Hot-desking is a practice that has become prevalent in office organisations, which involves workers sharing their workspaces. It is a system that is generally implemented in times where the business is struggling and looking to reduce expenses such as office space. Hot-desking can be exhibited with workers simply sharing desk space and using it as a communal area, or it can be used where employees operating on alternating shifts have the same workstation. While many institutions tend to reassure staff subject to these work conditions that it is optimal for synergy and collaboration, its prevalence is unlikely to continue in the near future.
With the emergence of social distancing as a result of the pandemic and its development from recommendation to regulation, is it even plausible that hot-desking can continue into modern post-COVID office culture? With recent counsel being released advising offices to refrain from excessive lift-use and to encourage desks being situated 2 metres apart at all times, individual work stations are likely to become a must-have rather than a luxury. The health and safety of workers are likely to be prioritised, as it should be, over the leaning out of overheads, meaning hot-desking is sure to become a thing of the past, at least until we enter the post-pandemic era if that is a thing.
The UK government, who have had a more laissez-faire approach to regulating the pandemic have recently been quoted in saying “Workstations should be assigned to an individual and not shared,” it says. If sharing must be done, it should be among “the smallest possible number of people’’. With this dynamic shift, not only will it be “frowned upon” for businesses to hold onto traditional working practices, but workers, now having had a taste of the work-from-home lifestyle, will be pushing their employers to change with the times, and to offer more flexible working agreements.
Looking at the corporate world objectively, some businesses will be affected more than others, with the respective industries determining the impact it has on the workers. Call centres, training centres, places that see a lot of colleague integration during the working day could see a more pronounced struggle in adapting daily operations. Regular sanitisation and cleaning practices will be required in all offices going forward, and with employees constantly using the same equipment and engaging in discussions in close-contact, this won’t be without its difficulties.
For companies looking to emulate global giants such as Facebook and Twitter with an open policy to flexible work environments, hot-desking is unlikely to be an issue, as they will have the freedom and economies of scale to diversify arrangements. However, business who operate with a more rigid policy on workers operating in the same space, such as investment banks and banks in general, they will have less room to manoeuvre. With a rise in sanitisation and cleaning expenses, hot-desking not only loses its appeal but even spending cash on permanent office space is raising questions with regards to efficiency.
Hot-desking is likely to find a way to survive in a world that has adopted some dystopian characteristics for the world of business, but whether or not we can ever return to employees operating in such close proximity on a daily basis remains highly uncertain.