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Senior management at my company are talking about possibly introducing hot desking*, which might be introduced at the same time as an office move planned in a few months. The new location will be large enough to accommodate the company size; there will be enough desks for everyone, space is not a problem.

What problems does hot desking strive to solve, apart from not having enough desks?

Does it actually solve those problems?


*From Wikipedia: "Hot desking is an office organization system which involves multiple workers using a single physical work station or surface during different time periods. The "desk" in the name refers to an office desk being shared by multiple office workers on different shifts as opposed to each staff member having their own personal desk."


Update

Etiquette is: I select only one answer, but several answers here answer this question; there are several other excellent answers.

  • 36
    Why do you think hot-desking strives to solve any problem apart from space utilization? – Dukeling Oct 29 '18 at 16:30
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    Does senior management plan to also participate in hot desking? If they are or are not participants affects the how quickly "problems" are solved. – chux Oct 31 '18 at 5:11
  • 2
    I think desk sharing is a more common term (Maybe 'regional'? I've never heard of hot desking) and understandable without having to look it up. – Jan Doggen Oct 31 '18 at 10:07
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    @JanDoggen To be fair, it's a fairly well-established term in the English-speaking working world. I've never heard of "desk sharing" so this may be a term specific to your locale, and perhaps others with which I am not familiar :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 31 '18 at 10:26
  • Given the consensus on your question is "Only a few very specific situations, other than space utilization (which you say is a non-problem in your company)", you may want to rephrase the question "What is the impact (pros and cons) of hot desking?" – smci Nov 2 '18 at 13:34

17 Answers 17

86

Hot Desking is useful if team structure changes often, or if people are working from home for the majority of their time and their presence days can be coordinated company-wide. That's a lot of ifs.

I've seen exactly one working example for each of these:

  • one customer building test and measurement equipment organizes work items as short-lived projects, where they build teams with domain experts for each of the layers in their software stack (UI, remote control, settings data model, measurement data processing, hardware control). Each is chosen from a pool, and the team works together for a few weeks. Desks are allocated for the project duration, then switched around.

  • one customer has 80% home office as standard. Each team meets once per week in the office to coordinate and review. Desks are allocated to the team for this one day. Company laptops are standardized, and docking stations are provided on each desk, so people bring in their laptop only, no cables or accessories.

I've also seen it fail miserably in an environment where 50 people shared 40 desks. Basically, people showed up at 7 AM to get one of the free desks, then tried to stay awake using lots of coffee.

  • 31
    So what happened to the last 10 people who didn't get a free desk? "I guess you are working from home today, sorry about the wasted commute"? How does that last beyond day 1? – Myles Oct 29 '18 at 16:53
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    @Myles, they usually usurped some conference rooms or space in the cafeteria, which was not good for productivity either. – Simon Richter Oct 29 '18 at 17:06
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    Why would making your employees physically compete for a space to do their work seem like a good idea to anyone? – GreySage Oct 29 '18 at 17:21
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    @GreySage: Because it reduces quantifiable costs by trading them for unquantifiable ones. The cost savings of less space and fewer desks is easy to pin a number on; the productivity loss, not so much. If your job is to make the numbers look good, but you don't understand people, you'll inevitably optimize your job into "focus on the quantifiables, and screw the rest". – cHao Oct 29 '18 at 17:43
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    @Myles don't give them any ideas. I'm sure someone right now is thinking, yeah, that's a good idea. – Edwin Buck Oct 30 '18 at 3:38
156

Hotdesking doesn't solve any problems, no matter whether the office is too small or not.

I've worked at a company that had 20-40% fewer seats than employees. Battles for chairs cost us (and company...) plenty of time. It was a drama. The most important part of the day was ensuring you had a chair.

Your company is probably expecting to grow. This could explain why they want to introduce the system now.

Or maybe they just want people to "network more". But that's not the way to achieve that.

