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Is hot desking right for your business?

One of the most popular topics I am often asked about in workspace design is hot desking. The advantages are around how it will save money through less furniture required and less space.

The idea is fine for some businesses where occasional computer access is required throughout the day or week such as with sales staff or where there is shift work such as in call centres. Hot desking has also been used overseas in companies where they are encouraging a more mobile workforce, and move teams around the whole office space on a regular basis to keep everyone fresh and thinking outside the square.

But for some people this is all a step too far. These people may be working on physical files – such as accountants, lawyers, architects, engineers. So in 2016, the practicality of moving to another location in the office is just not realistic. Also, some people like to have their ‘own’ workspace, with their personal photos, images, plants, and furniture. It is ‘their space’.

So how do we get the balance with the corporate demands, where so many people are now moving into open plan offices, having previously worked in their own office or at least a smaller workspace with two or three others. If not careful, businesses can run the risk of appearing like ‘big brother’ with little input from staff. Often the edict on the office design comes from the head office in Auckland or Wellington or an overseas city. But are the planners considering the needs of the people who use this space?

Overseas research shows that a hot desking environment only works in a paperless office and that it can take up to 3 years for a business to become totally paperless through scanning documents and getting electronic document transfer and storage systems in place.

It seems that this more fluid use of space is coming, whether we like it or not, so, if hot desks are going to be a part of your office space, what can you do to make it a more welcoming place rather than a cold, draughty bus stop?

· Make sure the chair is a comfortable working model that is easy to adjust and is adjustable for a variety of body shapes and sizes

· Have a desk which is height adjustable – more useful for multiple users

· Put the screen on a monitor arm, which again is easy to adjust

· Consider having a cheery plant on the desk, as a ‘welcome’ to whoever is working here sign

· Make sure the hot desk is not stuck away in a corner where there is poor lighting. People can still be working here for intensive periods of computer use, so good lighting on the screen is essential

· Make sure there is somewhere, just as a locker, for personal items that people do like to have at work, to store them

· Ensure that you have provided staff with a basket, carry tray etc to carry items to and from their lockers

· And now more than ever, make sure there are enough cleaning products for staff to wipe down the workstation before and after use. You may need to consider increasing commercial cleaning hours to ensure infection control requirements are maintained

If you want to make use of hot desking it has to be embraced by all in the company and the use of hot desks understood. Perhaps some more flexible work options such as working from home at certain times can also be introduced, with some good training on furniture adjustments for both the hot desk and the home based desk, made available to staff?

Consider the following points for helping decide what you want for your office space:

· Separate offices for staff or open plan

· Including break out rooms if mainly open plan (for phone calls, meetings, working on a focussed project)

· Having a pleasant lunch/tea room (not at the back of the building with no windows)

· A good flow around the office and to areas such as printer, water cooler, kitchen, toilets, meeting rooms and break out rooms, so that some areas do not become informal meeting points and noisy for those who sit nearby

· Good light control such as blinds and lights in the optimum place for desk positions

· Furniture that is flexible for different sizes and needs of staff

Some of these points might still allow for those hot desks, but keep in mind the functionality of your office space, and what tasks your staff perform, so that you can get the best outcome for your business with some flexibility as your business and all these technology systems evolve.

Randa Abbasi is a New Zealand trained Occupational Therapist and owner / operator of WorkSpace IQ. Randa has over 25 years experience in leading and managing teams in the health sector and specializes in ergonomics, wellbeing, personal and professional development and clinical supervision.

Randa can be reached at WorkSpace IQ | Home

Mobile: 021 1971 060

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