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.

11 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.

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    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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      Carmen Mac 4 Feb 2020 at 2:16 am #

      The issue of hot desking with a wide range of people who requires physical environment adjustments – for the full sweep of disability related issues (understood in modern disability definitions) is a huge issue. Where the only approach to this is force people to publicly identify as having specific needs and then spotlighting them in permanent placement of a work area does not meet modern diversity principles. People may have physical environment needs that relate to physical disability, sensory issues (as with many people on the spectrum), mental health matters, issues relating to domestic violence (where relational sitting is important for sense of personal safety) are just a few factors that are better managed, in a way where people with such needs can discuss/address these issues with privacy and dignity with managers through individual/team allocated areas. Proponents of hot desking have yet to provide solutions, with the same level of privacy and dignity, for those with need of physical environment adjustments. The effect of having to routinely advocate for these things, which are related to often the most private and distressing parts of peoples lives, as part of a start today is, self evidently, a negative impact for this group of people. The inconvenient truth is that hot desking significantly impacts the wellbeing of a group of workers – and any reasoned assessment of hot desking must stop ignoring consideration of these cohort – or name up that this is a down side.

      • Avatar
        Dan 14 Feb 2020 at 10:24 am #

        It’s going to be bad for introverts and those with social anxiety among others too. I’ve set up my fixed desk as best I can to mitigate the entirely negative impact of an open plan office. Now they want to force hot desks on us too.

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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.

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    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

    • Avatar
      Dan 14 Feb 2020 at 10:28 am #

      Being physically together all the time is overrated. Its one of the drivers behind the trend of making workers sit ever closer together with fewer barriers. It is absolutely horrible. By halfway through the day I am completely wiped out from the sensory overload of noise, light and constant proximity to other people.

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    Vicky P 9 Jan 2020 at 1:50 pm #

    I think hot desking is difficult in a larger environment and can be problematic with people finding seats and as you touched on being able to build relationships with colleagues. Whilst in a smaller environment we find having your own desk, with personal belongings and desk dividers really helps team work and productivity.

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    Dan 14 Feb 2020 at 10:21 am #

    A basic understanding of humans would tell any company that hot desking is a really stupid idea. Never mind the waste from having to find seats. Or having to lug around items that would normally be kept in a desk drawer. The simple fact is that many people need the security of a place they sit every day. It seems to me companies are hell bent on harming employees’ mental well-being and destroying productivity. All in the name of fads and numbers that look good in the short term.

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    Margaret 17 May 2020 at 5:31 pm #

    Hot desking is an office fad that is not here to stay – many places that first promoted this practice have now moved back to fixed desk working. The practice may save companies money but at a dramatic cost to the employee having to suffer under this ridiculous practice. Doesn’t it just show – I suspect Phil D is the Philip Darby of PDI Design Consultants, i.e. people who make money on the back of this suffering. He spouts all the ‘hot’ words used in a vain attempt to justify this practice but fails to even try to understand the lethal effects on staff. He calls the comment on setting up as ‘stupid’ thereby demonstrating he is not in touch with the reality of the practice for the vast majority of staff forced to endue this practice – staff have to clear away all their items at night (and pack away somewhere, usually a locker) and then retrieve and re-set up their things the next day.

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      Marcia 11 Jul 2020 at 2:47 pm #

      Our building has just announced that we are to go from fixed desks to first come first served hot desks, post pandemic. This is a government job. Restricted budgets mean there is no provision of locker space. When I asked about security of my possessions, they replied…just keep your laptop in the back of your car! If you have one… This is a stupid, centrally mandated project which does not suit our jobs. Supposedly this will somehow save money…haven’t figured out how yet.
      I write business cases and need long periods of quiet which I’ve had up to now. I’m just really fearful of the noise exhaustion, being an introvert I avoid social interaction in the office. I have an ergonomic chair but that will get stolen no doubt. Working from home not an option since my home is too small. I have a good record of excellent work but I fear my productivity will drop if people are distracting me all day.. we have some chirpy talkers who never shut up. Not to mention the lack of oxygen in an old building with insufficient opening windows.

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