Workspaces are changing in a post-Covid environment, and one of the things changing is desks. You might not have one any more.
Applying a concept developed in Shanghai, London and Boston by multinational corporations with 24-7 schedules and employees working in shifts back in the 1990's, “hot desks” are now being widely adopted in workspaces across the nation.
A “hot desk” is a large desk that seats as many as ten employees, or as few as two. Every day, workers come in and take a seat where a seat is open and available, generally not returning to the seat they sat in the day before. More like a kitchen table in a cafeteria. A seat at a library desk. Kind of a communal approach to office workspaces.
No more photos of the kids and cats. No more personalizing your work station. You find an open seat, hunker down and get to work.
If a workspace needs to be reserved, it’s called “hoteling.” If on Friday you’re going to need a video conference ability only available at one work station, you’ll need to put in a reservation.
“Hoteling” keeps “hot desking” from getting chaotic. Confused yet?
It’s going to be another adjustment to office places in the brave new post-pandemic world, and Houston commercial real estate specialist Jay Wall III, a Sr. VP at Moody Rambin, isn’t sure everyone is ready for the concept. “I’ve got to tell you most people like their own space. People like to know where they go for help and where the help is,” he says of a musical chairs approach to management design. Where is the boss sitting today?
If nothing else, hot desking may encourage more employees to arrive early to pick out the best seating. It’s designed to bring people together – better cooperation, increased creativity, brainstorming, skunkworks, we’re all in this together, yippee.
There are certainly detractors. Management is looking for efficiencies in expensive office space square footage while so many staff are still working remotely on most days, a practice expected to outlast Covid. Why pay the business insurance, utilities, cleaning and maintenance costs for mostly empty desks only being used once a week? Regular workers may feel unappreciated and unseen. “Whatever happens, it’s going to be years before we know the effects of hoteling and corporate right-sizing. It’s going to be years before the office market finally understands the full effects of Covid,” Wall adds.
Another downside, moving forward, if pandemics appear again, “hot desking” will require strict masking.
photo: Getty Images