You may have had your qualms about hot desking before, then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Now, like it or lump it, the whole world kind of got forced into a hot desking setup. Remote work became the norm, as did having few employees in the office at any given time. To keep your company profitable and successful in the uncertain landscape our world is still facing, what are some hot desking best practices to consider for the year ahead?
Here are our hot desking best practices for 2021:
• Use productivity tracker software
• Have regular video/audio check-ins with the team
• Let employees get a say in their schedule
• If employees don’t have their own desk, then let them choose one
• Get into a regular deep cleaning routine
• Ask for feedback on the new office environment
• Be willing to make changes
In this post, we’ll go in-depth on each of these best practices so your business can cherry-pick the elements of hot desking that suit your company culture. You’re not going to want to miss it!
Pre-pandemic, most employers didn’t love the idea of employees working mostly remote or all remote. There seemed to be too much opportunity for slacking off. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing how we’re working now and in the foreseeable future, for many offices, the options became work remotely or don’t work at all.
What many of these companies have discovered is that their employees can indeed get work done at home without TV, pets, social media, and kids detracting from that too much. That said, there are always a few bad eggs in the carton, so you don’t necessarily want to take an employee’s word for it that they’re working.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t trust your employees; if you truly don’t, then you might want to rethink why you hired this person or people in the first place. Rather, you just want an extra assurance that everything you’re assigning is getting completed in a reasonable amount of time.
Productivity tracker software is the answer. Your employees can install this software on their computers and you on yours. Then you can see who’s doing what (or who isn’t). Some examples of popular productivity tracker software options are ActivTrak, Teramind, Veratio Cerebral, and Controlio.
Now, with some of these names, “Controlio” and “Cerebral,” you might worry that it comes across like you’re stalking your employees. That’s not what productivity tracking software does. It’s not like you get to watch the screens of your employees’ computers so you can see when they’re on YouTube and when they’re working.
Instead, you have information such as the name of the computer, the login name of the employee, and whether that employee is active or idle. Some software solutions go a little more advanced than that, but you’re not stalking your employees by any means.
If your company budget is a little lean in light of COVID and any new software is too great of an expense right now, you can try productivity apps. These might be cheaper. Some of the better productivity apps include DeskTime, Hours, Timecamp, Time Doctor, and Toggl.
One of the downsides of working and living at home and barely seeing anyone besides your immediate family is loneliness. Although we’ve been living with COVID-19 for less than a year at the time of this writing, studies have already been released on the impact of coronavirus loneliness.
Here is one such study from Cambridge University Press Public Health Emergency Collection. This is what the study said on the growing rate of loneliness: “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness and social isolation were so prevalent across Europe, the USA, and China (10-40%)…that it was described as a ‘behavioral epidemic’…The situation has only worsened with the restrictions imposed to contain viral spread.”
That sounds about right, as we’re sure you’ve been a little lonelier in lockdown too. Even if you can see your immediate family, you’re missing relatives, friends, and colleagues. You can bet that your employees are feeling it too.
Instead of doing all your communicating through emails or instant messenger, why not have a video or phone call with your staff? Now, we’ve all heard of the companies going overboard with Zoom calls every day several times a day. Don’t be that kind of business, as no one likes them.
Once a week though isn’t so bad. You can check in with everyone and see their faces, which is nice for morale. Plus, it’ll bring back some fond feelings of the good, old days.
The hot desking schedule was once such that half your employees would work one schedule and the other half a second schedule. So let’s say in Group A, 10 employees worked remotely on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and came into the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The other 10 employees in Group B would work remotely on Tuesdays and Thursdays and be in the office the other three days a week.
These days, flexibility is key if you want to keep your employees happy. Think of what the average working person has to juggle in the age of COVID-19. They were working and educating their children, and all from the confines of home. Now some schools have reopened, but not all. The ones that did open back up are starting to close just as quickly.
Teachers are working remotely too so your employees don’t have to be educators as well as workers, but the kids are back home again. That can create an availability problem where it’s harder for the employee to go to the office.
Some employees might prefer grocery shopping or running other errands early in the morning or in the middle of the afternoon because there are fewer people out. Having to be in the office can interrupt that.
You probably can’t accommodate everybody unless your office has 10 employees or so. That said, you do want to strive to do what you can now and into 2021 to make schedules that work for your employees. They won’t mind other facets of hot desking as much if you give them that leeway.
