every time they move seats, and almost three in four agreeing that office friends tend to cluster together.
Another apparent benefit to hot-desking is that it keeps the office clutter-free and tidy – with staff less likely to personalise a desk that isn’t permanent. However, according to our survey, 44% of hot-deskers eat lunch at their desks (with the average lunch-break only 34 minutes long), and 37% personalise their desks (through stickers, plants etc).
Nevertheless, 42% of hot-deskers still leave their desks “spotless” before moving on; while 58% agree that hot-desking helps keep their desk clean and tidy.
The increasing role of “etiquette guides” in the office
While the battle to remain with office friends and secure the best seats can lead to some questionable hot-desking habits, an increasing number of businesses are tackling these behaviours by bringing in ‘etiquette guides’.
In the battle for the best seats, they are doing what they can to make this as fair a process as possible, with 37% of respondents saying that their company has introduced a rule for staff to surrender desks if they leave it for a certain period of time.
To encourage integration, 44% even are required to sit next to different colleagues every time they move.
On the hotly-debated topic of desk cleanliness, almost half of respondents said there is a “clean desk” policy in their offices, with 44% banned from eating at their desks.
As well as bringing in “etiquette guides”, businesses can also make the most out of hot-desking by offering alternative areas that employees can use for a change of scene – such as a lounge area, a games room or a bar.
Communal spaces where workers from different teams, departments or even businesses can socialise are also good ways of ensuring that colleagues have different options to eat and bond – this can help foster a great working environment and works well alongside hot-desking to emphasise the benefits beyond cost-saving.
The top “push” and “pull” factors
What are the key factors in the office that determine where hot-deskers choose their desk, and how can they make the most of hot-desking for themselves?
In line with our findings discussed above, office friends are the biggest factor in considering where to set up, with 65% of respondents saying they are a positive draw for them. Fresh air and daylight are also a key priority of workers, with proximity to the windows being the second most important “pull-factor” for hot-deskers – and the only other factor that challenges office friends for top spot.
Being close to office-life essentials such as the printer, watercooler and coffee machine, come next as defining attributes of the most desirable desks in the workspace. On the flip side, there are also aspects of the office that hot-deskers would rather stay away from, and managers should bear these in mind if competition ever hots up.
Bosses come in as the biggest “push” factor, with employees looking to stay as far away from them as they can. Somewhat surprisingly, an office television is the second biggest push factor, while the music speakers, the lobby area and the communal space complete the five things hot-deskers try to stay away from. All of these push factors can be explained by the background noise-level, with hot-deskers seemingly choosing the quietest spots.
Using hot-desking potential beyond cost-savings
As we can see from the results of the survey, there is great potential in hot-desking for individuals and teams beyond mere cost-savings – if it is done in the right way. Hot-desking shouldn’t just be about cost efficiency, it should be about fostering the perfect working environment for the business.
Encouraging a culture of openness and transparency rubs off on employee performance, with a majority of employees believing that hot-desking encourages collaboration (60%), efficiency (46%) and productivity (46%).
Cal Lee is head of Workthere, a venture introduced by Savills to help businesses find flexible, co-working and serviced office space. Lee, a former graduate and development surveyor at Savills, who saw the opportunity to offer a new platform in a growing market for co-working and flexible work space providers to market their space.
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