Future Friday: How to handle a mobile workforce with “hot-desking”

by Michael Haberman on October 2, 2015 · 0 comments


Are "hot desks" just a matter of musical chairs or a wave of the future?

Are “hot desks” just a matter of musical chairs or a wave of the future?

The workforce of the future is predicted to be a mobile one, capable of working from any location at any time because they carry their computing power with them. We are already seeing this occur and it causing some disruption in the management of physical locations. Companies are realizing they don’t need all the office real estate they currently possess. Here is how one company is handling less demand for office space.

Hot space

With a telecommuting and mobile workforce it is a waste of space to have an office or even a cube for every employee. Why have a physical location, available at all times, using infrastructure resources when the employee assigned to that space is only there a portion of the time? One such facility has solved the problem by only having 1000 desks for 2500 employees. The concept is called “hot-desking”  or “hoteling.”

In a building called the Edge, with the main tenant being Deloitte, there is only room enough to handle 1000 people at a time. Who has a desk and when is handled by an app that knows what your schedule is and when you arrive. It then assigns you a desk based on the work you are doing, and your preferences. It knows if you want a standing desk or a sitting desk; whether you need a meeting room or single space, and how you like your light and temperature.

Not everyone enamored

Despite the obvious cost savings to companies that might utilize such a concept, not everyone is enamored with the idea. At Slate, Alison Griswold (quoted in Mother Nature Network) says “The practical goal of hot desking is to distribute too few desks among too many people, in a sort of never-ending office musical chairs. …at least based on the description of things in the Edge, sounds more like the layout of a technologically advanced dystopian high school than a highly efficient consulting firm.”

I would imagine there would be some naysayers as well based on the disruptive effect this type of office organization might have on the culture. Indeed to take an office that has no little telecommuting, with assigned offices and transform this to this concept would be extremely disruptive. It would likely cause a great deal of disenchantment and result in turnover, after all people get territorial about their workspaces.

 Time to embrace

However, with the changes that are coming in the nature of the workforce with more teleworking and more “on demand” workers the need for physical workspace is going to become greatly reduced. Combine that with the need for organizations to reduce their carbon footprint I think we will see more and more organizations giving serious consideration to the concept of “hot desking.”

Are any of you already using such a concept?


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