October 13th, 2021

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If you didn’t have a flexible workplace strategy for your offices before, you have probably considered implementing one in some form after the pandemic.

You may be familiar with hot desking. It's the flexible seating arrangement employees love to hate — or, at least that used to be the case.  Hot desking isn’t a new concept, but in the past it was met with a lot of resistance from employees who hated not knowing where they would be sitting until after they arrived at the office each morning.

But what’s changed today is that after sitting empty for nearly two years, your offices are about to reopen to a workforce that cares more about flexibility than about having a dedicated space.

Here is how the pandemic is shaking up hot desking.

What is hot desking?

Hot desking is to desk booking as Netflix is to video rental.  It gives users the freedom to pick their seats whenever they are ready to work in the office. Book online, work in the office (BOWO) is how we like to refer to the ability to reserve desks on-demand from anywhere.

More precisely, hot desking is a shared seating arrangement that puts the power of picking their seats directly into employees' hands. Desks are booked ad hoc, on-demand, which helps maximize the use of a company's real estate and prevents office space from sitting empty or going under-utilized. 

Advantages of hot desking

Why are so many workplace leaders considering making the switch to hot desking? Here are a few of the biggest benefits companies are hoping to see when they implement this flexible seating strategy.

Making better use of your existing square footage

One of the top benefits of hot desking: Making better use of your existing square footage. Hot desking helps companies cut down on one of their largest unnecessary expenses: wasted space. By offering shared spaces and allowing employees to select their desks in the morning when they arrive, they can reduce the cost of spaces that are sitting empty.

Boosting collaboration in the workplace

Hot desking is also great at encouraging collaboration in the office. Since people move around the office often, hot desking opens the door for opportunities to sit by colleagues they may not have otherwise worked near. Employees are able to enjoy increased levels of flexibility with a hot desking system, which means they can personalize their journey in the office and reap the benefit of having a completely new experience each and every day.

Disadvantages of hot desking

Feeling disconnected or under-valued

Traditionally, there were some mixed feelings about the hot desking setup. For starters, not everyone loved the idea of giving up their assigned seats.

When you're working in the office for 40 hours each week, not having your own dedicated area can leave people feeling less connected to their company culturen. In an article for Quartz, Knud Erik Hansen — CEO of Danish furniture company Carl Hansen & Søns — referred to having your own desk as "a sign of belonging to a company." 

And the discrepancy between who does and does not get a dedicated space can cause some friction, leaving those who go without feeling undervalued.

Difficulty finding available desks

Picture this: You make the drive into the office, find a parking spot, and when you walk into the office you can't find any open seats.

What could be more frustrating than not knowing where you're going to be working and having to wander all around the workplace in search of a place to set down your things and get online? With all the challenges and concerns of the day, people are already overwhelmed. The last thing they want to deal with is having to go back and forth throughout your space just to figure out desk availability.

Desk Booking Software

(By the way, if you have a desk booking app in place you don't have to worry about not knowing where the available desks are.)

Takes longer to get set up each day

Then, there's the fact that with a hot desking set up, employees can't personalize their space with their belongings or configure their workstations to support their own unique needs. For those who are left-handed, for instance, the simple act of having to move the mouse to the other side of the desk morning after morning could quickly become a source of frustration.

Looking for coworkers is a challenge

Beyond knowing which spaces are available, employees also need to be able to locate their colleagues. That gets difficult when seats aren't assigned and they're never sure where people will be sitting day to day.  Fortunately, the best hot desking solutions — such as the Teem mobile app — have introduced features that enable your workforce to search for spaces and people.

Of course, hot-desking has come a long way over the years and there are newer, more modern ways of making shared desks work for everyone.

Not a fan of hot desking? Try this modern alternative instead.

For some, the return to the office is exciting. For others, it’s a fate worse than quitting. Why is the response so polarized? It all comes down to a simple factor: Whether or not your employees enjoy being in your office. 

And after the pandemic, the criteria for a great workplace experience have shifted. Workplace leaders should apply the lessons from the pandemic to their workplace strategies in order to see the full benefits of a modern hot desking system in today's workplace.

Rethinking hot desking for modern workplaces

Employees feel a level of validation from the outcome of the pandemic. Quit rates are setting employers on edge, which is causing leaders to do a little digging into how we got here. Importantly, COVID-19 didn't cause the seismic shift in how we work, it just applied pressure to cracks in its foundation that already existed.

Now, we're here. Like challenging moments before, this disruption seems to have flipped tradition on its head. And businesses everywhere seem to be looking for things to change and solutions to add. But what if one way to address today's crisis was with a modern approach to an existing solution?

Let me re-introduce you to hot desking's more attractive cousin: desk hoteling.

New ways to make flexible seating work

People want to get a say in when they’ll work remotely and when they’ll use the office. That means they’re willing to share desks as long as they have good options and some control over their own workday. The key to making shared seating arrangements work today is allowing employees to create their own personalized experience. Desk hoteling lets them do just that, by giving them everything they need to choose a workspace and book the one that fits their needs best.

Your employees are hopeful about the progress being made towards a far more flexible future. As they work to balance their personal and professional lives, juggling the responsibilities and opportunities involved with both aspects of their lives — so should company leadership.

In the new era of work, there should also be a new era of empathy shown to your employees. Now is the ideal time for getting closer to your people and facilitating more creativity among teams. That will require helping people juggle the digital and physical aspects of work. One of the most important ways to do so is by developing a flexible seating system that's designed to remove the logistical headaches that exist with traditional hot desking methods.

If you're considering using hot desking as you rethink your workplace — and how your workforce uses it — make sure you go with a desk booking system that's designed to put the power in employees' hands. 

Return to work - Blog Teem

The good news is that hot desking can work really well in the post-pandemic office, and the great news is that the technology enabling you to get the full benefits from hot desking already exists. And it doesn't take forever to implement or train users on, it's quick to deploy and incredibly user-friendly. 

So when it comes to making hot desking work for your organization, explore our tips and best practices for implementing a modern flexible seating strategy that will help keep your team happy and improve their time on site. Download our guide.

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