  • 20
    If the company believes that many of their employees are out on call, remote, or occasional office visitors, then they might believe they are reducing the footprint of the office space, by having desks to accommodate the attending employees, without reserved desks to accommodate the unlikely to be present employees. The problem is, at times when all hands meetings are held, you have too few desks under this plan for your employees. – Edwin Buck Oct 29 '18 at 15:23
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    @EdwinBuck, in the case of occasional office visitors, it's still better to have a few seats reserved for "occasional visitors" than make everybody fight for seats and take all their things with them every evening because some people aren't in the office most of the days. – BigMadAndy Oct 29 '18 at 15:28
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    I didn't have to read past "Hotdesking doesn't solve any problems" to agree. As good as the intentions might be for the company, I have yet to meet someone in person who found it a positive experience in the long run. Perhaps there are industries where there are more part-time workers where it actually does solve some problems? – Kozaky Oct 29 '18 at 15:56
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    @Kozaky I didn't have to read past "Hotdesking doesn't solve any problems" to disagree and to think that this is a poor answer to a good-faith question specifically seeking to identify what problems it does solve. It might introduce more issues than it solves and specific implementations might be a net negative for a company (as with this answerer's experience), but in my opinion this isn't a good Answer to the question. – WBT Oct 29 '18 at 16:49
  • 13
    Just make them all standing desks. Boom, chair problem solved. – GalacticCowboy Oct 29 '18 at 16:57
104

I am not a fan of the hot desk principle, but here are a few reason why people might be for it:

  1. Tidier working area. If people can't keep their belongings at their desk, the desks are typically clutter free
  2. Fresh perspective. Some people actually think differently when they are moved around. I don't, but I know people who claim where they sit affect them
  3. Collaboration with new people. Depending on your field, this may encourage to work with more people than before and it could cause a rise in productivity

Again, I am not for hot desking; these are just reasons I have heard in the past.

  • 6
    4. Smaller office space (eg 20% less chairs than people with the 20% working from home) requires hot desking. – UKMonkey Oct 29 '18 at 16:02
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    @UKMonkey that is correct, but OP asked for reasons other than that – SaggingRufus Oct 29 '18 at 16:03
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    Re #1, that isn't solving a problem. For many people, it's creating one. If my desk isn't "cluttered", I am not working effectively. – jamesqf Oct 29 '18 at 16:59
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    @SaggingRufus, what managers "want" and what is productive for individual employees are sometimes at odds... – CramerTV Oct 29 '18 at 18:08
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    @SaggingRufus: But the purpose of managers is to hinder individual productivity. See e.g. "The Peter Principle", or innumerable Dilbert cartoons :-) – jamesqf Oct 30 '18 at 4:19
27

If some employees are not regularly at that office (e.g. mostly-remote workers), a hot desking system allows the desk space to be used more efficiently. I believe this was the original reason for the system; it allows the company to save on office space that goes unused. Also, if a worker has multiple office locations, s/he might not need a dedicated space at all of them; hot-desking can help accommodate.

When there is a consultant or consulting team coming in and regularly working at the client site, it is easier for them to work with the regular staff in a hot-desking arrangement, on the days when the consultants are in.

On days when there are several people out (e.g. popular times of the year to take holidays), the ones who are in can sit closer together for collaboration instead of feeling like the place is a ghost town.

If people are on teams that change relatively often, or on multiple teams, they can have the close desk proximity to one team while they are working with that team, and then easily change when working with a different team (e.g. a different day or a different week) without disruption of moving offices.

If people aren't allowed to keep things at the desk, it also makes for a tidier workspace and reduces the probability that an important paper will get buried under a mound of others on someone's desk.

Of course, hotdesking introduces new challenges such as the time cost of getting things set up every day and having to access a closet or cubby for the things one might otherwise keep in/at/on a desk. However, forcing people to get up and walk around more might also reduce healthcare costs and associated loss in productivity from the health issues caused by long constant sitting.

If there aren't actually enough desks for the staff who show up on a given day, competition is likely to burn resources and staff are unlikely to have the space they need to be most effective.

