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Return to Office: Hot Desking and the Power of Flexible Workspaces

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If you’re new to hot desking, it’s an office setup that serves as a temporary workspace in hybrid work models. See how this office trend is helping companies better serve hybrid employees.

For the better part of the last few years, millions of employees have clocked in from the comfort of their own home. Now, eager to return to a state of normalcy, many organizations are asking employees back to the office (at least, to a certain extent).

The problem? A smooth return to the office is easier said than done. In fact, research shows that 82% of decision makers are concerned about successfully getting employees back to the office this year. Employees want freedom—not just in terms of where they work, but how they work, too. 

Enter hot desking: an innovative workspace solution that’s bringing flexibility to the modern workplace. But what exactly is hot desking? How does it work? And, most importantly, how can your organization benefit from implementing it?

What is hot desking?

Hot desking refers to a flexible seating arrangement wherein your employees can book and use a workstation anywhere in the office on an ad-hoc basis—that is, if it hasn’t been reserved already. As an alternative to the traditional fixed-desk setup, this approach allows people to freely work wherever they feel comfortable on any given day. 

The goal is simple: Optimize available office space, maximize efficiency, and minimize redundancies wherever possible. In theory, this translates to a more productive (and more harmonious) office environment. 

Hot desking is far from a new phenomenon. In fact, CitiBank became an early pioneer of the concept in 2014. After realizing much of their office space was underutilized, the company introduced flexible workstations that made better use of real estate. Now, as more organizations return to the office using a hybrid work model, employees are expecting a similar degree of freedom.

In some cases where companies are forcing employees back to the office full time, workers are pushing back strongly against their mandates. Some have even successfully convinced employers to reverse course and return to a hybrid policy.

Benefits of hot desking

Hot desking has its critics, but it also has a series of undeniable benefits. More than a seating arrangement, the hot-desk approach is a great way to strategically empower your workforce and support overarching business goals. Let’s dive into the advantages:

  • Cost savings: As reported by Forbes, hot desking reduces costs because it allows for smaller office spaces where equipment, facilities, and utilities are all shared by employees as they come and go.
  • Collaboration: Hot desking encourages employees to change up their seating arrangements regularly, affording them more time with colleagues from different departments. This supports cross-functional productivity, breaks down communication barriers, and helps build a stronger company culture.
  • Organization: Because employees are using new workstations all the time, there’s a lower chance their desks will become cluttered with knickknacks, belongings, and office supplies. This not only makes for a tidier workplace, but also can encourage productivity as employees spend less time on upkeep and more time on work and creativity.
  • Retention: With the freedom to work wherever they’re most comfortable, employees can enjoy an in-office experience that fits their unique workstyle. This autonomy can translate into better workplace engagement, alleviating burnout and reducing employee turnover.
  • Insights: Perhaps the best way to manage a hot desking setup is through a centralized dashboard. Not only does this make it easy to book workstations and oversee their usage, it’s also a great way to identify target improvements. By linking a centralized dashboard with your hot desking setup, you’ll get a range of data on space usage, allowing you to spot trends and make informed decisions about space allocation.
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A group of people working from hot desks in a coworking space.

Hot desking tips and best practices

When introducing a new hot desking setup, take some time to carefully consider everything you need to make a seamless transition. Otherwise, employees may not embrace the change. To ease the process, let’s take a look at a few tips for setting up a hot desking policy:

1. Make it make sense

Before you get started, make sure that hot desking is a good fit for your company. Circumstances may vary depending on your work model, so think about how hot desking would work in each scenario:

  • Hybrid work model: Hot desks are great for people who come in on certain days, but work from home the rest. This ensures everyone always has a workstation whenever they’re in the office.
  • Office-first model: Even if you’re fully in-person, hot desking supports cross-functional teamwork and encourages people to move about the workplace. Plus, even visitors such as vendors, clients, and business partners can use the hot desk for their own business needs.
  • Fully remote model: Do you have a distributed workforce? If so, hot desking can still work in your favor. Whether at a coworking location or in the office, hot desks offer employees an alternative to remote work, should they need it.

2. Use wayfinding to your advantage

Wayfinding literally refers to the process of finding your way around the workplace. It includes any physical or digital system you use to help employees navigate the office, from physical maps and digital floor plans to more advanced devices that connect video conference schedules, room controls, and room booking.

How does wayfinding relate to hot desking? Fundamentally, wayfinding helps people find available workstations. But, as more advanced technology is adopted, wayfinding solutions can also encompass room booking and scheduling, environmental monitoring, room controls, and more.

With desks switching every day, it can become confusing (and time-consuming) to look for an open space. Wayfinding allows you to cut down on search time and get people where they need to be faster.

3. Equip desks with the right technologies

What good is a workstation if it doesn’t make work easier? According to Kantar, 64% of hybrid or on-site workers take calls and virtual meetings at their desks. 

That’s why it’s key to outfit your hot desks with all the essentials: USB ports, softphones, video conferencing devices, cameras—basically, anything you would need to collaborate in the modern workplace.

4. Complement workstations with bookable meeting rooms

Sometimes, people need privacy—or at least some peace and quiet. Aside from hot desks, bookable meeting rooms offer employees a secluded place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the office and still get their work done. 

Ensure your rooms are also set up with collaboration devices that make it just as easy to join meetings, collaborate, and stay productive. Cisco Room Kits, for example, transform ordinary rooms into fully functioning video conferencing suites.

Supporting your flexible future

Before you jump back into the full swing of things in the office, take a minute to consider the power of hot desking. More than a trend, hot desks are a great way to support your hybrid workplace and provide employees with freedom of choice.

With a structured, tech-driven way to book workstations and meeting rooms, you can prepare your company for a successful return to the office.

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About Author

Robyn is a successful marketing leader with over 20 years of experience in enterprise software and software-as-a-service (SaaS). Robyn is currently Director of Integrated Campaigns and Content Marketing at Webex by Cisco, a leader in cloud calling, collaboration, and customer experience solutions. Previous to Cisco, Robyn held leadership positions at CA Technologies and various small start-ups where she drove programs in digital marketing, thought leadership, corporate marketing, product marketing, and customer advocacy.

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