By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Hot desking can be a boon for your company—especially if better workplace utilization is critical to your current facilities management. Before you start scattering desks and relocating employees, make sure you’re aware of potential hot desking problems and how to prevent them.

When done right, hot desking is a great way to maximize space and create a flexible work environment. Be warned: the factors that make hot desking great can turn your workplace into a chaotic nightmare.

Six potential hot desking pitfalls

Hot desking anxiety isn’t unwarranted by employees or management. Employees are generally wary of change—especially on this level. For management, hot desking is an experiment that may have great results or produce unexpected setbacks.

  1. Loss of privacy: There’s a level of privacy in having a standard desk for every employee. Workers can keep personal items in their desk drawers or take a private call in relative comfort. Not having that basecamp means losing a sense of privacy and, in turn, comfort.
  2. Loss of personal space: Everyone needs personal space. If your employees constantly feel unanchored, they may not feel like they belong. Personal space ties workers to their environment and gives them stability. Hot desking could have the opposite effect.
  3. IT obstacles: It’s easy to configure static workstations for IT accessibility. Everything from login credentials to phone extensions route to a specific desk. But when there’s a new person at that desk each day, IT expectations change. Ensuring everything is properly networked and routed is crucial.
  4. Mental adaptation: Hot desks are still considered an “alternative” workplace arrangement. Veteran workers may balk at the concept more than younger employees who are familiar with flexible work environments. Thrusting employees into hot desking with no regard for adaptation is a recipe for disaster.
  5. Labor inefficiencies: Getting into a work groove is a real concern. Like many hot desking issues, this one stems from the relative unfamiliarity of a new desk and new work environment each day. Lack of continuity from the previous day’s work can take a toll on a person’s ability to do good work.
  6. Seating challenges: Hot desks introduce variability in seating, which means challenges are bound to arise. Employees may become overly attached to specific workstations. Or, certain hot desks may go unused because of their location. You might even have trouble accounting for employees if there’s no occupancy system of record.

Recognizing these potential pitfalls allows for proactive planning as the transition to hot desking begins (read the pros and cons of hot desking).

How to do hot desking right

The issues mentioned above don’t have to happen. In fact, they can be avoided entirely by taking a smart approach to hot desk setup and management. Consider the relationship between your employees and their desks, as well as hot desking and mental health, before making any changes. Here are a few ways to facilitate change without dooming your workplace with a poorly-designed approach to hot desks:

  • Create privacy opportunities: Give employees access to areas that emphasize privacy. Quiet work areas and offices with doors tell other workers “I need to be alone right now.”
  • Give employees personal space: Employee lockers are a great way to give back personal space. Or, in lieu of personal space, emphasize experiential spaces like a game room or relaxation area.
  • Coordinate IT first: Before making the switch to hot desks, collaborate with IT first. Figure out a system for keeping everyone connected regardless of workstation.
  • Make the transition easy: Don’t just flip the switch on hot desks. Introduce them gradually and encourage employees to use them. Ease into more desks and help workers adjust by supporting their needs.
  • Identify inefficiencies early: Gather feedback and listen to employees during the transition. Feedback is telling and can alert you to problems that may impact productivity.
  • Have a system of record: Use an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) like SpaceIQ to identify hot desk locations and real-time occupancy. The platform shows which desks are popular and which aren’t, so you can continue to optimize.

Done right, hot desking has inherent benefits that include better workplace flexibility and space utilization. Just remember, the challenge isn’t in how you arrange the desks—it’s ensuring employees are supported throughout the transformation and beyond.

Consider all variables. If your reason for instituting hot desks is space utilization, be mindful of how the change will affect employees. Likewise, if you’re trying to create a more agile workspace, consider space utilization. A successful hot desking setup creates harmony between employees and the workplace—leading to improved productivity and worker mental health.

Keep reading: learn how to use office hoteling for contractors and part-time workers