  • If the company can afford cubbies and enough office space to accommodate them, why not instead spend the money on a desk for each employee and enough office space for them? And how is "forcing people to get up and walk around" a good thing, when they could use that energy more productively? – Rosie F Oct 31 '18 at 6:49
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    Walking around is probably only going to increase by a significant amount if company gets standing desks for everybody, or if everybody is forced to switch their desks after an hour. – MauganRa Nov 1 '18 at 12:56
  • It increases the probability that an important paper will wind up in the wastebasket, as opposed to under a mound of other papers. – David Thornley Nov 2 '18 at 22:43
  • @DavidThornley I don't think so. People tend to take care of those things and pay attention to what they're throwing out, but consider safe on their desk to be taking care of something and then they don't notice when something gets buried. – WBT Nov 5 '18 at 17:26
  • @WBT It's easy to look at a piece of paper and misjudge its importance. If you've got a pile and you don't know whether to keep something, you put it in the pile. If you don't, you toss it at the end of the day. I've had papers I thought unimportant turn out to be important. – David Thornley Nov 7 '18 at 5:07
21

There are too many unknowns to answer your question. But, from experience, I can give a couple of examples where hot desking makes sense:

At my current place of employment, most departments don't use hot desking -- since most people work from the office. Except for our largest department: customer care. Customer care works 24/7/365, which many agents only working between 24 and 32 hours a week. We'd need a few more offices if everyone had their own desk.

I used to work for a company where its employees would spend most of their time at customers. Sometimes, I wouldn't be in the office for several months in a row. We did have a few desks to host people who would be in the office, but there weren't enough desks to seat everyone at the same time.

My spouse works at a place where everyone has a 3 or 4 day workweek. The office is small, and putting in enough desks for everyone would violate health and safety rules. Hot desking solves this problem.

Whether any of the situations described above apply to your company, I cannot deduce from your question.

  • 1
    yes at my last company the customer service desk was hot desked for exactly the same reason. – WendyG Oct 31 '18 at 10:57
17

As others have already said, it solves little if any problems, but there is one situation that I have experienced where at least can be helpful.

That is the 24/7 business. Any business which has people in the offices 24/7, i.e. upto 3x8hr shifts. This is common in a call centre environment, but can also exist in other environments too, depending on the company.

I can't tell you if your company is thinking to use this or not, but it's an 'advantage' of hot desking - as long as you only ever have 1/3rd of your total workforce working, you only ever need desks for 1/3rd too.

  • 4
    Yes, this. It is even more useful if additionally the main work is not done at a desk. For example nurses in a hospital do not mainly work at desks, but they sometimes have paperwork to do. So hospitals provide them with desks, but only one or two per ward, which are used as needed, as it would obviously be silly (and impractical) to have a personal desk for each nurse who may ever work at the ward. – sleske Oct 30 '18 at 10:13
12

Hot desking is kind of the cloud service approach to office resource management. Thus it fits similar scenarios and helps tackle similar challenges.

Scenarios it fits

  • there are limited office resources
  • and there is substantial fluctuation in resource requirements, i.e. part-time workers, contractors, interns etc. that work at different times and/or switch projects a lot and/or are required to regularly switch the work place to do different tasks
  • and/or close communication amongst workers is paramount

Examples would be, for example, companies that internally have a very heterogeneous work force with regard to working times and/or project associations or companies with a lot of sub-contractors, consultants, externals, that will occasionally visit their premises needing work spaces.

