HRTech Insights: Are Fixed Desks Holding You Back in 2021?

If you are not embracing hot desking to boost agile practices and inspire your employees, you might be missing out.

Hot desking has been around since way before the pandemic – and so has the skepticism surrounding it.

COVID-19 shook and changed the world of work forever and saw the demand for hot desking skyrocket. But even as more companies embrace hot desking and digital desk booking solutions, the practice is still seen by many as a necessary evil or a temporary concession.

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Recently, WSJ published an article.

This piece generated lots of discussions in my LinkedIn network, especially among professionals in commercial real estate.

The most popular pros for having hot desking seem to be focused on two aspects:

  • Space efficiency and cost cutting – if your staff will only come in 1 or 2 days a week, then issuing permanent desks is a waste.
  • Temporary, COVID-driven measures – lack of assigned seating allows you to clean the workplace more frequently as a part of enhanced pandemic-era hygiene protocols.

The cons of desk booking tend to focus on longer-term potential effects – from lack of sense of belonging to the end of impromptu chats with colleagues.

As someone put it, “Why would you come into an office where you don’t even have a place of your own?”.

Here is my take on hot desking.

As the CEO/Co-founder of a scale-up, I believe that if you are not embracing hot desking as a means to support agile practices and inspire your employees, you might be missing out.

Let’s put the enhanced hygiene protocols, occupancy limits, and other COVID-driven measures to one side. Even without these additional factors, hot desking might help you create a great environment that supports and enhances agile practices – if done right.

Hot desking has been around at my company since well before COVID – as a matter of fact, we never had fixed desks. Instead, we have personal lockers where we store our things.

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Here is how the team benefited from this setup:

Better Processes

Employees can choose where and next to whom they want to sit – based on what they are working on at the time. For example, members of the marketing team responsible for demand generation might want to sit next to teammates in Sales so that they can listen to relevant conversations with prospects. During big product launches, however, marketers might choose to sit together with the Product team – for better collaboration and planning.

Greater Perspective on Business

Not only did sitting next to teammates from different departments help us build a truly cross-functional team – it also provided greater insight into the context of what was happening at the company. The kind of informal knowledge one obtains by sitting with a teammate from the IT department is different to the knowledge presented during a formal meeting.

A word of caution: hot desking has been great for us, but that doesn’t mean it will be great for every company. There are lots of factors to consider – the size of your company, how formal your processes for collaboration are, whether you have enough desks to accommodate everybody, the list goes on.

Regardless of your process, one trend has become clear – the office is gradually becoming a hub where non-remote employees come to accomplish things and align rather than do mundane tasks.

If your business process involves a lot of cross-departmental collaboration and you practice agile methodologies, then there is a good chance that a dedicated desk setup might be holding your team back. If you think this is the case, you might want to give hot desking a try – your employees might like it.

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