Christophe Clerc-Renaud, Sr. Director Sales EMEA West, discusses why hot desking offers more than just space and cost savings.

Hot-desking. Businesses love its promise of space and cost savings. But the benefits don’t stop there. When hot-desking is done well, employee performance and productivity can enjoy a boost too, delivering even more value. So, what does it take to make a hot-desking environment work for everyone?

Paying for empty desks is wasted money

Office space is a significant overhead for businesses, but studies have shown that about 40% of desk space can be vacant at any one time(1). And hot desking has been shown to cut the costs of running an office by about 30%(2). So, it’s no surprise, given those figures, that a recent survey of 400 multinational corporations found that two-thirds plan to implement shared desk workplaces by 2020(4).

Many others are already on this journey, enabling flexible working and encouraging people to be in the office for fewer days each week so they can downsize their physical footprint, reduce empty desks and pay less. As much as employees welcome flexible working (especially on those wonderfully productive home-working days), the flipside is that they become office nomads in a hot desking environment.

Why employees should give hot-desking a warm welcome

People can take a while to adjust to changes in their work environment, especially when it means saying ‘good bye’ to their own desk. But the new way of working can also give employees more freedom. Sitting next to new people can spark fresh ideas, new prospects for progression in the business and new friendships. Teamworking can be a lot more fluid. And the ever-changing mix of conversations can bring a renewed energy to office.

The human cost/benefit analysis of desk sharing

For businesses planning to introduce hot desking, there’s much to gain. However, there’s a high cost to getting it wrong. Yes, you’ll save on square footage, but what will you lose? Hot desking done badly signals to employees that they are a cog in the machine and not valued as an individual. Another study revealed that shared-desk environments can lead to employee marginalisation, indifference towards co-workers, loss of identity and decreased organisational commitment(3).

And that should worry employers. If your people are feeling undervalued and losing belief in your business, they are likely to move on. And you’re faced with recruitment and training costs, plus disruption to the team.

What can you do to get it right?

Research found that the biggest complaint was the inability to personalise desk space, with nearly 70% of people flagging this a source of hot desking misery(1). It’s understandable. We set up our desks so we can work comfortably.

One size does not fit all. Desk height, monitor height and angle, placement of keyboard, mouse and footrest, along with the right chair – each employee needs something different to work in a healthy way. So, although people might put up with losing desktop knick-knacks, they won’t put up with discomfort, back and neck discomfort. And the business won’t enjoy the increase in sick days as aches and pains force people to take time off.

Show you care with the right hardware

So, there’s more to setting up a hot desking environment than just dumping monitors and a phones on a bank of desks. Or worse still, clearing the desks and expecting people to sit, hunched over their laptop all day. If fact, choose the right hardware and you can provide a working environment that counters many of the negatives associated with hot desking while still enabling cost and space savings. What’s more, the right furniture can boost collaboration and performance too.

What’s your idea of a ‘hot’ desk?

Let’s start with the reality for many companies – a bank of standard, fixed office desks. After all, with pressure on budgets, repurposing existing furniture makes sense. And it’s an environmentally-friendly choice. One excellent option that provides a work spaces to suit multiple users is the addition of sit/stand desk converters. This item sits on top of the existing desk and, in one simple movement,  it lifts your monitors, keyboard and mouse to your chosen height so you can work standing up. By giving employees the ability to change positions through the day, it signals that you care about their wellbeing.

Warming up to the benefits

It sounds simple, but frequent, low-intensity physical activity, such as intermittent standing during the workday, has far-reaching benefits associated with employee health and satisfaction. Plus, it’s good for productivity, with one study showing employees who alternate between sitting and standing are more than 50% more productive than employees who sit all day(4).

Sit/stand converters are also comfortable when you’re seated with the keyboard tray positioned in a way that minimises strain while typing. And installation is instant. Get it out of the box, put it on the desk and it’s done.

Up in arms for better shared workspaces

Another option for converting existing desks into adjustable, shared-working spaces is the addition of monitor arms. Again, you can reuse existing monitors, fixing them securely to a fully adjustable arm that’s mounted on the desk. This gives workers the freedom to position their screen exactly where they want it and tilt it for perfect viewing.

With lots of flexible configurations to choose from that bring up to three monitors into play, hot desks with monitor arms can be a powerhouse of productivity for any employee. Equally, monitor arms are particularly effective at improving collaboration as screen sharing is instantly easier. Being able to position screens so colleagues can work together more effectively is good for people’s performance and team spirit.

A space of my own

According to architect and office design specialist, Frank Duffy, most people, given a choice, would probably like “a window they can open, a door they can shut and a wall they can beat upon”(5). However, “a door they can shut” can be hard to come by in busy workplace.

However, there is a fantastic hot desking alternative which lets employees find a quiet corner – and that’s a mobile workstation. It has the same versatility of a sit/stand desk, with an ergonomic set up for monitor or two, keyboard and mouse. But it also has a sturdy set of wheels for go-anywhere convenience. For employees struggling with noise and interruptions, this option can keep them happy and productive.

Smart working in the tightest of spaces

Just hitting the contract furniture market are some very sleek wall mounted sit/stand desks. Designed to be mounted as a wall desk or panel mount, they can fit where other desks can’t as the worksurface flips down when not in use so it take up very little space. This convenience doesn’t come with any compromise on healthy working. These desks have the full ergonomic range of height adjustment, so anyone can sit or stand comfortably to work.

Look out for models that put power and charging within easy reach, and also give you the option to add a couple of monitors – ideal for optimising productivity. Whether they are designed into a new down-sized office or installed during the revamp of an existing workspace, these wall/panel mount desks are a great hot desking solution. A customisable front panel offers a choice of colours and finishes so these desks can tone in with the décor or be used for a bright pop of colour. And unlike some of the electric sit/stand desks, these are energy-savers, with the user able to adjust the desk to the right height instantly and effortlessly.

Happiness and hot-desking can go hand in hand

Choosing flexible, user-friendly hot desk equipment can definitely have a positive impact on how employees feel about a shared working space. Each employee can set up their work space so it feels personalised, and work in a way that promotes wellbeing. This directly addresses the ‘cog in a machine’ feeling and shows employees that their individuality matters. It all feeds into a positive corporate culture, lower absenteeism and better employee retention. And to make sure each employee’s working day gets off the best start, why not introduce an app that helps people locate a free desk easily? That would definitely make hot desking a lot cooler.