Hot Desking Rules


To get the most out of what hot desking has to offer, however, companies must establish hot desking rules to guide behavior, set the right expectations, and keep employees happy.

A good set of hot-desking rules must be relevant and beneficial, with proper rule understanding and situational awareness at its core.

The following set of rules is by no means exhaustive but is inclusive of the only needed – those that matter. 

1. Understand The What and Why

2. Know The How

3. Arrive Before Anyone

4. Eliminate Distractions

5. Mind Your Eyes and Voice

6. Stay Organized

7. Maximize Social Advantage

8. Stay Healthy

9. Clean As You Go

Now there is a good reason for employees not to get too attached to their desk.

Two-thirds of the 400 multinational companies surveyed by commercial real estate agent CBRE will adopt shared workplace arrangements by 2020.

There is no stopping this popular trend, and one that threatens to end the era of dedicated workstations is hot desking.

With enticing perks such as reduced operational costs, increased worker mobility, and easier collaboration, hot desking may very well be the rising king of 21st-century office organization systems.

Breaking Down The Rules

1. Understand the What and Why

“What’s in it for me and why should I care?”

This is the first question employees often ask whenever a new program or scheme that can potentially disrupt their normal workflow – or their lives is implemented.

And without prior and proper orientation, resistance and lack of cooperation are expected and inevitable. Some may participate but only for a few weeks and just for participation’s sake.

Understanding must always precede compliance. So before rules are rolled off and even after that, employees should know and understand the scope, definition, and purpose of hot desking – what it is in detail, why it is necessary, and why it is worth the change.

This will result in purposeful compliance, and not blind allegiance to the rules.

2. Know The How

Implementing hot desking is not difficult, but it is far from being a simple task.

It is not as easy as squeezing strangers who have never together closer or grabbing the nearest chair while no one is looking. There are enough concerns in every workplace, and fighting over who sits where must not be one of them.

A system must be in place, where employees can quickly know what desks are available so that they can get either book ahead of their shift on the same day or book just-in-time on a first-come-first-served basis, and they should know how from the get-go.

Loss of productivity can result from lack of information. It’s not unusual for many companies to jump into the hot desking bandwagon thinking they could wing it without a plan or procedure.

Whatever hot-desking system a company opts to use to manage where everyone sits and for how long should promote order and consistency. For a small workforce, a tool as simple as a whiteboard, marker and eraser can be used to reserve a desk and indicate availability or unavailability, and one admin staff can be assigned as official desk keeper.

For those with more workers on the move, a dedicated desk management tool may come in handy. If a company plans to use a software-based desk management tool, employees should be familiar with the features.

Reservation, allocation, and cancellation should be smooth and intuitive, and should not take more time than necessary.

A live demo with hands-on should be scheduled and ample time for practice and adjustment should be provided during on-boarding so that the process of check in and check out will be a breeze and a delight.

3. Arrive Before Anyone

Every minute counts for busy hands and heads.

It would be a terrible waste of time and mental energy to step in the office after making it through a stressful commute or a long drive – only to spend the next 15 minutes finding a random empty desk in a sea of workers.

Nobody wants to arrive at the office only to find out their favorite seat is taken.

Nobody wants to endure working in the worst seat and location because there is no choice.

Punctuality goes a long way. You can do more serious work the earlier you arrive at work, even if there is a provision for same-day desk booking. And of course, a greater chance of choosing the best seat in the house for the extra punctual.

You can benefit from the extra minutes you have at your disposal. You can setup workstations before you get busy, or review the most critical tasks for the day while sipping your first cup of coffee. You can also do the bulk reading on your emails before interruptions get in the way.

4. Eliminate Distractions

Working in a hot-desking world is working in a connected but distracted world: from tons of emails waiting to be read to social media with its endless newsfeed seducing you by the minute to just go and swipe away, and even to colleagues who can’t wait until the morning break to share about their recent trip to Malibu.

In general, distracted workers are unproductive workers.

