Will Hot Desking lead to effective operations?
My Japanese friend, who is a secretary at a big international trade company, told me a few years ago: "My company has implemented a hot desking system. Employees can come and work at any desk daily as all they need to do is log into the computer system using their own ID and password. It seems very efficient because of the high staff turnover. But I cannot help but feel uncomfortable with the work environment. It’s so depersonalized and colourless"
Hot desking, first adopted in North America and Europe, is seen as way for companies and organisations to reduce or eliminate their operating costs. Within a few years, it has quickly spread to the Asia-Pacific countries such as Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Korea and Hong Kong.
With hot desking, employees now cannot personalize their workstation or place personal belongings on it since it may be a different desk they use each day at the office. They are not able to enjoy their workplace as their "Little Office Home" by putting up family pictures and decorations.
Hot desking is attractive for organisations because it saves costs and office space. It is reported that some companies have been able to save up to 30% of overhead costs and space.
However, it is true that this approach is being considered as futuristic since the lack of office space will intensify in the near future and, increasingly, organisations perceive hot desking as a way to have a competitive edge.
En World (www.enworld.com), a specialist recruitment consultancy, touched on the advantages and disadvantages of hot desking:
1. Saves costs and space, thereby significantly generating more operating profit.
2. The work environment has become more interactive thanks to more communication among the employees not sitting in the same area.
3. Employees come out of their comfort zones and become more flexible.
4. Useful for individual contributors as they work independently for most of their work hours.
1. An employee might get anxious since he/she has to find a new workstation every day.
2. It may be challenging for internal and external contacts to locate an employee.
3. It may be challenging for employees who are part of teams as proximity is always important in how teams work and communicate with other members of the team
4. This arrangement may disconnect an employee from his environment and, subsequently, from the company’s culture and social environment
The En World's report highlights that advantages of hot desking cannot be denied, though the lists of disadvantages are getting longer. After studying the implementation of hot desking by numerous large organisations in the Asia-Pacific region, it is cautioning employers to consider both the pros and cons before implementing this strategy.
Mr. Brian Richards, President of En World Singapore, warms: "While most employees are receptive to the shared workspaces concept, they typically end up feeling detached and less engaged with the business, possibly leading to lower morale and motivational levels."
"Even as businesses are constantly pursuing more cost effective solutions, it would be prudent to note that for many employees, having their "own" work space gives them a sense of importance and belonging to the organisation", added Mr. Richards.
The depersonalisation of the workstation would lead to the stage where the employees feel stressed and less connected.
So, was the high turnover at my friend's company triggered by hot desking in the first place?