How to Make Hot Desking Work Within Departments
By Tamara Sheehan
Director of Business Management
Hot desking reduces facilities’ costs by minimizing the total workspace you need. It’s also a great way to give employees autonomy and flexibility. But for all of hot desking’s many benefits, it has drawbacks if incorrectly executed and managed.
Before making a big change to your workplace, launch hot desks on a small scale on the departmental level. Department-level hot desk experimentation allows testing best methods, processes, and configurations for an eventual scale-up. Below are trial-run ideas that, hopefully, translate to a broader hot desking policy:
Use alphanumeric codes
Delegating desks is easy; managing those workspaces depends on a universal recognition system. The simplest form of desk identification is an alphanumeric code. Alphanumeric coding is a cornerstone of creating order. It’s easy to manage hot desking when everyone is on the same page about which desk is where.
- The “alpha” portion of the desk ID code becomes important at-scale. If you’re testing hot desking in Marketing, all desks will have a MKTG prefix. After the full launch, department prefixes become the norm: MKTG (marketing), ACCT (accounting), BUS (business administration), and so on.
- The numeric part of the ID code is the unique qualifier for the desk itself. It’s important for not just clarifying which desk in the department, but also discerning usage and utilization from a broader management perspective.
Save time and confusion by aligning alphanumeric desk codes with phone extensions or workstation credentials.
A common concern with hot desking is miscommunication about who owns which desks. The simplest way to address this and make hot desking work at the departmental level is with desk stacks.
Stacks are a midway point between total autonomy and individual workstations. Employees know where they sit and generally with whom they’ll share workspace. The difference comes with the ability to choose their own accommodations. This ties a group together under a manager or team leader, which helps maintain the hierarchy.
Companies have adapted this strategy in multiple scales and forms—from three-person “pods” to team stacks of six to 10 people operating at a proverbial round table. The key is providing workstation choice within a departmental framework already familiar to employees.
Successful hot desking requires a system of order. Employees need a way to check into the desk they’re using and others need ways to locate, contact, and manage them. The importance of hot desking software and centralized checking cannot be understated.
There are many ways to centralize and standardize check-in. At the departmental level, the easiest is reporting to the team leader. As the system scales, facility managers assume this role. When fully instituted, check-in can actually be automated via login credentials, employee ID badges, and kiosks. It doesn’t matter what the check-in system is; it only matters that there’s a standardized way of recording desk usage and employee location.
Mastering check-in and desk assignment at the departmental level paves the way for seamless adoption of hot desking on a grander scale.
A simple—and often fun—way to organize hot desks is color-coding. For individual departments, this may not matter much. But as hot desking expands, colors become as important as alphanumeric codes in identifying and managing hot desks.
- Code desks by department. Marketing is green, Accounting is blue, Business Administration is orange, etc. This makes desks identifiable from a distance, instead of having employees go desk-to-desk to read alphanumeric labels.
- Code desks by priority. Red desks are for long-term occupation (eight hours), white desks are for short-term use (less-than two hours), purple desks are for half-day use, and so on. This gives facility managers an instant view based on what’s occupied.
- Code desks by type. Black desks are quiet workspaces, yellow desks have AV hookups, pink desks are standing desks, etc.
Color-coding desks is a simple way to uniquely identify desks for what and where they are, who should use them, and what they should be used for.
Collect feedback and make improvements
Testing hot desking methods at the departmental level is a great opportunity to showcase the value of flexible work arrangements to employees. It sets the tone for what works and what needs adjustment before any dramatic changes are rolled out to the rest of the office.
Experiment at the departmental level, gather feedback from employees, monitor trends, and make changes. Once you have a hot desking model that works at the departmental level, scaling that success is a matter of relying on already-proven systems.
Keep reading: the pros and cons of hot desking
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