By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

What are the pros and cons of hot desking? Hot desking is one of the most debated and disagreed upon methods of office design and space allocation. Proponents of hot desk coworking cite its cost effectiveness and flexibility as key drivers of its success. Facilities managers opposed to hot desks preach disorganization and lack of office culture.

Who’s right? Well, both have valid points. The problem lies with the question. It isn’t whether hot desking works; office managers should ask how to make hot desking work. It’s a matter of looking at the pros and cons to make sure you’re reaping the benefits and avoiding the pitfalls of this flexible desk arrangement.

Read more on “What is Hot Desking?” and learn why it is sizzling in the workplace.

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The positives of hot desking

There are more than a few concrete reasons why hot desk coworking is a popular trend. When asking “Does hot desking work?” those in favor point to:

  • Flexibility. Hot desks are creative and effective ways to maximize available square footage. Hot desks improve space utilization. When you explore a new dimension of your office space—the time it’s occupied—you start to see how flexible desk arrangements can accommodate more people with the same amount of space.
  • Affordability. The equation is simple: more productivity from a workspace means you pay less for it. Your monthly lease might not change, but hot desks help reduce overhead and that means a healthier bottom line. Doing more with the same amount of space saves you the cost of expanding and milks the best possible revenue potential out of a fixed cost already on your books.
  • Accommodation. Remote workers, consultants, part-timers, and interns probably don’t need their own desks. Hot desks are the perfect fit for them. Hot desking provides a temporary home wherever and whenever they need it.
  • Freshness. It’s easy to fall into routines when working from the same desk every day. Hot desks keep workers on their toes and help them more quickly adapt to new challenges. As long as office culture and collaboration aren’t compromised, hot desks are great ways for workers to reinvent themselves and their routines.

The drawbacks of hot desks

There is a down side to hot desks. Facilities managers who’ve tried and failed to implement hot desks, or skeptics of the philosophy, can argue as to why they may not be right for every office:

  • Hierarchy. When you take people out of offices and desk groups, you lose a sense of hierarchy. Sure, people know who they report to and who their boss is… but a hot desk arrangement removes a lot of the traditional empowerment that comes with leadership. Tearing down walls and putting everyone together may seem like a smart idea, but it comes at the risk of disrupting the balance of management and subordinates.
  • Communication. Where’s Jim sitting today? Is Pam in the office right now? What extension can I reach Michael at? Communication can break down if the hot desk system isn’t properly managed. If you can’t find a coworker, you can’t talk to them! Moreover, it’s easy for people to avoid others if they’re not tied to a desk. However, hot desk booking can help with this.
  • IT. Hot desking can rapidly become an IT nightmare. Setting up workstations, getting network drives and devices connected, and setting up phones are massive undertakings. As an employee, settling at a new desk every day can be disruptive and disjointed.
  • Disruption. If every day is a new experience, it might be hard for some workers to get into a groove. Hot desking isn’t for everyone. Some workers relish their personal space and get things set up to their liking to do their best work. If forced to readapt every day, you might be waylaying your best workers and hurting business.

Hot desking and team dynamics

Before making the move to hot desking, it’s critical to get your team involved. Springing hot desks on workers may erode morale and disrupt cultural dynamics. Be transparent about hot desking plans and solicit employee feedback about new structures. Open dialogue can lessen angst and create a sense of ownership amongst your teams. And be flexible with the new arrangements. You may find hot desks aren’t right for your business and a return to the norm is best. Please also read our quick guide to office hoteling best practices.

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