Hot desking has suffered a fatal defeat at the hands of COVID-19. A method for companies to save costs, it was never quite successful in increasing efficiency or productivity.
Much maligned by employees but loved by employers, hot desking was originally brought in to save companies money. Of course, it was sold to employees as allowing them to be more “agile”, but instead cast them out to the wild savanna to look for somewhere to belong for the day.
study by Bricekdon, a consultancy, indicated people wasted 18-30 minutes a day on average looking for somewhere to sit: that equates to 2 weeks a year!
Although it was supposed to increase equality, the reality is that it did the opposite: it ended up creating a caste system (from top to bottom):
- Anchor desk holders - those who legitimately needed a permanent desk
- Cheating Campers - those who take over a desk by leaving their stuff all over it, creating a bio hazard in their wake
- The Homeless - those who are continually left searching for a desk because they follow the rules of hot desking.
Although touted as offering increased efficiency, studies in 2011 and 2017 study showed that hot desking:
- Decreased trust and increased distractions
- Had a negative impact on cooperative behaviour and relationships
- Decreased perception of support from supervisors
- Loss of identity
- Decreased organisational commitment
Now that social distancing is the new norm, those who have to return to the office have to be assigned permanent desks. Larger companies are also being forced to implement a roster system, where only specific teams are allowed to come to the office on specific days in the month.
Office design had always been a balance between well-being, productivity and cost. Hot desking was a far tilt to Cost, at the expense of the other two. COVID-19 has forced companies to put well-being centre-stage, where it should have always been. It’s only logical: take care of your people and productivity follows.
Let history record that the hot desk is finally dead, victim of a pandemic. Thank goodness.
Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi