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If you haven’t heard of hot desking anxiety yet, you will. Without a clear idea of who will be returning when, workplace leaders are implementing flexible workplace strategies like hot desking to help maximize their office space.
But for many employees, there are still some concerns about how this will work out.
According to global design and architecture firm Gensler, the majority of employees want to return to the office, but 68% want to reduce the number of shared workspaces. While their concerns about sharing desks are understandable, returning to a traditional model with assigned seats just isn’t realistic for many workplaces — especially when their desks were vacant 50-60% of the time even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
To smooth out the transition back into the office, start by acknowledging that your employees’ concerns are valid. Then, make sure you have the right return-to-work solutions to address any fears they have about hot desking in your office so you can put everyone's minds at ease.
Hot desking is a good idea in theory. The benefits for employers are clear: it’s cost-effective and provides increased flexibility in managing office space. Hot desks are also easier to clean because they are free from clutter.
But for employees, hot desking can be frustrating and demotivating.
It operates on a first-come, first-served basis, so employees may not always be able to find a desk in an ideal location. They might also find it difficult to find key team members, resulting in wasted time and limited collaboration.
Hot desking anxiety isn’t new. For years, employees have been venting their frustrations about hot desking on Twitter:
Hot desking is an anxiety-filled nightmare.
— James Lewsey (@JayLews_) May 24, 2018
Hot Desking is THE WORST. Oh the area I usually sit is full? My anxiety instantly is triggered.
— Ben Morrison (@bencmorrison) February 25, 2020
Some employees like the idea of hot desking, but feel it negatively impacts their productivity.
People fed up with hot desking and open plan offices. Personally I quite like hot desking in principle but have managed teams where seating arrangements on busy days have taken up way too much energy https://t.co/dd5DMjyUDG
— Katie Jacobs (@katie_jacobs) June 17, 2019
Aside from the general uncertainty, there’s also an underlying sense of giving up control over their workday that's at the root of hot desking anxiety.
And this could become an even bigger issue as companies map out their return plans following the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, flexible seating presents a whole new set of challenges that might exacerbate hot desking anxiety. For one, many people are on high alert these days, remaining vigilant about hygiene and trying to maintain a safe distance in shared spaces.
Shared desks are potential hotbeds of germs and require proper sanitation, which can be an additional source of stress for employees today.
The prospect of going back to an office with a completely unstructured seating arrangement has unleashed a new stream of social media posts.
Hang on, hot desking is supposed to be what we shouldn’t do in a time of COVID...
— Brett Gray (@bcgray) October 10, 2020
Employees like Steph [@efffyy] are anxious enough about going back to work as it is, and dealing with hot desking anxiety doesn't help matters:
As much as I want things to get back to normal and as much as I am bored to tears, I’ve gotten used to it so much. I have a massive ball of anxiety in my stomach about travelling to work and being back in an office where they have now introduced hot desking.
— steph🍃 (@efffyy) June 22, 2020
Lauren [@beyondbrandable] shares how unsettling hot desking can be, tweeting,
Hot desking is really hard - while remote work has lots of challenges, it’s easier for me to know where I’m headed for the day. No designated space means it’s hard to ever get settled & do deep work. Also, I like my photos & trinkets- they ease anxiety in stressful moments!
— Lauren Barrett (@beyondbrandable) September 17, 2020
Hot desking anxiety has been compounded by months spent working in the relative comfort and security of employees' home offices.
Establishing good hot desking protocols can go a long way towards alleviating most of the major symptoms of hot desking anxiety because they'll help your employees feel valued and safe when they choose to come into the office.
There are several actions you can take to accomplish this, including:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides guidelines for businesses that outline how to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work.
While the CDC suggests seven days is the limit for virus survival, some studies found that the coronavirus can stay on certain surfaces for up to 28 days. Although many experts say this is highly unlikely to occur outside a dark laboratory, it might make employees think twice about sitting down at a shared desk.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s still important to disinfect shared surfaces with an EPA-approved cleaning agent, such as Lysol. While you're at it: Don’t forget about other surfaces like door handles, elevator buttons, photocopiers, light switches, faucets, keyboards, and your conference room scheduling displays.
While you will need to provide monitors, adapters, and power strips at each shared desk to make it easy for employees to get set up, everyone should plan to bring their own laptop, mouse, and keyboard.
You may also want to consider adding clear barriers between individual workstations.
Not having a place to securely store their personal belongings is also a common cause of hot desking anxiety. People want a place to put their things.
You can put coat racks and lockers in the office so employees don’t have to worry about lugging around an armful of items throughout the day. Another great idea is adding smart lockers that provide contactless access via a mobile app — this is also useful for giving your employees a place to collect their packages and other deliveries.
In the US Work From Home Survey, Gensler found that 73% of employees would welcome more remote working. Most want to come to the office a few days a week, while 12% say they want to work from home permanently.
For some positions and some employees (especially those who commute long distances) it may be ideal to move them to a primarily remote status. This can allow you to reduce the number of desks in your office and maintain a greater distance between each seat without having to invest in additional real estate.
The uncertainty over finding an available workspace is one of the biggest factors contributing to hot desking anxiety. A desk booking system gives employees the flexibility to work anywhere while maintaining a sense of control.
Hybrid employees can really benefit from tools like Teem's mobile employee experience app, which lets employees easily book a workspace from their phone whether they’re in the office or planning their workweek from home. Plus, users can even find out which desks their colleagues have booked so they can look for an available desk nearby.
Give employees peace of mind with agile workplace technology that's easy to learn and use.
Teem’s room and desk booking solutions integrate with Teem Maps making it easier for employees to find and locate their desks each day. Their reservation automatically appears on their own work calendar and on digital displays for everyone to see.
Our desk booking system also tracks when desks are used, which simplifies the process of sanitizing and can help conduct contact tracing if needed. Workplace leaders can also leverage their data booking analytics to make strategic adjustments to their space and intelligently plan for the future.
Hot desking is a hot topic lately, so it makes sense that there's some hot desking anxiety surfacing right now. Some of your employees might feel a bit uneasy when it comes to sharing workspaces once you return to the office. That's understandable. But the good news is that when it's done right — with clear guidelines, sanitation procedures, and desk management software — you can create an effective flexible seating system and give employees peace of mind.
Teem’s Return-to-Office Starter Kit includes visitor management, desk booking, and room scheduling solutions that scale easily to accommodate return-to-office plans for any workplace. See it in action.
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