Problems it solves

  1. Easy ad-hoc resource allocation: Part-time worker coming in on Monday, give them one of the free desks, any desk will do. No cleaning required. No central management to assign desks required. Easy identification of a free resource (no one's sitting there/having his stuff there). Same goes for external visitors that are at your building for a few meetings and that need a place to work in-between etc. This also helps for doing an ad-hoc short term project, no need for management to assign a new office just for this project, the respective people can just get free desks that are close-by.
  2. Easy resource re-allocation: Worker A is ill and Worker B needs to fill his spot in team Alpha -> just use his place and be directly integrated with the team; Same goes if Worker A needs to support team Alpha for a week, just use any free place, if necessary Worker C who is currently working on a side project for team Alpha and thus doesn't need to sit that close this week can switch to another desk.
  3. Resource usage maximisation: Considering the example where you have multiple contractors, instead of assigning each one office, which are both only used for half of the week, you assign them both one office which is used one half of the week by one and the other half by the other contractor. Or maybe by some guys from each contractor each day of the week.
  4. Pipelining: You can easy build a pipeline where the rooms/workplaces instead of the workers change; thus one worker can guide one product/customer throughout a process. Consider a car service, where the technician first does the paper work at a desk, then goes to the garage with you, then fills out the report at another desk.
  5. High information exchange rate: As workers can easily decide where to sit and change whom they sit next to, it facilitates a high rate of communication between individual workers.
  6. Resilience: if one resource fails, i.e. a desk/building/room is unavailable, it is easy to switch that worker to another desk.
  7. Cleanliness: As with most things standardized (proper standard), it is easier for others to use your resources, i.e. the cleaning personal will find it way easier to properly clean your desk regularly. People with a focus on everything being clean and orderly might also find this to be a psychological advantage.

Challenges it introduces

  • Your workers need to be able to run on cloud infrastructure, i.e. they need to clear their desk each evening and take everything they require to work with them
  • Workers may not "settle in" long-term by choosing their preferred seating place (next to window, flowers, quiet corner) and keep it for their time at the company; this can for some workers make it harder to be creative or get into "the flow"
  • Workers that require special equipment at their desk have particularly increased setup effort or may need to be excempted from hot desking. This applies to workers that perform special tasks, but also to workers with disabilities, requiring special desks or chairs
  • You need to provide core infrastructure that makes it easy for workers to find free places that fit their requirements (e.g. close to other members of team X)
  • You incur overhead to setup and coordination, i.e. get your place ready to start working and find other workers you need to communicate with
  • It's more difficult to estimate how many places you need (where)
  • Workers may need to be more independent and figure out who is best sitting where in their office by themselves

Opinionated Summary

The crux with this is, that your workers need to buy into the concept. Especially if you apply it to everyone, not all might see the benefit as they don't fall into the groups of people that gain anything by using this approach. I guess this is why this question generates a highly upvoted opinionated dismissive answer; people fearing they need to adapt this, when it doesn't fit their working style. It is also easy to mess it up, same as with cloud infrastructure, management may only see the potential cost benefit of reducing the number of desks - and underestimate the actual requirements in terms of number of desks or the impact of a single day where there are a couple places missing. While it is often seen as management imposing on workers, it can also be an empowerment, as it fits well with a bottom-up approach, where workers manage themselves (to some degree), e.g. just decide to sit together with whomever they need to work with for their current task.

Generally speaking, I've seen this work well, when it was sensibly combined with a traditional approach. Part-time workers, internals, and workers that switch projects on a regular basis go full hot-desking, while workers that do normal day-jobs all through the week have allocated desks and only clear them out when going for an external project or having holidays of a week or longer. Sometimes there are also dedicated hot-desking rooms to use in addition to normal offices, for ad-hoc group projects.

An important lesson is also: Depending on what you do hot-desking for, you might not actually reduce the number of desks, e.g. if you provide separate hot-desk rooms for ad-hoc projects in addition to your "normal" offices (hot-desk or not).

And yes, if applied blindly to force a mostly 9-5 workforce to use hot-desking, it will likely bring more problems than solve things.

(Then again, it's successfully applied in almost all schools which combines resource maximisation and pipelining.)

