Hot Desking is Here to Stay Post COVID-19

The pandemic has disrupted the traditional ways in which offices functioned. Companies have had to evolve to newer forms of functioning in a few months. Safety protocols for the health of employees have forced offices to institutionalise various models to adapt to the new reality. Hot desking is one such feature that is likely to stay around long after the pandemic disappears from our lives.

Employee productivity has not gone down while working from home. Video conferencing, and other virtual meeting technologies have proved that the workforce need not be physically together to be effective. As organisations have seen veritable proof of remote and socially-distanced productivity, they are more likely to permanently alter or iterate the previous models. When normalcy returns, hot desking and desk hoteling may find new takers not just among big companies but also small and medium-sized offices.

Hot desking and desk hoteling

Hot desking allows employees to choose any workstation or desk as they reach their office. There are no predetermined or assigned desks, which gives room for fluidity in the workplace. As almost all employees use laptops and other digital devices to work and communicate, there are no unique benefits to being rooted in any particular desk or workstation. This is especially true for open office plans which most modern offices adhere to.

Desk hoteling can be considered as an upgrade to hot desking. Under desk hoteling, an employee will have to reserve their desk or workstation in advance to use it through desk booking software. Both the systems are designed for downsizing office footprint and thereby reduce real estate and maintenance costs. Before instituting hot desking, organisations need to communicate to the employees the need for the new policies and its expected advantages to the workforce.

Workplace technologies to manage hot desking

The offices of the future will use advanced workplace technologies to optimise the allocation of resources and to increase productivity. Desk booking software will play a crucial part as it will enable companies to bring a method to what otherwise would be madness. A desk booking system allows employees to choose a desk or workstation in advance for either a whole day or for a part of the day. This removes uncertainty from the process and allows for an equitable distribution of the available office space.

A desk booking software’s principal objective is to optimise capacity utilisation and help offices better manage their workspaces. The software will also provide a visual map of the office. This is significant as even seasoned employees may not be aware of the entire layout of the office. This would open up more desks for employees to choose from, and reduce overcrowding in any one zone.

When employees have a system to choose where they sit, it removes any unintended bias from the process. It also refreshes the office experience from an employee’s point of view as they have the flexibility to choose a desk and change it if it doesn’t suit their purpose.

Advantages in a post-pandemic world

In the post-COVID world, offices may use a combination of on-site work, remote work, satellite hubs, or a hybrid model of all these. Hot desking will play a prominent part in the process, bringing demonstrable benefits to both employees and organisations. For employees, it means flexibility and the freedom to choose. That is likely to increase their engagement as productivity and ease of work will be some of the factors behind their decision.

For employers, a hot desking software will bring to light real estate redundancies in the system and help employers rightsize their office space. Buying, leasing and the maintenance of office space pose significant costs to companies. Once they know how much office space they truly need, they can offload real estate assets and save on several fronts.

Even as organisations return to normalcy, social distancing norms and other safety protocols will have to be maintained in offices. Desk booking software can help office administrators ensure that employees are not crowded in any particular zone. The software can make sure that the ideal distance between two employees is well within the regulations.

Metrics for better management

Peter Drucker’s dictum, “What gets measured, gets managed” will be soon applicable for office spaces. In the post-pandemic world, office managers will not use traditional yardsticks to measure capacity utilisation and productivity. They will have a wealth of data through metrics from desk booking software. Through workplace utilisation metrics and reports, it will tell them which desks and workstations have higher utility and which are routinely vacant. The desk booking systems metrics will be an invaluable tool in downsizing - or more appropriately, rightsizing - office space. Managers will be able to vacate under-utilised floors and save on rent and maintenance costs.

The metrics will also show the preferred spaces in an office for not just individuals but departments. This will let managers enforce zoning to ensure that certain domains are seated together for greater synergy. It will also help managers optimise their infrastructure by focusing internet access, lighting, seating, furniture, and heating, on areas they need it the most, and by reducing them from vacant zones. This will lead to demonstrable savings in utility bills.

Before COVID-19 upended the normal order of professional and personal lives, the idea of a physical office was set in stone. It was the location where employees had to be physically present, hold meetings in person, and work together as a collective. This was supposed to be the primary unifying factor and the very definition of an office. It was also considered to be the key to productivity. But the pandemic has proved that it may not be true. Productivity, it seems, is location-neutral.

With hot desking and desk hoteling enabled by desk booking software, the future of office spaces will be different. They will be optimal, productive, and beneficial to both employees and companies. In other words, they will be smart offices with optimal capacity utilisation. The key to that optimisation will be desk booking software that works to eliminate redundancies.