When the “smartest building in the world,” the “greenest building in the world,” and the “Uber of buildings” are all the same building, one can’t help but take notice. The Edge in Amsterdam is a futuristic office structure that takes care of details other office employees around the world have to manage every day. Among the innovative ideas being instituted at the Edge is a new trend called “Hot Desking.” This workplace trend has become a hot topic in office buildings around the world, but is it one you should consider?
When Slate’s Alison Griswold began investigating hot desking, she first took a poll among her co-workers, asking them to guess what hot desking meant. Since the trend started in Amsterdam, some thought hot desking had to do with smoking marijuana (which is totally legal in Amsterdam) at your desk. Of course, a trend like that couldn’t spread around the world without major consequences. It would require stocking substantially more munchies in break room vending machines.
Thanks to Hot Desking, Deloitte uses 1,000 desks for 2,500 employees
You probably already guessed that is not the definition of hot desking. According to Bloomberg’s in-depth look at the Edge, hot desking is the act of allocating desks to workers only when they are required, on a rotating system. By removing a bulky home base for every employee, Deloitte (the main tenant and innovator behind the Edge) only has to use 1,000 desks to accommodate 2,500 employees.
Saving that much space directly impacts not only the amount of furniture you need, but also the amount of square feet your company needs to inhabit. Of course, the goal is not to create the most claustrophobic environment for your employees, but rather, to take space that’s already claustrophobic and make it much more open.
At Entrepreneur magazine, Carolyn Sun tried hot desking briefly to weigh the pros and cons. She found changing desks every day expanded her relationships with her co-workers. The way one knows the coworker next to him or her can now become the way each employee knows each employee. In companies where collaboration and creativity are necessary, hot desking may be the catalyst for developing new relationships and ideas.
After Deloitte debuted their hot desking idea, several other large companies quickly jumped on board. Citigroup, GlaxoSmithKline, and American Express have all created open offices where employees are no longer assigned specific desks. Instead, they are encouraged to break routines and get to know one another in dynamically changing settings. GlaxoSmithKline has reportedly saved $10 million every year since they began hot desking.
But hot desking doesn’t come without its burns (bad joke, I know). Many have tried the new trend and found less than stellar results. Hot desking means eliminating personal offices. Even the CEO doesn’t have a private office in Citigroup's new Manhattan building. One top-tier professional company, who preferred not to be named, encountered an annoying amount of conflict between employees vying for better areas or preferable desks.
For Hot Desking to work, one must constantly stay organized
Another issue with hot desking is the need for ongoing organization. At Deloitte, an employee’s smartphone has an app that enables him or her to know exactly where to go to find an open desk. It also automatically adjusts the workspace lighting, temperature and other settings to the user's preferences. Deloitte took care of these details for their workers. Without an established structure or set of rules, hot desking could very well result in your employees arguing over who has the right to sit where.
George Mylonas, workplace interior designer and psychologist, perceived another problem with hot desking on behalf of Virgin Media in the UK. “Some people find it difficult to adjust and acclimatize to different colleagues and different locations on a regular basis,” says Mylonas. In other words, some people are just comfortable being in the same environment around familiar people each day. So, understanding your company's tolerance for consistent change is important.
With it's mix of positive and negative results, hot desking may be worth an examination from your company based on what specific needs of your employees and/or your industry.