  • 1
    This is a very good summary, but one challenge I would add is productivity. Most creative work requires the ability to concentrate, and that's more difficult to do with frequent distractions. Hot-desks remove the ability to control the work environment. The creative worker might get the "good desk" in the quieter area with fewer visual distractions on one day, but the next day they could get a "bad desk" in the noisiest, busiest location. A pragmatic workspace should ensure key contributors always have quiet workspaces without distractions (and without cost of daily setup/cleanup time). – SafeFastExpressive Oct 30 '18 at 20:49
  • @RandyHill I agree that it makes it harder to "settle into a comfort zone place", be that a quiet place or one close to flowers etc. But the environment it's suited for is typically one that prioritizes communication and likely the ability to switch tasks quickly, which might also be a negative indicator for people who like to "settle in" and solve big issues by deep thought. I'll see if I can integrate that later. Thx for the comment. – Frank Hopkins Oct 30 '18 at 21:56
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    Additionally, it causes challenges in inclusivity, disability-related and other health-based adjustments, etc. If someone has specific needs (eg. they need a specific chair because of the kind of support it gives, the desk/monitor to be at a certain height, to use a trackball rather than a mouse, for example (not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination) then if you do true hotdesking, you either have to have all these adjustments set up for the user at the start of every shift they do (and undone at the end ) or you have to assign them a specific permanently free desk – Wenlocke Oct 31 '18 at 15:24
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There is another case to consider, layoffs. This does not seem to be a problem at your company, as there are enough desks for employees. But consider one where 100% of desks are utilized and there is 20% spillover into conference rooms and such at times. A reduction in staff will be less noticed by existing employees as all desks are already over-allocated. This also helps by de-personalizing space. That desk is where "John" a loyal employee of 20years used to work. So no stigma associated with certain spaces(cursed desk), and no nostalgic remembrance.

  • @JoeStrazzere The sentence in your quote claims otherwise, so I'm not sure what you're replying to. No. paulj was saying they'd be less noticed, not that they'd be unnoticed. – Nic Hartley Oct 29 '18 at 21:30
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    @JoeStrazzere Or you just didn't notice the layoffs that you didn't notice? Either way, "I noticed every layoff" isn't a valid argument against "sometimes layoffs might not be noticed". Maybe you will notice every layoff ever, even the people you've never interacted with and don't know exist, at your company. But other people might not. And other people might have less chance of noticing it if the desks are constantly being shuffled. – Nic Hartley Oct 29 '18 at 22:10
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    In many locales the management has to announce layoffs, even to people not affected. So not only do you notice you will get notified of it. – joojaa Oct 30 '18 at 0:11
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    @JoeStrazzere - Yes. They are announced. But it the person who sat next to you for 20years who is now gone...that feeling is not noticed because it was never there. – paulj Oct 30 '18 at 12:40
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    This is very twisted logic that I can't ever see actually being true. Any time I've been at a company that's had layoffs, it's the #1 topic of conversation among employees. There's no such thing as a 'less noticed' layoff. – 17 of 26 Oct 30 '18 at 16:43
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Employees in such workplaces use existing offices only occasionally or for short periods of time, which leaves offices vacant.

Pulled right from your wikipedia page. I think this is important as "hot desking" is meant for workers to share the same desk, but at different times. Like maybe a call center job or something.

I think it's important to know when you'll be in the office and when the next person will be in the office. I'd hope your company would schedule different time slots for each of the desks rather than having everyone fight for space.

I believe it comes down to saving money and resources. They'd only have to manage one workstation and just your account rather than managing multiple workstations.

I think it's important depending on what industry you're in. Are you a call center? Or traditional office? Hard to determine from your question.

  • 2
    IF you have multiple shifts, AND nobody ever works over their allocated shift, it can work. If anyone works late, or turns up early, they disrupt the system. – Alan Campbell Oct 29 '18 at 23:31
  • @AlanCampbell Not if you properly plan some buffer spaces. Saw it working very well in a company with a substantial amount of part time workers and a substantial chance of regular workers doing a home office day. – Frank Hopkins Oct 30 '18 at 13:22
  • @AlanCampbell Right, the objective isn't to make work convenient for the workers, but allow the company to save money and resources. – Dan Oct 31 '18 at 16:28
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Ask your management. They're the ones that implemented it.

