Hot Desking: Policy Recommendations

Hot Desking: Policy Reccomendations

In previous posts, the pros and cons of hot desking have been dealt with but as with most things, it boils down to what to do when you want to implement a change of this nature. All aspects of this new way of working must be taken into account and then an informed, educated decision made on whether or not it is suitable for your workspace.

Some people thrive in a hot-desking environment but only when it is appropriate for the type of work they carry out. With a good Wifi connection and a laptop it’s very easy to work effectively anywhere in the office. As the very nature of business is changing, people may not be in the office five days a week.

This is where hot-desking is the obvious solution for a workforce capable of working in a more dynamic and flexible way than ever before 1. In theory, hot desking is a great idea. Many organizations are looking for more flexibility, and for ways of trimming costs. Hot desking makes it easy to accommodate today’s workforce.

Hot Desk Suitability

Hot Desking is about providing the right infrastructure and going in with a strategy rather than just cost cutting. Different employees will have different requirements and catering for them all will determine the success of this strategy.

The important thing is to identify how the workforce will utilise the available space and build environments to match, with different desks and layouts, different seating and even different partitions 2. Steps need to be taken to ensure that this system suits your organization.

Try Running A Survey

Before committing to this kind of workplace in your office, try running a survey with your staff. Even test the idea on a focus group first to see if productivity or your desired metrics improve 3.

This policy may not be for all members of the staff, so alternatively trialling it on a smaller scale may provide better insights into how best to utilise this practice or to implement it at all.

In addition, should changes be made, or recommendations applied to improve workers' experiences, these must to be trialled, monitored and feedback gathered. It is not enough to simply make changes aimed at improving the shared workspace.

Without ongoing assessment, after the strategy has been implemented, it is difficult to know whether these changes are the right ones without gathering feedback.

Further, as the workforce evolves and as work processes change, ongoing assessment of the efficacy of interventions should be standard procedure, encouraging employee-participation and feedback 4.

It’s apparent from the literature to date that different job roles require different environments.

It works best with clear definition

Hot desking works best when there are clearly defined inputs, outputs, and set goals, and in many cases these are unlikely to be sufficiently defined for every employee and team within every organisation 5.

When hot-desking is the right fit for your organization, is all about efficiency and in theory this practice frees up money to invest into other areas. Many of the flaws attributed to hot desking can be the result of poor planning and execution 6.

Team involvement is paramount to its success and should be consulted during all stages of the process and, crucially, follow up with them in a review to see how it’s going 6. Make the necessary changes as they arise.

It may be appropriate to assign desks at certain times of the year, but a more flexible structure could be the better option during other periods. Being specific to your Organisation is crucial to success.

Hardware & Software Considerations For Your hot desking policy

“Hot desking is now a possibility due to advancements in technology. Therefore, it’s success is dependent upon both the hardware and software availability to employees.”

Many companies just allow anyone to sit anywhere and this usually proves inefficient to the point where it annoys the employees more than helps them.

However, making it a smooth and attractive system (via online desk-booking, laptops and mobile phones) can help reduce all the time lost by not knowing where to sit.

Consider Software For Desk Booking

A system of this nature can be crucial to setting up a successful hot desking arrangement and making sure that it benefits the employees 5.

Use a system that lets people view online which desks are free that day 6. This gives people a sense of control over their work area, but do not allow block bookings, for example, every day for the next week, month or year 6.

Saving space will hopefully save money but that isn’t the only criteria that should be used to determine its success. Hot-desking, when it is the right fit for your organization, is all about efficiency.

Considering Cloud-based options

Cloud-based services allows applications, services and resources to be available to users on demand via the internet from a cloud computing provider's servers.

Cloud-based services like hangouts, instant messaging, business-focused social networks and voice and video chat are now easy to implement and of a decent quality and can be used internally to keep employees in touch with colleagues, or externally with suppliers, clients or partners 7.

Security is a major concern and should allow employees to do their jobs from anywhere inside or outside the office, but without jeopardising sensitive or confidential material 2. If you’re adopting Hot Desking, however, then it might also be a good time to think about implementing a public or private cloud strategy 2.

With multiple services hosted in the cloud for example email, data-storage, backup, archiving etc., it’s a lot easier for users to roam within the office and outside it. The knowledge that employees can connect to their work material in multiple locations allows them to adapt their work habits to their individual needs.

Personalised desktops and robust network access allows greater connectivity and portability of the workforce. Using a virtual desktop infrastructure in the office is one option or putting a desktop PC at every desk and use cloud-based services 7.

A proper ergonomic setup for the laptop should be made available as well and workers thought how to set up a PC workstation correctly. Different options will work for different organisations, but standardising equipment will help you to figure out what works best where 7.

