How to improve your hot desking policies for hybrid work

Reyna LaRiccia
Reyna LaRiccia

Nearly everything about the way we worked pre-pandemic has changed. Having assigned desks we sit at for 8 hours a day is somewhat of an antiquated concept. 

Employees are embracing change and demanding flexibility in where, how, and when they work. Hot desking is a solution that both affords workers the flexibility they want, while giving employers the cost saving benefits of reducing or reimagining office space in the midst of ever-changing work policies. 

What is hot desking? 

Hot desking is a flexible work trend that refers to allocating desks to employees when they are required, or on a rotating system, rather than assigning each employee a permanent work space. 

But, to avoid a tragedy of the commons situation, many companies are adopting hot desking policies that outline rules and etiquette for utilizing shared work areas.

Think of it like going to work at a cafe.. You wouldn’t necessarily be sitting at the same table every day (despite having your favorite one that’s right next to an outlet and the pastry display), because it could be occupied by someone else. 

With growing work forces, hybrid work policies, and limited real estate, hot desking is a great solution for companies looking to accommodate employees while not having to expand office space. 

What are the benefits of hot desking? 

Jones Lang LaSalle (​​JLL) estimates that, as the result of COVID-19’s impact on real estate and workplace management, 30% of all office space will be converted for flexibility by 2030. The need for hot desking and online desk booking will become more critical to enabling a good workplace experience.. 

But hot desking isn’t just a result of necessity. There are some clear benefits to implementing a hot desking policy in your office. 

  • Less real estate, lower cost: Companies looking to save money will drive the demand for hot desking by 45% in 2021. Traditional offices provide employees with assigned desks that go unused if that person is working remotely, on vacation, or out sick. Hot desking allows employers to downsize their space while still being able to provide working locations  for anyone who chooses to come into the office. 
  • Improved collaboration: Hot desking results in people sitting next to each other who, in a pre-pandemic work model, may have never interacted. This results in increased cross-departmental collaboration. Commercial real estate service and investment firm CBRE saw an 80% increase in collaboration after initiating their hot desking policy in 2020. 
  • Enhanced performance: Static seating = siloed work. Hot desking policies improve the circulation of knowledge and improves face-to-face communication. 

How to create a hot desking policy your teams will actually follow 

While the concept of hot desking might seem straight forward, it’s imperative to implement a strategy to ensure things run smoothly. 

For example, you wouldn’t want employees to show up at work only to find that there isn’t a desk available that day, or have no way of reserving a desk altogether. Creating a policy that outlines hot desking rules and etiquette is crucial for the overall success of your flexible hot desking policy. 

1. Know the numbers

Hot desking works only if you have the right data. Your number of people to shared desk ratio has to be spot on, or else you risk confusion, frustration, and ultimately lack of buy-in from employees. 

Things like employee surveys, qualitative research, and space utilization data can inform how many desks you need, and how many employees can safely and comfortably come into the office on any given day. 

2. Run a pilot

Before you implement a hot desking policy across the entire organization, run a pilot with a small cohort of employees starting on one floor. You can then iterate based on what’s working and what’s not, and show other employees that this new policy has been tried, tested, and (hopefully) proven to work. 

3. Make it easy to choose a desk

Something you don’t want is employees who can’t find a desk to work at. Nothing is worse than coming in on a Monday morning and  spending twenty minutes searching for a desk (all before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee). 

The key to ensuring that anything  will work well is making sure it’s easy. When you remove friction from processes, you make them more appealing to people. Scheduling and wayfinding solutions allow employees to seamlessly book meeting rooms, desks, check-in, and know where co-workers are in the office at any given time. 

In Robin, employees can easily see who is in office and where they are sitting.

4.Outline employee responsibilities

With shared spaces comes responsibilities to keep things clean, organized, and ready for the next person to use. When rolling out your hot desking policy, make sure to provide a list of employee expectations that outline things such as 

  • Remove all personal items from a desk space if planning to be out of office for more than X amount of hours.
  • Avoid monopolizing a specific desk 
  • Use meeting rooms for important calls/meetings
  • Keep desks clean and practice standard hygiene (during Covid mandatory wipe downs, disinfection, etc). 

5. Get regular feedback 

Your hot desking policy will only be as effective as long as you have employee buy-in. Providing regular opportunities for feedback and constructive criticism will ensure that employees feel heard, and that you can continue iterating your policy so that it works for everyone. 

Feedback to consider: 

  • Are space planning ratios working effectively?
  • Could you increase the ratio and still keep everyone comfortable and happy?
  • Has collaboration and productivity improved?

Hot desking: the future of hybrid work? 

More than a trend, hot desking policies are quickly becoming a staple of modern hybrid workplace strategies.

Whether you’re rolling out these plans in a private office or a large co-working space, hot desking can bring people together from different teams that otherwise may never have interacted. New connections lead to fresh ideas, new opportunities, and more possibilities for cross-functional work. 

Ready to better manage your hot desking policies? Get a free demo of Robin today.

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