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Blog Post|7 minutes

3 Smart Alternatives to Hot-Desking Your IT Team Should Try

April 8, 2021

After more than a year spent working from home, plenty of employees are actually excited to return to the office and see their colleagues face-to-face. But that excitement will quickly fade when they realize they have no place to sit.

While some businesses will be staying fully-remote after the pandemic, others are preparing for a new era of hybrid work, where staff will split time between home and the office. And many HR and IT leaders will inevitably turn to a flawed strategy that predates the pandemic: hot-desking.

Hot-desking refers to a first-come, first-serve system in which assigned desks are replaced by unassigned spaces that different employees can “rent” for a given time period.

On paper, this strategy seems practical – after all, as much as 40% of an office’s dedicated desk space sits unused collecting dust. With a more pared-down approach, companies can use only the space they need, and thus cut costs on real estate and energy.

In practice, however, hot-desking can be nothing short of a nightmare for employees.

Keep reading to learn why this strategy often fails – and find out what IT teams can do to support a flexible workspace that doesn’t sacrifice employee experience.

Hot-desking creates a volatile workspace where one bad day can significantly damage employee experience.

Companies who adopt a hot-desking approach aim to create an agile and flexible workspace. Instead, they often create a chaotic free-for-all.

Without proper planning, this sort of strategy is dead-on-arrival. But even with a stringent process in place, a single error or miscommunication can result in employees having nowhere to work, clamoring over limited space, or wasting time searching for the right equipment.

Here’s an example. Say a company reorganizes its office space and turns its designated desks into hot desks. They distribute a company-wide sign-up sheet where employees can reserve desks ahead of time.

On Day 2, an employee forgets to sign up for a desk but shows up at the office anyway. Another employee who did sign up arrives late and finds no available desks. Before long, these two employees are fighting over a desk  – and instead of getting important work done, they spend a huge chunk of their day resolving a frivolous seating issue.

It’s no wonder why 19% of employees want their employer to eliminate hot-desking entirely when they return following the pandemic.

So, if hot-desking isn’t the answer – what is?

Surely there must be some way to make office spaces more efficient without torpedoing employee experience.

IT teams play a pivotal role in making flexible workspaces possible.

Despite the many pitfalls that hot-desking presents, it is indeed possible for businesses to create flexible workspaces without putting employee experience at risk. To do so, they’ll need a dedicated plan – one that is heavily reliant on an IT team’s ability to leverage analytics.

The following three steps are the perfect foundation on which IT teams can build their flexible workspace strategy.

  1. Segment employees based on working environments.

Employee personas are critical to the modern IT strategy. We’ve spoken at length about how detail-rich, dynamic personas impact the way IT teams offer support, provision technology, and engage with employees.

The issue of flexible workspaces is just another example of why personas are so important. With access to deep and continuously updated personas, IT teams can segment employees based on their work environments – an element that can no longer be left to assumption in the hybrid work era.

Segmenting employees into three categories (in-office employees; fully-remote employees; and hybrid employees who will work from a variety of environments, including the office) allows IT teams to ensure space is optimized for the number of employees who will be coming in on a given day. 

flexible workspace

A closer look at managing employee experience using personas

  1. Prepare infrastructure to meet the needs of in-office employees.

Of course, optimizing office space requires more effort than making sure there are enough seats and monitors for employees. Employees who come into the office don’t all have the same job demands – they’ll each have unique needs when it comes to workspace technology and resources.

IT teams can analyze experience-driven data to guarantee every employee has what they need when they enter the office. Hard data related to technology usage – as well as employee sentiment regarding their wants and needs for their office experience – will help IT teams plan ahead and adapt in real-time to equip the workspace with the right resources for the right employees.     

  1. Deploy targeted campaigns to aid hybrid workers.

Even when backed by IT analytics, flexible workspace strategies can still cause confusion and frustration among employees. After all, it doesn’t matter how well a workspace is optimized if hybrid workers don’t understand the workspace and the proper procedure for coming into the office.

IT teams can guide employees through this process with engagement campaigns targeted to hybrid employees. Through these personalized campaigns, employees can receive time-sensitive sign-up sheets, helpful instructions for when they come into the office, and information about available technology and changes made to the workspace.

2020 gave us the chance to make the new workplace a more productive, more rewarding environment.

After the pandemic, the way employees work will never be the same – and neither will the physical workspaces they use. Some businesses will likely restructure their offices, opting for cheaper, downsized locations or renting out co-working spaces.

Either way, old strategies like hot-desking are not the right solution to new workspace challenges.

Creating a flexible workspace isn’t about saving money on real estate at the expense of employees. A flexible work environment should empower employees, giving them a stellar experience no matter where they work.

By placing employees at the center of the workspace strategy, IT teams do their part in creating a workspace where everyone wins.