November 17th, 2021

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How to Get Your Employees Warmed Up to Hot Desking

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Even if it was meant as a way to help the workforce thrive, desk sharing at work was initially met with quite a bit of employee resistance. That said, many workers don't mind giving up their assigned desks if it means embracing hybrid work.

Under pressure to make the office more appealing to today's workforce, leaders are turning to new and improved workplace strategies in hopes of giving their space the refresh it needs.

What is desk sharing?

For companies using desk sharing at work, designated workspace is replaced by unassigned spaces that can be used as needed.

In some cases, that means taking a first-come, first-served approach to booking space. Hot desking operates this way. Upon arrival, employees can take one of the open spots as their own for the day.

There is also the desk hoteling method. Much like reserving a hotel room, this model gives employees the ability to pick from the available spaces ahead of time. Because desk hoteling makes planning their work schedule easier, most employees prefer it to hot desking.

Back in 1971, IBM experimented with the concept of the non-territorial office space, in which they removed all permanent workstations and walls. Rather than assigning individual employees to a single desk, their report explained, "an individual may choose to work anywhere in the area that suits him or [is] convenient."

As futurist and author of "How Buildings Learn" Stewart Brand put it in a 2006 interview with FORTUNE Magazine, "People are realizing they don't need face-to-face all the time."

People are realizing they don't need face-to-face all the time.

Stewart Brand, Fortune 2006

The theory was that by replacing dedicated workspaces, working in the office would become more enjoyable and productive.

The rise of desk sharing at work

Prior to COVID-19, full- and part-time telework arrangements were already major topics of discussion among industry analysts and thought leaders. For years leading up to the pandemic, there had been a gradual increase in the remote working trend. Gradual, but steady.

Of course, businesses also saw the economic benefits of maximizing their space — particularly as real estate costs were on the rise. With the impact on the company budget to consider, desk sharing became an effective alternative to adding square footage or having to redo the floorplan.

Still, it wasn't until the current health crisis forced companies into a remote work model that attitudes around remote work started changing. Since then, remote working has jumped up from 5% of U.S. workers to 60%, according to the Economist.

Benefits of a desk sharing model

Desk sharing accomplishes two important tasks. First, it allows employees to work in the office without sacrificing flexibility. Second, it helps companies adjust their space to better support occupants in a day and age characterized by fluctuating office utilization. 

Here are a few other benefits of desk sharing:

  • More flexibility in the workplace
  • Compatible with hybrid working model
  • Can foster social connection and community
  • Supports mobile, on-the-go workforce
  • Keeps real estate costs down
  • Helps with attraction and retention
  • Makes planning and organizing work schedule easier

Keeping concerns around COVID-19 in mind, there's also the peace of mind that comes with having a guaranteed desk, safely distanced, sanitized and cleaned, and ready for you by the time you arrive at the office the next morning.

Additionally, a survey from Accenture found that more than 80% of employees prefer a hybrid work model.

As many HR leaders know, sometimes by solving one workplace problem, you inadvertently create a new one. Well, that organizational paradox holds true in the case of remote and flexible work.

Cons

With a growing number of businesses beginning to offer their employees the option to work from home, a host of new challenges were introduced.

Difficulty predicting utilization could result in overcrowding or underutilized office space. Vacancy in the office became a major concern as wasted space posed a new and expensive problem. Implementing desk sharing at work might help companies address that challenge. According to CBRE's predictions, desk sharing could help companies boost their utilization from the traditional 65%  and increase it to around 75% to 80%.

Here are a few additional drawbacks to consider before implementing a desk sharing system:

  • Offices can become distracting or noisy
  • Inconsistent day-to-day experiences
  • Lack of privacy
  • "Working alone together"

A recent New York Times article, "The Worst of Both Worlds: Zooming From the Office" hit on a new phenomenon emerging from today's workplace: hybrid work can be lonely when it's uncoordinated.

Support and resources are more difficult to manage with a distributed workforce. Which can leave remote workers feeling disconnected, unsupported, and underprepared. 

The state of desk sharing

Can the corporate office address the internal needs of the workforce?

Experts specializing in human resources and company culture certainly seem to think so. They have long maintained the role of external environments on job satisfaction, productivity, and other critical HR metrics.

Reflecting their hopes for more flexibility, employees are looking forward to being able to work from home from now on. The cultural shift over the past two years won't simply reverse itself once organizations transition into the next era of work.

That's not to say modern professionals no longer see the value of in-person collaboration, they just understand that certain types of work are best done outside of the office.

But for many employees, staying fully remote isn't necessarily the answer, either. Whether it's due to a lack of private space, noisy roommates, access to office amenities, or any number of other reasons, a significant percentage (96%) of the workforce wants to split their time between remote and on-site work.

That's where desk sharing comes in.

Desk sharing best practices

COVID-19 may not have been the catalyst for desk sharing, but it was certainly an accelerant.

In an attempt to restore a sense of community among today's distributed workforce, these desk-sharing best practices could be the key to a more manageable hybrid work model.

Focus on your employees

Compared to traditional work models, desk sharing is starting to seem like a pretty decent way for employees to enjoy using the office on their own terms. But only if they can find a place to work when and where they need it.

With space booking software that allows employees to conveniently search for and book the right desks. For example, Teem's calendar plugins allow employees to do so straight from their desktop through your company's existing calendar software. 

Plus, an employee mobile app makes booking desks easy for on-the-go employees.

Optimize your workplace

The world runs on data. But if your workplace data isn't collected and organized, you're missing out on important information that can be leveraged for smarter decision making.

Make sure your desk sharing system lets you keep track of your true utilization and provides insights into how your space is being used. That way you can eliminate wasted space and make sure your office supports your current needs.

Use desk sharing technology

Accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young found that more than 60% of employees want better in-office technology. 

Desk Booking Software

Teem's desk booking software helps simplify the switch to a desk sharing model. Our technology is easy to implement, learn, and use — so your workforce can spend more time collaborating and working together in your office.

Employees get a better way to experience the workday, with everything they need to quickly:

  • Explore desk availability
  • Review spatial information such as location and amenities
  • Book desks on demand or in advance
  • Sync their reservations with their work calendar
  • Quickly edit and update reservations
  • Make the most out of their time in the office

For tips on getting your team warmed up to desk sharing at work, check out our hot desking e-book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Teem

Teem by iOFFICE provides enterprises with space scheduling and management, workplace analytics, building, and campus wayfinding, and visitor management to help cultivate workplaces that fuel productivity, efficiency, and creativity.

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