Hot Desking
Photo credit: darkday. / CC BY

Hot Desking, Flexible Hours and Remote Working: Will the traditional office cease to exist in the near future?

A few years ago, ‘hot desking’ was perhaps a term only banded about in and around creative agencies.  Jump forward to the present day and across many sectors the concept of office workers actually having an assigned, permanent desk is beginning to fade. This can mainly be attributed to better UK wide internet provisions and new mobile working solutions making it easier to perform your business tasks away from the office. Couple this with the increase in flexible working hours and the recent financial belt tightening companies have had to make; having staff work remotely can make good business sense.

Ask any colleague or friend what they think of ‘hot desking‘ and you’ll get a mixed response. The practice can certainly make up part of a solution in solving certain office space requirements; and it makes sense that if someone is out of the office or working from home, then another team member should be able to use that desk. It can also foster a stronger sense of ‘team spirit’; sitting with different colleagues can help spark innovation and creativity plus you will naturally form stronger relationships with those that fall outside of your usual “desk buddies”.

The concept also has benefits to employers: helping organisations reduce their overheads as well as create a more flexible working environment. By using a hot desking solution, you minimise the office space to employee ratio. Your overheads are reduced as you require less office space; less office furniture like desks, task seating and storage solutions; and less office IT infrastructure like telephone handsets, network points and printing facilities.

Hot Desking does, however, come with its downsides. For example, if your telephone system is a little long in the tooth and doesn’t support user roaming, it can be a real headache transferring calls through to another colleague. Furthermore, depending on your IT infrastructure, you may have hot deskers facing issues such as incompatible docking stations, network connectivity or problems logging onto servers.

There is also the very real problem of having too few desks to meet demand on certain days of the year. If too many staff decide to work from the office instead of elsewhere, it would mean those without a desk space would struggle.

A perfect example of when the hot desking concept can fail to work is the BBC at their new Media City UK northern headquarters. They tried to encourage hot desking, but were faced with a staff backlash and mini revolt. The implementation of the hot desking policy was flawed from the beginning and failed to take into account the individual working practices of their employees.

Coca Cola, on the other hand, is an example of a company bucking the trend. They have opted to discourage hot desking by providing staff in their new Wimpole Street office, London, their own desk space along with alternative working environments for extra flexibility.

Now that’s all well and dandy when you’re a multi-national corporation and can afford the office space, but for many, this isn’t a reality. The use of good design, planning and management can help to avoid the pitfalls that many companies experience when deciding to opt for a hot desking solution. Office breakout areas can double as work stations if the right furniture is chosen and they are properly connected for laptop and phone use. Likewise, the right office layout and space allocation for staff can undoubtedly work wonders in helping maintain a happy workplace.

As a side note, did you know that there is actually a standard office space requirement per person of 11 cubic metres? It is vital that this is adhered to as a bare minimum, and we have often seen this important health and safety requirement be dismissed by office planners trying to cram as much as they can in the available space.

Hot desking is definitely a concept where one size does not fit all. It is not suitable for everyone and it very much depends upon your business infrastructure and methods of working. That being said, with the right modifications, allowances and design, hot desking can work.

Will the traditional office cease to exist in the next few years? Will we see a mass migration of staff working remotely and the general office thinning out? We highly doubt it. Remote working only suits certain types of businesses and we believe the modern office will just evolve and become more flexible by making the best use of available space and technology. It will adapt to newer ways of facilitating business communication, collaboration and interoperable working, but we believe the essence of the traditional working environment will stay the same for many years to come.


Here at Spatial, we can advise you on the best way to utilise your office space. We are experts at creating office designs and solutions to match your needs. If you’re wondering how you are going to cope with a new influx of staff, get in touch with us today to see how we might be able to help you.