Every time they switch from one task to another, their cognitive performance is reduced by what is called attention residue, a remnant of the previous task – even if brief, that persists in the mind. You can still work, but you will lack the focus to produce quality output.

Distraction has that power, and it should not be underestimated.

Distracted workers are also chronic time-wasters.

Software company in released an infographicOpens in a new tab. showing how an employee’s time is typically spent every day, and the picture is bleak: more than 3 hours is wasted on unproductive tasks like reading non-work related emails or attending unnecessary meetings.

And in a week, most employees are only productive 60% of the time.

One way to eliminate distractions is arriving early so you can plan your activities (See Rule # 3). This way, reading emails can be scheduled to avoid reading at random intervals.

Another way is working only on one task at a time to avoid multitasking.

Hundreds of effective ways exist to curb distraction. The key here is to be deliberate and intentional.

In hot desking, productivity is so crucial that it should not be sacrificed at the altar of distraction.

5. Mind Your Eyes and Voice

In a hot desking environment, everyone is within eyeshot of almost everyone.

Humans are curious creatures no doubt, and working on a hot desk all the more heightens our curiosity. Monitors are never invisible even in your peripheral vision, and you are bound to see what you do not want to see or should not see.

It seems like nothing is private anymore, but even then, hot desking is no excuse for breach of space and privacy.

To avoid confidentiality issues that may arise, never peep into another workstation on purpose unless permitted. Make it easy for others to mind their eyes too. Lock your working screen, and do not leave pins and passwords in plain sight.

In a hot desking environment, everyone is also within earshot, and what you presume as a whisper may be more audible than you think.

Even in other types of shared-workspace strategies, a loud, pesky voice is frowned upon, and shouting is considered uncultivated.

Employees should be conscious of their pitch and tone, keeping in mind that they are not alone and everyone deserves a working environment conducive to productivity.

On the left, someone might be trying to focus on a demanding task involving financial spreadsheets and so is in need of a little quiet time.

On the right, someone might be in the middle of closing a million-dollar sale, and the last thing he wants is an unruly, boisterous interruption that ruins the deal.

For teams that are adjacent to each other but are too far to have a meaningful collaboration, the use of an extension phone may be more suitable.

Personal calls have their place too, but it’s not on a working desk. Personal phones should be in silent mode.

If it is an emergency, use the huddle room. Better yet, you can tip-toe your way outside to take the call.

6. Stay Organized

Minimalism has one golden rule on organization: have a place for everything and everything in its place.

It is simple and trite, but this saying for die-hard minimalists also has great value in a hot-desking workplace. Being organized doesn’t just result in a workstation befitting of a professional. It also results in saving one prized and limited resource: time.

Imagine what you – and the organization as a whole – can do with the minutes you do not have to spend fumbling with scissors, clips, or pens.

Those are minutes you can spend learning a new skill to bolster your career or developing a new product that consumers will love to buy.

When things are in their proper place, there will be fewer incidents of mishandled paper works and missed deadlines. Less decluttering is needed too, leading to higher productivity.

Taking – and making – the time to organize your working desk is a keystone habit you don’t want to go untapped and undeveloped.

It is a habit that ripples through other areas like performance, productivity, and even stress levels.

Technology can also help. Instead of printing stacks of documents that lead to clutter, companies can also consider availing of cloud-based services for general storage that is accessible anytime, anywhere.

You can also consider setting up dedicated storage space for printed references or files in use on ongoing projects.

This eliminates the hassle of moving things around as you move from one desk to another.

Remember, an organized desk is a haven for productivity, and you can build that haven, keeping things where they should be every single time.

7. Maximize Social Advantage

Hot desking affords a greater sense of social freedom that makes strengths-based collaboration possible, a missing advantage in other office desking practices.

If you have worked long enough to know colleagues whose strengths can complement yours, then do yourself a favor and sit on the desk next to performers.

That can result to a performance improvement of up to 15%, according to a studyOpens in a new tab. by Harvard Business School.