The days of desk-sharing musical chairs are over until the pandemic ends or becomes less serious. That was one of the main pillars of hot desking, having several employees to one desk or workstation so you could downsize your office. Although it’s not easy to let it go, you have no other choice for the health and safety of your staff.
What you might now do is let the employees select where they sit. Perhaps you give employees their own permanent or semi-permanent spot, allowing them to add personal effects so work is a little easier to get through during this tough time.
Yes, okay, by that point it’s technically not hot desking anymore. If you’re still not having employees rooted to one permanent spot, then giving them the option to select where they sit is the next best thing. Employees are going to be very cautious about who–if anyone–they sit and work around. You’re going to want to respect their decisions.
If employees will be working at the office, you want to limit who’s there, letting the rest of your staff work remotely. You’ll also want to maintain social distancing between employees, so keep at least six feet of space from one staff member to another. It also doesn’t hurt to get Plexiglass barriers if you can.
Giving your employees freedom in where they sit can prevent the bulk of the issues that arise through hot desking. We’ve written many a post with statistics showing how much employees detest not knowing where they’ll sit when they come into the office.
This 2017 article from news resource The Conversation cites a survey involving 1,000 employees in Australia. This study introduced some new reasons why the desk-sharing setup works so poorly. Those surveyed said they felt less supported by their supervisors through hot desking. They also perceived their professional relationships were turning negative, there were more distractions, and distrust went up.
Things are already hard enough right now with the pandemic. Don’t foster these bad feelings on top of everything else!
We’ll just call this one an office best practice for 2021, as everyone should be doing it, even those following the hot desking office model. If you have anyone at all in your office at any given time, then you need a cleaning crew to deep clean the office after closing time comes around.
Deep cleaning is not the same as giving desks and other surfaces a cursory spritz and calling it done. Your cleaning crew must scour all surfaces that employees touched, disinfecting them thoroughly. From door handles to the tops and bottoms of desks, phones, computers, kitchen items, office equipment, the whole nine, it needs to be spotless.
This Staples UK article mentions that toilet seats contain lots of microbes per each square inch, 49 in all. Even still, the average computer keyboard has up to 3,295 microbes per each square inch, which is more than triple that of a toilet. Special attention must be paid when disinfecting the places employees touch most, including these.
Whether your company went full-fledged with hot desking before the pandemic struck or you chose elements of hot desking once employees began returning to work, you need to know what your staff thinks of the change.
We’ve suggested some measures you can rely on to get employee feedback if you’ve read our past blog posts. You can issue an anonymous survey or even invite employees to share their thoughts.
You probably won’t get feedback from everyone, and that’s okay. If enough people respond, then you can get an accurate gauge on what your employees truly think of the hot desking office model. Do keep in mind that since hot desking is so controversial, you might see a lot of negative feedback. As a matter of fact, you might have more negative comments than positive ones.
You need to look at both the negative and positive feedback objectively. Yes, that’s right, don’t take it personally. Don’t discard the negative feedback either, especially if a common thread emerges. For instance, maybe more employees wish they could work remotely or some want to be in the office more often.
What you do with your employee feedback matters, especially now when morale can be hanging on a very precarious thread. Although the job market isn’t spectacular in light of COVID-19, employees do have options, and they will not stick around if they feel like their health is on the line.
It’s worth reiterating again that you can’t please every last employee. By making a change for one group, you’re satisfying them, but often to the dissatisfaction of another group of employees. What you must do is address the overarching themes that emerge from your feedback, especially the negative themes. Those are the issues you want to tackle first.
If there’s one thing that 2020 has shown us, it’s that nothing is stable and surefire anymore. We thought our everyday lives of being able to go out where and when we wanted, seeing anyone and doing anything was going to stick around forever. That’s proven to not be the case.
More change will come to the workforce, even more than what has already transpired. If there’s ever a good time to revamp what your company is doing, it would be now. Be willing to make changes to keep your employees as part of the team. Be prepared for changes that will come in the future as well.
The price of employee productivity software varies depending on which type of software you choose. On average, you can expect to pay $60 to $150 a year per user.
Elements of hot desking certainly are future-leaning. Remote work is one such facet. Like we mentioned before, companies around the world have had all or most of their employees go remote when offices had to close due to the pandemic.
Experts also believe that flexible seating will become the norm in offices sooner than later, likely after the pandemic passes. Hot desking has followed the flexible seating model for quite a long time.
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