Changing the Office Dynamic

The old way of one-desk-per-person operation is changing as the dynamic within the workforce changes. This is no longer the most efficient use of space and resources.

Other benefits can also be seen by this new procedure. By putting workers in close proximity with people who might not be in the same team or department, it encourages the spread of thoughts, feedback and ideas, and of a wider, less department-focused company culture 2.

By tearing down metaphorical and literal divisions between departments, greater overlapping of ideas as well as understanding of other people’s role is allowed to take place.

The effect of Physical Dislocation

Physical dislocation from the organization is strongly associated with a reliance on technological rather than face-to-face forms of communication 7.

Greater collaboration is an essential ingredient in the creative process, and one of the arguments in favour of the adoption of hot desking in organisations.

But research on information processing suggests employees need space to concentrate without distractions, and interruptions inhibit creativity. Open work spaces may actually undermine creativity by normalising group behaviours towards structures and boundaries 5.

With this in mind an organisation must be very careful and so only with proper planning and understanding, the true benefits of improved interdependent work begin to take shape 8.

So if all the equipment and furniture is set up, a system that works for your organisation is in place, there is still a potential pitfall. Some people work well in isolation, but many don’t.

“Research conducted last year by the university of Sheffield found that staff who moved from desk to desk felt less connected to their colleagues, and communication suffered.”

In some cases, employees without a consistent ‘home’ in the office may feel disconnected from their company or their job 2. Work team identity is more salient than organizational identity when desks are assigned, whereas organizational identity is more salient when they are not 7.

This is partly because physical arrangements have a significant bearing on the way in which employees engage with the organization as well as who they are most likely to engage with therefore impacting on the type and focus of organizational participation 7.

It is argued that this way of working suits the way “young people” work, specifically Millennials and the older generations may not adapt as quickly. It suits a generation that converses more fluently electronically than in person.

There is a suggestion that there is a potential indirect age discrimination, but it is still very individual and unsubstantiated. It’s really important that steps are taken to prevent these negative consequences from happening 2.

Through proper planning and a structured approach, isolation of workers and the feeling of detachment can be reduced and the effects diminished.

Workspace Matters

Frequent desk relocations can also waste time and generate additional work, and the noise associated with more open work spaces can increase distraction, mental workload, fatigue and stress, all of which can negatively impact productivity 5.

Regarding the mechanisms of attachment, different desk arrangements systematically changed the primary medium of active participation in organizational life, with implications for the dynamics of psychological salience 7.

Constantly changing and a feeling of lacking control in one's person area has the potential for far reaching implications. The physical surroundings of organizations provide messages about the company’s capabilities and qualities to outsiders and employees alike 8.

The physical layout affects the social network and increased interaction leads to more positive emotions toward one’s job, organization and those whom one interacts with (8).

Previous studies have also indicated that office design and layout can affect intergroup communication and collaboration 9, and that flexible workspaces promote group cohesiveness 10.

As previously discussed, a way to track employees in this environment within a building and beyond is essential to its success.

There is also evidence to suggest hot desking can result in distinct social structures and even indifference between those employees who settle, versus those that move regularly.

Managing employee behaviour in this environment requires an awareness that two distinct cultures may emerge 5. So even after this system is implemented, a procedure to follow up with employees will help to ensure its continued success.


This way of working may not suit all workplaces. There are pros and cons for this practice, making sure this model suits your work environment and the people you have in the company will help to determine its effectiveness.

In short:

  • Know the resources that are available to you

  • Know your employees and their motivations

  • Integrate the system through collaboration with workers

And therefore, improve employee health, happiness, productivity, collaboration and satisfaction. By using this criteria to judge effectiveness instead of just costs, the true suitability and success of your hot desking policy can be determined.





  4. The demands and resources arising from shared office spaces Rachel L. Morrison a, * , Keith A. Macky b. Applied Ergonomics 60 (2017) 103e115



  7. Millward L J, Haslam S A, Postmes T (2007). Putting Employees in Their Place: The Impact of Hot Desking on Organizational and Team Identification. Organization Science. 18(4), 547–559

  8. Bitner, M. (April 1992). Servicescapes: The Impact of Physical Surroundings on Customers and Employees. Journal of Marketing, Vol 56(2):57-71.

  9. Elsbach, K., & Bechky, B. (Winter 2007). Working Smarter Through Leveraged Office Design. California Management Review, Vol 49(2): 80-101.

  10. Lee, S.Y. & Brand, J.L (2005). Effects of control over office workspace on perceptions of the work environment and work outcomes. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 25: 323-333