By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer
SpaceIQ

Imagine this scenario: You wake up, there’s two feet of snow on the ground, and an email says the office is still open. Do you pull on your boots and trek into the office or do you opt to work remotely for the morning until the sidewalks are shoveled? Given the option, most would choose the latter.

Many companies now offer work-from-home or remote-working options. They’ve realized the cost of requiring every employee to work from the office five days a week outweighs the benefits. Aside from the convenience off-site work offers—flexibility to fit in a doctor’s appointment or pick up a sick child from school—employers save money because they no longer need to provide a desk or seat for every employee.

But reducing seats does create one problem businesses are just learning how to solve: how do you decide who gets a seat? First-come-first-served? That’d create chaos and animosity. And imagine making the commute to find no available seat? You’d be livid.

The solution of several companies is a method long-used by accounting firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte: hot-desking. Companies use a website or app with a blueprint of their office and numbered workspaces. Employees can log on and reserve a desk for a few hours or up to a week, depending on the company’s policy. Even though requesting desks or a workspace is on a first-come-first-served basis, it does remove the problem of arriving to the office with no place to sit.

Where’s My Stuff?

Reservation systems are nothing new. Employees use them to reserve conference or communal spaces for meetings and events. Now it’s trickling down to individual spaces via hot-desking. But with any new office program or policy, hot-desking isn’t without its challenges.

The most apparent concern: Where do employees put their stuff? Luckily, offices are using less paper, which means fewer files and lugging stacks of paper to and from the office each day. Some businesses carve out office space for lockers or carts where people can keep items they want in the office. As far as personal items go, studies show that clutter free desk spaces lead to an increase in productivity. So mugs, photos, and that mini lava lamp are gone.

Another issue is the instability of location and employees sitting next to someone they don’t work well with. Office politics are a reality regardless of seating. The simple solution to workplace instability or inconsistency is reserving a preferred for as long as policy allows. But change can be a good thing for productivity and creativity. Hot-desking can reduce stagnation.

On The Move

It seems nearly everyone works on a laptop. Mobility is made easier with cloud storage, external monitors, and cell phones replacing landlines. So, the cost is low to adopt hot-desking. Costlier tech purchases, like projectors and conference speakers, can be reserved for common spaces and phone booths. Employees equipped with a mobile computer are free to work anywhere.

While some say remote work isolates teams, hot-desking—also called in-office remote work— promotes a strong company culture and social dynamic. By creating daily interaction opportunities with new teammates or departments, employee satisfaction and engagement rise. You’re not just interacting with new people, but learning their habits or discipline that may affect how you work on your own.

To complement hot-desking, businesses are also adding activity-based workspaces. Think relaxation spaces, communal areas with couches, phone booths for private calls, and group meeting rooms. These combined styles utilize office space better and balance the needs of each project and team. This is especially popular given that the majority of the workforce is Millennials, who rank flexibility high on their list of needs. The different spaces and options assume employees will seek out a range of spaces to undertake different tasks and adapt to those assumptions.

Not For Everyone

Everyone on your team may not embrace flexibly; their jobs just don’t accommodate it. But creative departments, consultants, and executives who spend their days in on-site and remote meetings are the ideal hot-desking candidates. Given the range of employees across the company hierarchy, the option also breaks down barriers between executives and entry-level employees, encourages networking, and boosts collaboration.

Hot-desking and activity-based workspaces can save money, increase productivity,  stimulate creativity, and promote cross-learning. There will always be challenges, but the benefits will outweigh them, and quickly. Read next, what’s the future of remote working?