Start with your boss. Tell her what you told us.

"Kate, I see that when we move to the new office we're going to be doing hot desking. The new location will be large enough to accommodate the company size; there will be enough desks for everyone, space is not a problem. Do you know what's behind this decision?"

  • 18
    The question asks what problems hot-desking solve, so this seems more like a comment than an answer. – Dukeling Oct 29 '18 at 16:28
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    @Dukeling No, the question asks what problems it STRIVES to solve, not what problems it solves. The only people who can answer that are those who proposed introducing it. The number of problems it ACTUALLY solves is zero. – alephzero Oct 29 '18 at 19:54
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    @alephzero That part of the question is not specifically about their situation (the opposite, in fact, if you look at the post history), and should thus be answerable by other people. – Dukeling Oct 29 '18 at 19:57
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Hotdesking solves the problem of having a happy workforce who can come in to work every day to a familiar, comfortable environment and get down to productive pursuits aided by the dependability of a consistent routine. Thank goodness!

Honestly, it might seem petty, but I'd be out — I rely on a routine and a predictable work environment and the instigation of hotdesking would entirely throw me off my game, for no benefit.

  • there are literally answers here that answer why it is needed and works - check out abigail's answer. the question isn't "how would you handle hotdesking" – bharal Oct 31 '18 at 11:10
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    Not to mention the fact that our customized workspaces (keyboards, mice and HD monitors) are no longer available. – KevinDTimm Nov 2 '18 at 14:50
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    @KevinDTimm Right! Headphones. Notebooks. Desk drawers with our favourite teabags. Pictures of our kids and so forth. How clinical to start from scratch every day. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 2 '18 at 14:56
4

While I generally agree with 385703's answer in that hotdesking generally causes more problems than it solves, its use in the business really depends on the nature of the work and office culture.

For example, in a company that promotes work from home you may find that this is used to optimise the use of space and can even dictate corporate real estate policy to ensure that space is fully utilised. This can backfire if smart working isn't adopted to the same extent as expected or if particular locations become more popular than others.

Where hotdesking is used in larger organisations where projects can span multiple offices. Here hotdesking can provide access to space on an ad hoc basic and minimises the amount of time that desks are left empty. I have also seen organisations designate small hotdesk areas to particular projects to allow teams to sit and work together even when hotdesking without taking up more desks than strictly necessary.

In the same vein, some offices may be client facing, and particularly in areas where real estate is limited and expensive (think London for the UK or other central city hubs) hotdesking can be valuable to enable multiple projects to utilise this space on a scheduled basis - much in the same way as a meeting room booking service can be used.

In your case it's difficult to make a judgement without understanding more about the office culture/practices but it seems likely that 385703's suggestion that the company is expecting to expand could be the case.

2

The problem hot-desking is trying to solve is exactly "not having enough desks". I used to work for a consulting company where I would spend 95% of time at the customers' and maybe 5% at the office. The office could only accommodate maybe 20% of all consultants, but there was never a shortage of seats so hot desking totally made sense.

Another use case for hot-desking is when a significant share of employees wear several hats at a time. If 100 people spend 50% of their time at the office and another 50% of time in a lab, it's tempting to organize 50 office desks and 50 lab desks instead of 100. The downside is that sometimes a most of people have to do the same kind of work (end-of-year reports and such) and suddenly half of the employees have to do office work at the lab with poor Internet and no printers.

Employers who claim that hot-desking is introduced to solve a different problem than the lack of desks are usually hiding unpopular reasons (saving costs at the expense of worse working conditions) under cool slogans about team cohesion and agility.

