Anyone who hasn’t heard of “hot desking” is likely to in the upcoming months, as more people return to the office following the COVID-19 pandemic. Although not new, the concept of the hot desk is a flexible work arrangement that allows employees to work remotely while having access to a desk within an office space. With so many employees demanding flexible work arrangements, it’s no wonder that hot desking has become a buzzword over the past few months.
What is a Hot Desk and What is Hot Desking?
Hot desking is popular with companies that offer remote or hybrid working arrangements. In a hot desk model, employees do not have assigned seating. Instead, they may “check-in” to an open seat. Spots are available on a first-come-first-served basis.
Throughout the pandemic, many companies that offered hot desking shifted to hoteling instead. Hoteling allows employees to reserve a workspace online. It is a much more static arrangement and doesn’t change as often as hot desking. Hoteling provides individuals and teams with more choice and control over where they work.
The process for hot desking is simple: find an open desk, plug in a laptop, and get to work. Some companies offer employees the option to hot desk every day, although it can be done on a smaller or larger scale. It also doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement.
Why Should We Care About Hot Desking?
Employers should care about hot desking for one reason: their staff does!
Hot desking has become increasingly popular with Generation X and millennial employees, who grew up with the freedom to use digital technology anywhere. Millennials are accustomed to a fast-paced, constantly changing environment, and flexibility is the norm, rather than a perk.
Likewise, the majority of employees want to continue working from home to some degree as the pandemic recedes, but they don’t want to work from home exclusively.
According to Forbes, 54% of American workers say they would prefer to work from home at least one day a week, while 26% say they expect to work from home two or three days per week. If companies want to attract and retain employees, they need to offer flexible work arrangements that allow staff to work at least part-time from home.
What Technology Makes it Easier to Offer Hot Desk Services?
Businesses that are considering a hot desk model must have the proper equipment and technology to support drop-in stations.
At a minimum, each desk should be equipped with a monitor and docking station, as well as its own set of chargers and dongles. It might also include a keyboard and mouse. However, these items can be provided to each individual employee for sanitary reasons.
Obviously, hot desks must be outfitted with a solid internet connection, either broadband or WiFi. In addition, employees should have access to a variety of applications that allow them to reserve meeting rooms, book appointments, and locate office resources.
Ombori offers a number of apps that make hot desking easier for businesses across industries.
- Virtual Queueing: In today’s post-pandemic workplace, employees are not comfortable loitering in a crowded space, waiting for a meeting room to open. Thanks to Ombori Virtual Queueing, this is no longer an issue. Employees can book a shared meeting space online and remain safely at their desks until the room is available.
Employees can also avoid standing in line for a restroom. Using a mobile device, they can check whether a restroom is vacant. If the closest one is occupied, the app directs them to a different location. Likewise, janitorial staff receives notifications when restrooms are empty and ready to be cleaned.
- Appointment Booking and Omni Visit: For companies that offer hoteling, an Appointment Booking app is essential. It allows employees to reserve a desk online – before they even leave the house. For those that offer hot desking, this tool can be used to make appointments with office personnel.
Tools like Ombori Omni Visit ensure all staff has the same access to workplace resources and personnel regardless of where they are working. Unlike office-based workers who can drop in anytime to discuss work, hot-desk employees often experience a communication gap. Omni Visit helps eliminate this inequity.
- Wayfinder: Every hot desk experience begins with finding an empty location to “drop-in,” but what if an employee is new to the building and doesn’t know where desks are located? Ombori Wayfinder can help them find a free desk, as well as other resources such as a printer, scanner, supply room, etc.
Wayfinder is an interactive, voice-activated map that allows employees to download directions to their mobile devices. When used in conjunction with Appointment Booking, it can direct staff to an available hot desk, meeting room, or other location. They can also avoid having to print off maps, which reduces office waste.
- People Counter and Occupancy Control: In a hot desk arrangement, occupancy becomes less predictable and can change from day to day, or even hour to hour. At the same time, employees want to feel safe; thus, social distancing remains a priority.
Ombori People Counter and Occupancy Control allow businesses to monitor foot traffic in real-time to ensure compliance with occupancy levels, control entrances as necessary when levels are breached and collect and analyze valuable occupancy data.
- Digital Signage and Signage Playlists: Companies that adopt a hybrid work model need a way to communicate consistently with all staff, regardless of where they are. They can use Ombori Digital Signage to broadcast relevant information to on-site staff, while simultaneously sharing messages with remote workers via their mobile device.
Employers can create dynamic Playlists that include video, audio, animation, images, and text to make announcements, introduce policies and procedures, or share dashboards, social media posts, or the latest news.
What Other Equipment and Supplies Do Workers Need Access to When Hot Desking?
While technology is a crucial component in hot desking, other equipment and supplies can enhance the workplace experience. Here are additional items to consider:
- Cleaning supplies: Each hot desk should be equipped with cleaning supplies, so employees can properly sanitize the space for the next occupant.
- Printing access: Employees should have access to a printer and printing supplies, even if it is a community printer.
- Meeting rooms: Offices should include space for team meetings and collaboration on projects.
- Storage: Employees should be offered storage space for their personal items (coat, purse, workout gear, etc.).
- Amenities: Employees should have access to restrooms, a kitchen or break area, vending machines, and private space for one-on-one conversations or phone calls.
Benefits of The Hot Desk Model
While some companies may be reluctant to move toward hot desking, they should consider the following benefits.
- Cost savings. Traditional permanent seating assignments are expensive because they require more space. Employees working from home or from smaller, remote offices may leave desks unused. Hot desking allows businesses to cut real estate expenses by eliminating wasted space.
- Flexibility. Hot desking gives employees the freedom to work where they are most productive. If they plan to come into the office, they can book a desk where they can do their best work, but they’re not tied to one space. If they need to work from home, they can free up a desk in the office. This gives them autonomy over what their daily work environment looks and feels like.
- Collaboration and productivity. Allowing employees to change who they sit near every day can have a positive impact on their productivity and collaboration. Hot desking encourages employees to meet and talk to team members with whom they normally wouldn’t interact. Instead of teams sitting in silos, hot desking encourages cross-functional interaction.
- Safety and sanitation. Hot desking gives businesses the ability to determine what desks are available for use based on capacity and social distancing guidelines. They can ensure employees have a safe space to work in the office.
- Data-driven decision-making. Hot desking gives companies insights into how a space is being used so management can spot trends and make better use of the space. Plus, they have access to data that can help them make smart, informed business decisions as they plan for future real estate needs.
- Uncluttered workspace. One of the most overlooked aspects of hot desking is that the office remains tidier. With fewer personal items or stacks of paper cluttering desk space, employees can enjoy a cleaner, more organized office. Clutter-free and well-organized spaces also communicate the right impression to potential clients.
Hot Desking: The Future of Work
One thing that is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels is the traditional office space. With more than half of workers preferring a hybrid working arrangement, many companies will begin operating a hot desk environment in their offices. The importance of technology in ensuring all employees – regardless of where and how they choose to work – have the same access to resources, information, and personnel is paramount to the success of hot desking.
Rui is COO of Ombori Grid. Before joining Ombori in 2017, he worked in Beijing, Tokyo, Silicon Valley and Zagreb before ending up in Stockholm. He previously spent nine years in R&D at Ericsson as Operative Product Owner, and is a highly skilled leader in IT and communications with a successful track record of working closely with both stakeholders and management.