Hot desking affects wellbeing for eight in 10 office workers

Eight in 10 office workers claim workplace seating arrangements – including hot desking – have a negative effect on their mental wellbeing.

The prospect of not knowing where to sit every day was identified as the biggest stressor when it came to hot desking, a survey of 1,001 office workers found.

Twenty-two per cent said it made bonding with colleagues difficult. Women were most affected by the social aspect of hot desking, with a quarter claiming it created problems in forming relationships with their team.

Forty-four per cent of those who worked in an environment where they were not assigned a seat said that having to set up their computer every day was a waste of time, while 31% believed they wasted time trying to find an available desk. The ability to pre-book a seat in advance would ease concerns for 61% of staff.

More than half (52%) of employers said they were open to hot desking, despite 92% of office workers reporting issues with it.

Christopher Burke, CEO of consultancy Brickendon, which commissioned the research, said: “There are growing issues in the way businesses are currently managing and looking after their workforce causing an alarming need for companies to rectify this situation and enhance employee wellbeing.

“Managing this can be a minefield, and in its current state hot desking is very much flawed, and worryingly affecting employees’ mental wellbeing. It’s an important issue requiring urgent attention”.

Previous research has also highlighted the effect that working in an office environment can have on mental and physical health.

Last year, 64% of office workers polled by equipment supplier Fellowes claimed the office environment negatively affected their health, while another study found almost half of office workers believed noisy environments significantly affected their productivity and stress levels.

4 Responses to Hot desking affects wellbeing for eight in 10 office workers

  1. Avatar
    Clarity 19 Apr 2019 at 3:04 am #

    In some cases, hot desking becomes an issue when planning is not done properly.
    Hiring excessive contractors at 11th hour, not knowing where to place them is one of them. Alignment of business goals/outcomes in the work plan at the beginning of the year, and proper leave planning of team members throughout the year, helps to maintain commitment of meeting deadlines. Non-alignment of it brings chaos in the workplace.
    Sudden realisation of excessive leave balances, forcing employees to take time off to reduce balances without considering business needs, then hiring contractors at 11th hour to clear backlog of work and trying to meet deadlines in a haste, without providing sufficient time for newcomers to get up to the speed, results in hiring extra casuals, increase in contractor expenses and subsequently results in hot desking that impacts everyone involved in this process (managers, employees, contractors, and casuals).

    The Band-Aid solutions may work in short term, but the real issue of proper planning, long-term thinking, and engaging employees in the planning processes can be one of many solutions to the hot desk issue.

    In my opinion, ‘Sync ‘(between business needs and employee needs) is the key word here.

  2. Avatar
    Phil Darby 19 Apr 2019 at 9:47 am #

    There’s something wrong with this. This comment in particular highlights, what is perhaps the real issue.

    “Managing this can be a minefield, and in its current state hot desking is very much flawed, and worryingly affecting employees’ mental wellbeing. It’s an important issue requiring urgent attention”.

    This is not about hot-desking so much as the understanding of business leaders and senior managers of the principle of community or “brand”.

    It’s partly to do with our primal need for community as suggested by the remark about women in particular, being concerned that hot-desking affected their ability to form relationships with their co-workers. It’s also about our love of routine and resistance to anything new that disturbs that.

    The comment about how long it takes to set up a computer is just plain stupid and, I suspect, an attempt by resistors to put a commercial slant on their emotional response to change. However, it’s also a reinforcement of the need for senior managers to re-think their approach. Hot desking with desk-top computers requires a software-driven solution, but, anyway, lap tops and tablets require no setting up. The solution here, if the problem really exists, is to equip your work-force to do their job and that’s far more fundamental.

    Hot-deskling also doesn’t necessarily mean open-plan offices. It’s just that you move around a workplace to suit the work you are doing at the time. It’s efficient, sensible and absolutely essential to project-team working, which is the key to the efficiency businesses have to achieve in the digital economy.

    It is also efficient in that it saves space and therefore overhead. With increasing numbers of employees working from home, at least part of the time, businesses don’t want the expense of floor-space that isn’t being used.

    Fundamentally though this is about business leadership and brand community, which is generally misunderstood. Hot-Desking is here to stay and will increase. However, like many other work-place changes it needs to be introduced intelligently. The community that is your brand is the key to this.

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    Linda Hranyczka 20 Apr 2019 at 8:46 am #

    In the office I currently work in we have recently begun hot desking by reducing the number of staff sitting at counter positions and going out to customer areas. I have mentioned to my line manager that this system does not appear to be dealt with fairly with colleagues just leaving myself to man the till and he has advised me that he is not getting involved and that we should sort it out amongst ourselves. However I then feel this makes me appear to be the one who is not working with my colleagues and has a problem as I seem to be the only one who is being affected. I work full time so to be isolated in this way is having a major effect on my wellbeing. I would normally be happy to work on my own but to be segregated from everyone in this way is quite different -I do not feel that my working conditions should be reliant on my forcefulness against my colleagues.

  4. Avatar
    Ed Watkiss 31 Jul 2019 at 12:11 pm #

    Having experienced a variety of hot-desk approaches I agree with the basic tenets of the article having seen the impact it has on a wide spectrum of people and their preferred ways of working. Poorly implemented hot desking like any aspect of business will be detrimental but I don’t think this is the point. It undermines the benefits of team working by assuming that all the key benefits are gained by being in a virtual group which is complete nonsense. Being physically together enables quick conversations, overhearing of conversations and interactions that can vitally inform and link. With hot desking a team will never get together unless its in a meeting and we know how universally effective those can be at addressing small to large issues. A team is most effective when it’s physically together for a large percentage of the time.

    It comes across that Phil D is addressing one way of working. For example the majority of workers do not have “projects” but a set range of work that needs to be done so their space requirements are constant. And the small issue of computer set up, laptops do take up time to set up if used as a component of a workstation. This is a cost as well as the associated where is my colleague etc which along with the disassociation/location that many people feel as a result of hot desking has in many cases a significant negative effect on productivity

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