What is Hot Desk Anxiety? (What Employees Should Do To Have Less Hot Desk Anxiety)


Hot desking is a big hit among companies for several reasons. But when is not implemented right, it affects the wellbeing of the employees, mainly because it’s causing stress and anxiety, which at the end of the day it affects the whole productivity.

So, what is hot desk anxiety. When it comes to hot-desking, the main reasons that are causing anxiety are the idea of not knowing where the employee will sit for the day, the time spent in setting up the computer, then if the surroundings of the day will match the needs of the tasks, not being able to communicate with the team, and not having personal space.

Hot desking is when the employees don’t have assigned desk and usually share the desk with other people. When employees come to the office, they have the option to take a desk that is available and match the tasks at hand for that particular day. This new option of working arose as a way to increase the productivity and collaboration of the employees. As well as to reduce the office costs, since more and more people are working remotely, from home or part-time.

Even though the hot desking has numerous benefits, such as sharing knowledge, increased productivity, interaction with new people, etc., it can lead to uncooperative behavior, increased distrust, decreased commitment to the company, distractions, and perception that there is lower support from the supervisors.

Implementing a hot desk policy should be based on research. Companies should have information on which employees don’t want to change their desks on a daily basis, and which employees don’t mind the change but embrace it. Informing or asking the employees for advice can help in creating the best possible open-floor environment. Hot desking should be implemented in a way that doesn’t cause anxiety and stress.

The hot-desking policy is working for the employees that are used in working remotely and independently. These employees are more comfortable in choosing a workstation or desk according to their needs for the day.  (We have written a related artivcle – Advantages and Disadvantages of Hot-Desking – Deep Dive!!)

Hot desking sometimes can be a contributing factor to an employee’s decision on changing jobs. Especially if the employee is in need to come in later in the day, and if there is no system for booking desks, they can waste a lot of their valuable time in the hunt for a desk. Another contributing factor is walking around the office to find the person you need.

Which hot desking factors are causing stress and anxiety?

1. The worrying of not finding a suitable desk

In companies that have a flexible working hours policy, usually, people are coming to the office from 7 am to 10 am. Employees who are coming early in the morning will occupy the best desks for the day since hot desking operates like that. So people who have their productive hours later in the morning don’t have many workplace options to choose from. They sit where is available.

For example, if one of the early birds’ employees is having a morning meeting, and can’t make it to the office in their usual time, they would probably come to discover that their go-to desk is already occupied.

For most of the employees, the work day will start by walking through the office, looking for a suitable and available desk for the day. This is contributing to the sense of being a non-owner of an office desk and might affect the confidence of the employees.

Having some system to book a certain desk in advance can help in decreasing the stress of finding a suitable desk.

2. It is time-consuming to set up each day at a different workstation

With hot-desking policy, having to plug in and set up each day is time-consuming. Using a laptop can eliminate the need for different wires or cords. But sometimes, depends on the workload, employees need to connect to a second monitor or use the internet network directly, instead of using the Wifi.

Sometimes when some employee has a certain problem with the workstation, simply moves to another without informing the IT department to resolve the problem. So when another employee comes to the same workstation can be faced with nonoperational workstation, whether is a software update or some other need for servicing.

3. Hot desking is not very good for the memory

People usually attach associations and memories unconsciously onto objects around them. If any idea comes into the mind, people might recall it by the setting where they were, when that idea first came to their mind. And, if people are moving around very quickly, they might get confused when trying to remember something.

4. Workplace loneliness

The main reason for implementing hot-desking was to have greater collaboration amongst the employees. Instead, the workplace loneliness is much greater than the collaboration. Employees are surrounded all day by their colleagues and yet feel alone. When you are moving every day, you can’t build relationships with your colleagues.

Technologies day by day are becoming more sophisticated and are replacing all direct human interaction. It seems easier for all of us to send instant messages and emails, rather than talk with the people we need. There are new communication platforms that are providing workspaces for the teams which exclude all social communication.

Even in a traditional office, employees are putting their headphones on to be cut off from the coworkers around them.

It is very uncomfortable to start a normal conversation with someone from your team, especially with someone from another department. So people often feel like they are excluded and left out.

When you are working in a traditional office setting, you might get annoyed by your co-worker talking and complaining, but still, you have some relationship with them and will celebrate their birthday or discuss different topics. And, since most of us are working flexible hours, people come and go at different hours. This way you can’t make any connection. Going to work was more sociable.

There is no more workplace family. Coworkers don’t know each other anymore, there are no drinks at the nearby bar after work. Everyone is rushing to go home and spend the time that’s left with their families.

All of this plus the heavier workloads and longer work hours contribute to the higher workplace loneliness.  Loneliness is bad for our minds and overall health. It can affect our body the same way as obesity, bad nutrition, and smoking.

5. Not having a personal space

Employees are spending the majority of their lives in the office, so having a personal space will make them feel more comfortable at work and more focused. Usually having different trinkets, photos, potted plants, snacks, even a lip balm, can help them personalize their space. While hot desks are more impersonal and can evoke feelings of not belonging. All of this can contribute to reducing loyalty towards the company.

Without having space for personalizing, people are slowly losing motivation, which leads to even more stress than the usual work stress. Some people think of the whole working without having something to personalize their desk to be quite a stressful event. Having some personal stuff help in defining control in the environment and with coping with the stress.

With hot desking, you can’t just get up, pick your bag and leave the office. There is no leaving behind sticky notes, documents, chargers, notepads, etc. You have to pack everything and take it away with you. You need to clean your desk as well for the next occupant.  