  • An effect of this is to discourage consultants from spending too much time at the home office, when they could be out at the client site and billing. Obviously, this is something management would want to encourage. – Mike Harris Nov 3 '18 at 2:22
2

Proponents of hot-desking (who usually prefer other terms like "unassigned seating") often argue that it encourages collaboration/networking within the organisation. For instance, this blog post says:

An article around workplace design in the Harvard Business Review collected performance data ... and found that “face-to-face interactions are by far the most important activity in an office.” Moreover, their data suggests that creating chance encounters and unplanned interactions, a design concept Steve Jobs pioneered at Pixar, improves performance. By instituting unassigned desks and communal work areas, employees are more likely to move throughout the day, which facilitates interaction and collaboration between employees who might have minimal interaction otherwise.

However, this isn't an entirely accurate characterisation of the HBR article that it cites. That article notes that different solutions work for different workplaces, and discusses a case study where hot-desking gave very poor results:

Companies must have an understanding of what they’re trying to achieve (higher productivity? more creativity?) before changing a space. For example, what worked at the pharma company didn’t work at a large furniture manufacturer that transformed its headquarters from classic cubicles to an open-plan office in which approximately 60% of the workforce had unassigned seating ... The company had hypothesized that fewer desks and a smaller footprint would move people closer together, increasing the likelihood of interaction. Unassigned seating would make interaction between people in different groups more likely. Such interaction did increase, by 17%—but energy levels (the number of individuals’ encounters during the day) dropped by an average of 14%. This suggests that the space simply reshuffled stationary workers rather than creating movement. Someone from marketing might bump into new people because their temporary desks happened to be close by, but none of them were leaving their workstations once they got there. As a result, team communication dropped by 45%. The company saved money on space by reducing the number of fixed workstations, but both revenue and productivity plummeted.

My workplace moved to hot-desking a couple of years back. Although this kind of unplanned interaction was mentioned as one of the benefits, I don't think it's substantially increased. People tend to prefer sitting in a familiar place, so most of us now alternate between two or three standard locations. Moreover, because accommodation is coordinated at workgroup level, each workgroup ends up with its own "home zone" so even though we shuffle round a bit, we're still sitting with the same people.

One complication here is that we moved to about 30% teleworking at the same time as we adopted hot-desking, and obviously teleworking reduces unplanned interactions.

  • 4
    Every time I hear "it will increase communication and collaboration" the result is the opposite, with the added effect of reducing the ability to concentrate. Open plan offices, hot-desking, whatever -- they're always promoted in terms of teamwork, but that never pans out. – Rob Crawford Oct 31 '18 at 20:27
2

I work in an office which uses hotdesks.

My office is a services company where most of the people will be working on client location. People comes to office when there is no project assigned to them or they have to work in non client work.

This works well, as the other scenario where each employee is assigned a fixed work place will cause huge waste of space.

The same company's office in another country where majority works from office doesn't have hot desk policy and is assigned a fixed desk.

TL;DR. It only works well for companies where a significant percentage of employees work remotely.

1

If the company offers different areas, it might help you to get the right environment. Their could be quiet places where any noise should be avoided, like in a library. Other areas could allow some talk. In meeting rooms, phone booths, collaboration rooms (which cannot be booked in advance) distractions to others can be avoided.
Depending on the work you have to do, you choose your place. If you have to concentrate for a longer time, go to the quiet places. If you have to talk to other team members, go to somewhere else. If you have a phone call or a spontaneous discussion with two co-workers, choose the phone booth or a collaboration room.

-1

What problems does hot desking strive to solve, apart from not having enough desks?

Management inferiority complex. Also, consultants need of a new car.

Many of these projects are buzzword bingo bullshit dreamed up by some consulting company after a short study of the workplace environment, and those profits only need to last (or seem to last) until the manager is promoted to his next position and the same consulting company can come back in with a new plan.

There are, of course, circumstances in which sharing desks is appropriate, as outlined by, e.g. Dmitry in his answer.

In a regular office setting, however, hot-desking is one of those consulting non-solutions. I've worked as a consultant, we always had one eye out for the follow-up business. No solution was ever intended to be permanent.

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