Despite growth in flexible working practices, one recent survey found 81 per cent of UK office workers prefer having their own designated workstation to taking whichever desk is free.* So is the vogue for hot-desking really good for business?
Yes Jane Fielding is head of the employment, labour and equalities team at Gowling WLG
Hot-desking is still a relatively recent phenomenon in the UK, but it’s already helping to address the siloed culture that can permeate workplaces where, with people more and more relying on technology to communicate, there is often little movement around the office. Regularly changing a seating pattern can better support teamwork, providing the opportunity to meet colleagues you might otherwise barely see.
As well as new surroundings helping to combat fatigue, a change of desk can boost efficiency too. Hot-desking uses space more productively (music to the financial director’s ears, no doubt) – if individuals regularly work off premises or a business uses job-sharing or shift patterns, it is a waste to have fixed places, leaving a workstation unoccupied much of the time. A system in which desk numbers don’t exactly match headcount is simple common sense. It sends positive signals about an organisation’s support for remote working, although this should also involve honing workplace technology to ensure it is agile enough for such flexibility. Lastly, hot-desking is better as it allows for more sharing of ideas, which means better learning, and line managers can spot if someone is struggling.
No Graeme Donnelly, CEO of Quality Formations
One of the main ingredients for a successful business is to find and keep talented staff. It is important to consider the mental and physical wellbeing of staff to ensure they can give their best and really feel valued. In the quest to build this healthy atmosphere, hot-desking is not the approach to take.
Looking first at physical issues, monitors and chairs are not set to their user’s requirements. This can cause eyestrain and back pain for those who constantly change desks. Cleanliness can also be an issue with hot-desking, as keyboards, mice and telephones are subject to higher levels of bacteria and germs will spread around the office faster.
From the mental wellbeing perspective, employees who have their own desks are known to feel more comfortable with the familiarity. It is also the case that if a hot-desking policy is adopted there is likely to be competition for what are perceived to be the ‘best desks’ – those with less noise or closer to amenities – which can create unnecessary tension and loss of focus.
Hot-desking also presents IT and logistical challenges. I believe employees need personal space to feel truly comfortable – and healthier and happier employees help cut costs by reduced absence and greater productivity.
Graeme Donnelly is a member of IoD London
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* research by rebootonline.com