The perception of hot desking goes a little something like this: do away with rigid office seating structure and start reaping the benefits of interdepartmental communication, increased productivity, staff positivity – all at a reduced cost to the employer. The reality remains murkier and its uncertain who really benefits from hotdesking policies.
Offices around the world, outside of traditional corporate environments, are becoming more casual but there’s still something a little jarring about seeing professionals clutching bags, coats, and lunches as their eyes dart around the room, panicking, in search of a free desk next to a friendly face. It’s intimidating to stroll into the office and plant yourself next to a stranger, since it’s impossible to be friendly with everyone, unless the company is quite small. This kind of daily anxiety, harkening back to nervous first days of school, produces opposite of the desired effect.
Hotdesking is supposed to be a democratic process whereby everyone finds the best spot for them and produces fantastic work, but on a daily basis a hierarchy between employees nevertheless emerges. Those who arrive early, through choice or proximity to work, have the first pick of working spaces allowing them to occupy, if not the same desk all the time, then at least an area. It’s understandable that likeminded people with similar habits will end up grouping together in a way that will be exclusionary to those who work part time or have carer duties and thus arrive later in the day. This fosters the opposite of communication and collaboration, potentially making some staff feel like they don’t really belong.
By establishing a hotdesking policy companies sometimes overlook best individual working practices in favour of profits. Not every member of staff will feed off the destabilising activity of picking a new work space with many needing the constancy of a single desk or space, filled will personal knick-knacks that are as comforting as they are inspirational. A hotdesking policy is almost without exception a clear desk policy since no one will be able to cart around plants and pen pots to make a hot desk more appealing on the daily.
The nature of office work is rapidly evolving and the change to typical office arrangements is inevitable. The potential difficulties should be considered when designing an office for the future but it’s obviously not all doom and gloom. A hotdesking environment will dispel a good amount of formality between senior and junior staff, facilitating better engagement and reducing the need to constantly send emails that could be answered with a simple interaction. Similarly, more opportunity for collaboration will arise as staff socialise and become more comfortable proposing ideas or comments outside of formal meetings.
A working revolution is truly underway, and it simply cannot please everyone. The best bet companies can make is looking for a flexible working space that can satisfy an introvert’s need for space with the extrovert’s desire to socialise. Cities are adapting to this demand with a range of flexible working spaces springing up in attractive locations to fill the need for sleek and innovative working solutions.