Introducing any new concept, program or scheme to the workplace can be a challenge, but that challenge is significantly elevated when it impacts how employees manage their own work days.
Tradition dictates that the most efficient and practical way of approaching office work is to allocate a desk per employee; that desk becomes their constant home, their own space within the workplace, a guaranteed workstation for whatever they happen to be working on.
However, just as we’re slowly learning that tradition has gotten the idea of 9-5 work days as being most productive completely wrong, could the idea of the permanently allocated desk be incorrect, too? Is there a more effective way to manage the workspace, cut down on overhead costs, and encourage socialisation and collaboration between employees and teams?
Enter desk sharing, also known as hot desking, free addressing or desk hoteling. The basic principle of desk sharing is that nobody ‘owns’ a desk – workstations are instead booked on a temporary basis, usually via a software solution that offers access via several different platforms, including online shared calendars, mobile apps and physical screens placed at desks.
The benefits of desk sharing
Desk sharing can enable enterprises to save significant costs, reduce space used, lessen environmental impact, improve employee work/life balance, and maintain control over the workspace itself, with the ability to increase the size of the workforce without actually expanding office space.
Many experts consider desk sharing and shared desk schemes to play an important part in the future of the sustainable workplace, and it’s worth noting that many smart buildings are created with desk sharing functionality already in place as default.
85% of businesses agree transforming the physical workspace is important – Condeco Modern Research Report 2019/20
Desk sharing is a relatively simple procedure once employees get their heads around it, but as a concept, it can be daunting for a workforce used to tradition. Many ‘what ifs’ are prompted by the introduction of desk sharing – what if I don’t get a desk? What if I don’t sit with my team?
What if my booking gets cancelled without me knowing? What happens if I forget to book a desk? It’s imperative to implement a desk sharing scheme in the most painless way possible, with the utmost confidence, and communication between employees.
The implementation process
At the core of a successful desk sharing scheme is a strong office solution that facilitates all aspects of what your business requires. Before you can find your perfect desk sharing solution, however, you must evaluate your organisation. What are your needs? What kind of space do you have? How do your employees work, both individually and together?
Once you’ve adequately reviewed the requirements of your space and your workforce, it’s crucial to involve employees</strong>; ask for their opinions, and begin a dialogue about the concept of desk sharing. Beginning the communicative process at an early stage will help lower worries, fears and what ifs, and will also ensure that your employees feel empowered and involved by the upcoming changes. Keeping disruption to a minimum is also key, so be sure to create a master plan that eliminates any unnecessary interruption to work during the implementation and ‘breaking in’ period.
Find the right solution
Once your unique needs are understood, it’s time to find the right way of approaching desk sharing. While some organisations, particularly on the smaller side, may decide to try and manage the desk sharing process themselves, there are many positive elements to the use of a robust desk booking system.
The right booking platform will vary from organisation to organisation, but ultimately, all solutions should provide the following key characteristics:
- Flexibility: let your employees book individual desks, banks or rows or desks, or book across different days or split bookings between AM and PM.
- Minimised change: make it simple for employees to stay within their teams, so disruption is kept to a minimum.
- Security: when it’s easy for employees to book a desk before they arrive at the office, say via a mobile app, then everyone can feel secure in their bookings.
- Search function: giving employees the ability to search for and locate colleagues provides peace of mind, particularly within large organisations.
- Feedback and reporting: utilisation reports should be a part of any reliable desk booking solution – after all, continuing to adapt and improve services based on analytical insight is essential to ensuring longevity and success.
The final stage of implementing a successful desk sharing strategy is to ensure that support is available, from all angles – that means IT and infrastructure support from your chosen desk booking platform, but also key figures within the business should be providing support, and the opportunity to discuss the scheme, to employees.
Regular reviews of the strategy, combined with the aforementioned feedback and reporting, should provide a clear overview of what’s going right, and what isn’t quite working. Refining the scheme is part of the process, and hiccups or hold ups should never be seen as problems, but rather situations that everyone can learn from.