One upside of hot desking is that the employees have a storage locker to store all of the documents and their personal belongings.

6. You can’t find your coworkers easy

Even with assigned workstation, you can’t expect to find the person you need at any time. But it will give you a general idea of where to find him/her. With hot desking is a lot harder to track down someone.

Especially when you have some deadline or another pressing issue, not being able to find someone can be really stressful. You can’t leave a sticky note or ask around since there are no designated desks.

Usually, people want to sit in close proximity to their team.

What should employees do to have less hot desk anxiety?

In order to have less anxiety and stress with the new hot desking option, you should take into account the following steps:

  • 1. Take a few breaks and don’t eat at the desk – Use your lunch break to leave your desk. It will relieve you from the anxiety and the pressure you might feel. Use every chance you can get to get out of the office and have different surroundings. Even taking a short walk alone or with a colleague can be a mood-enhancing, especially if you can take your walk in a nearby park or green space.

  • Having a proper break means that you need to get up and log off. Don’t use your break to browse on the internet, or check up on your social media accounts, especially if your job requires working on a computer. Because looking in another screen won’t help you recharge your batteries and at the end of the day, you might get drained emotionally and physically.

  • 2. Be organized – Having to change the desk every day, means that you can’t leave your sticky notes or papers overnight, so you need to find a new way to deal with the on-going work. You can store the notes from the day before in a work folder or keeping a list of tasks.

  • 3. Carry things that you need on a daily basis – Most of the employees use office equipment such as pens, paper or highlighters every day. Whereas staplers and some other office equipment can be stored in the personal locker since they are not used very often. You should carry only essential things with you, so it will be easier for you to set up in the morning and clear away when you are leaving.

  • 4. Clean your desk – Hot desking means that you will share the desks with other people and be exposed to different bacteria, and colds. Most of the companies have a daily cleaning policy, but having a hand sanitizer, a packet of tissues, and keyboard wipes are good to have at any time.

  • 5. Take the opportunity to socialize – Hot desking is offering the opportunity to sit next to people from different departments, get to know them better and collaborate. Take this chance to socialize and not feel lonely.  (We have written a related article – Reduce Stress and Anxiety at Work – Not Your Average Stress and Anxiety Relief Products)

  • 6. If people around you make you nervous and anxious, try using headphones. Listening to calming music, or whatever your preferences are can help you to cope and take away the distractions of the people around you. This is a great way to have some privacy and concentrate on your work.

  • 7. Personalize your desk – Personalizing the desk while hot desking can be difficult, but not impossible. You can easily bring a few possessions with yourself wherever you go, such as photos of your children, pets, your favorite coffee mug, etc. By marking your space while working can help you create a mini-sanctuary.

  • 8. Finally, you can ask your coworkers if they are having hot desking anxiety as well. You’d be surprised how many people feel the same as you. This will help to bring the issue of hot desk anxiety out in the open.

What should employers do to set proper hot desk policy?

When companies are planning on implementing a hot desk policy, they need to do proper research through employee interviews and surveys, to understand the habits of the employees, as well as who should be included in this policy and how many desks should be used. Of course, this hot desk policy can be altered at any time to fit the needs of the employees.

  • – Setting up a proper ratio of shared desks to people. Keep in mind that not every employee should be part of the hot desk policy. Employees that are using the same desk for more than 80% of their working hours, should have an assigned desk, such as finance, administration teams, etc. Employees who are using the desk for less than 50% of their working hours can be a part of the hot desk policy;

  • – Break the workplace into a few areas, so the employees can easily find their team members;

  • – Storage lockers should be placed in proximity of the workstations, so they can be easily accessed by the employees without having to move around the office and waste their time;

  • – Have a proper system of finding available desks. Commuting to the office can be stressful, and having to search for an available desk is adding additional stress even more. With a workplace app, employees can easily find an available desk and can provide additional information on desk proximity to certain tools, nearby amenities, printers, conference rooms, etc. This can help the employees to start their day more easily and be more productive;

  • – Encourage the employees to personalize their desk, and if the office has smart devices, make sure employees have the opportunity to request light or temperature adjustments;

  • – Have constant communication with your employees. Help them become excited for the new opportunities for collaboration and their overall hot desk experience;

  • – Make sure to get regular feedback on how the hot desking is working, and how your employees respond to the change. Use this feedback to improve the hot desk policy, make some adjustments so you can keep your employees happy and motivated.

What are the benefits of hot desking?

  1. Increased productivity and collaboration – With the opportunity to move around the office, employees are encouraged to make connections with coworkers they wouldn’t interact with normally. This is a great way of sharing knowledge and learning new stuff.

  2. Clean office – Employees can’t leave their personal stuff at the end of the workday. Also, after using a certain desk, everyone needs to make sure that the desk is clean for the next occupant.

  3. More flexibility – Thanks to the technological advancements, people can work in a different environment every day, which gives than great flexibility by not being tied up to the desk.

  4. Cost efficient – Companies have a great reduction in office costs. The desks of people who are working from home, part-time or from a certain remote location, remain unused most of the time. With hot desking, companies can have smaller office space and optimize the space of the office according to the needs of the employees.

What is the difference between coworking place and hot desking?

Hot desking is about working at different desks depending on what is available. Members can’t personalize the space, and can’t leave personal stuff.  However, hot desks are offering better flexibility than coworking space, because you can rent them by the hour, by day, week, or even a month.

In coworking places, members have dedicated desks. These desks can be personalized, members can have a personal landline, personal storage lockers, etc, These spaces can be rented out on a monthly basis.

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