Note: A backlink can be provided to direct readers to the article “Does It Matter Where I Sit In The Office?”

Different departments with different strengths and specialties can also take advantage of mobility and proximity and learn from each other in a whole new way.

You can talk and work with people of different expertise, and observe their best practices in action.

Fresh insights are within an arm’s reach, and information can flow more freely as the walls of formality are broken down. You can simply ask a favor in person instead of crafting a long email request. This way, a hot desking scheme can pave the way to an intersection of knowledge not previously thought possible.

Employees can also benefit from a wider social circle, introverts and extroverts alike. They can easily become friends with strangers, and can more easily find a suitable mate too -for those who are searching.

8. Stay Healthy

For companies relying heavily on employee productivity for their products and services, health is profit.

The healthier employees are, the fewer absences they have to incur, and the more productive the entire workforce will be.

For employees with mouths to feed and bills to pay, health is wealth.

Doctors have been touting this for decades – a real no-brainer – but it is surprising how something so important is so neglected, especially with limited vacation leaves to plot over the year or unlimited quotas to meet over the weekend.

Nobody is invincible though. Yes, a healthy diet and regular exercise help a lot, but sometimes the stress and demands of work can take a hard toll on your health.

For others, fear holds them back from staying home, away from their keyboards and monitors. There is fear of missing out being productive.

If your symptoms are way above the neck, then it is alright and even encouraged to call in sick, even for “manageable” yet contagious illnesses like common colds, especially at the onset.

You don’t want to risk getting the entire office ill. Take a leave for a day or two and rest. You will recover much quicker, and be more productive and motivated to work again in a fully-recovered state.

9. Clean As You Go

Do you love working lunches and quick snacks on the go?

No problem. So long as you don’t leave a mess of gravy on the table and crumbs on the floor.

Have you ever noticed how little litters like candy wrappers, tissues, or scrap papers pile up unnoticed in proportion to workloads?

Instead of doing one big cleanup before you head home, it is best to do mini-clean ups during your breaks, so you are never too busy not to clean.

A squeaky clean desk speaks volumes about the last worker who used it. It gives the impression of control, consistency, and attention to detail – traits any company would love to see in their employees.

While for a desk left untidy until the next shift, it signals a lack of consideration and professionalism. Of course, you don’t want to be the next employee to use the desk only to suffer from a morning eyesore.

That is not a good way to start the day. It may even cause resentments among co-located workers, which can hamper collaboration.

As a general rule, all hot desk should be as clean and spotless as before employees walk in the office.

And even better, employees should walk out and leave their desks cleaner than when they found it.

Over To You

This template covered the rules that are not the hard and fast, but the few and essential.

Implement for a vibrant and a more productive hot desking experience, and remember that rules that are not just meant to be followed – but lived.

Related Questions:

What are some Hot Desking ProblemsOpens in a new tab.?

Hot desking is best for cost and productivity in the age of mobile workers, but it is not one without issues.

Some problems associated with hot desking are distrust of others, distractions that interfere with a focused state of mind, and lack of cooperation that leads to the eventual abandonment of the practice.

What is the Psychological Impact of Hot Desking?

The psychological impact of hot desking can be positive or negative depending on how well employees communicate and understand the tenets of this space allocation practice.

On the upside, employees can have a renewed outlook on their work. The open communication makes them feel heard, and that empowers them to work harder and smarter than before. And on the downside, employees who have difficulty adapting to the changes associated with hot desking may end up stressed and demotivated, vowing not to move to another desk ever again.

What is Hot Desking Storage?

The demand for practical and cost-efficient storage skyrocketed as more and more companies practice hot desking.

Here are some options to consider:

1.      Personal lockers

2.      Bespoke Cabinets

3.      Sideboards

4.      Cube Storage

5.      Bookshelves

6.      Pedestals

7.      Racks

8.      Carts

9.      Sofas with storage

10.    Dowel shelves

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