There are many reasons an organisation may introduce hot desking; to increase flexibility, to reduce costs, to introduce a different culture. It can be a difficult time for staff to move to this new way of working, but it is easier and less stressful to change your working habits to work with the new system enabling you to be open to the benefits offered by hot desking.
My organisation has been hot desking for five years and I enjoy the flexibility and sociality of it. Here are the tips I’ve learnt:
Before you start
- Understand the hot desking situation – are all desks free for you to use? Do you need to book a desk? By asking these and similar questions you can ensure you know exactly what to do when you walk into the office in the morning
- Learn how the telephone system works – do you still have a land line number? If so how is it transferred to a different desk each day? Can you transfer your land line calls to your mobile?
- Understand the IT situation – Does everyone have laptops? If so can they be connected to every desk, if not which desks allow laptops? Do you have roaming profiles? If not consider how to move your favourites and shortcuts; one solution may be to carry portable applications on a usb stick (if you are allowed to connect one) for instance using portable firefox as your browser
- Get organised – everything is easier if you are organised, including hot desking. It is likely you will need to clear the desk each night so it is not possible to leave ‘organised’ piles of papers or postit notes on the monitor, therefore it is important to introduce other methods for dealing with on going work, for instance a task list or tickler file.
- Take the opportunity to reduce files – it is likely that the volume of personal storage will reduce so it is a good opportunity to go through files and books and consider what it still useful to keep, if anything can be archived and what needs to be thrown away.
- Consider your reference material – you will no longer have an office or cubicle wall so any reference material needs to be stored differently. Look at what you currently have pinned on the wall and consider how often you use it, if it is often e.g. phone directory, add it to your organiser so you carry it with you, but if you only use a few times a month create a reference file kept in personal storage space or electronically.
- Learn what tools you use each day – it is easy to build up lots of items on your desk when you sit at it each day, however if you are hot desking you may need to carry all your items. It is good to carry only what you need, for your back, but also so it is quicker to pack up at the end of the day. So learn what you actually use on a daily basis, one method is to put a sticker on items each time you use them over a two week period. My essentials for a day are paper, pen, ruler and highlighter that I carry in my handbag with occasional uses of stapler and hole punch available on the desk.
- Ask what to do if you need ‘alone’ time – Sometimes it is important to be on your own, for instance if you are reviewing a large document, and it can be difficult in an open plan office. Find out the situation in advance; can you book a meeting room? Can you work from home?
- Learn to focus – some people are naturally more noisy than others whether that is talking on the phone, typing or eating and it can be distracting. In an open plan environment it is not possible to get away from noise completely, but investigate whether there are some areas that tend to be quieter than other. If not can you listen to a mp3 player or CD player? Or what about using earplugs?
- Learn to deal with interruptions – this can be a problem with open plan as there is no office door to close. However with hot desking there is one advantage of sitting somewhere different so you are more difficult to find (although this is only likely to work the first few times). Alternatively you can let your colleagues know you are happy to be interrupted between certain times or use a marker so people know not to interrupt you e.g. a red jumper on the back of your chair or a cuddly dog on the desk.
Things to do each day
- Clean the desk – ensure you are sitting at a clean and tidy desk each by wiping it down particularly when there is illness going round the office
- Ensure you change the desk setup – when you first sit down ensure the desk layout is the correct layout for you, including the chair height and monitor height. Do you need any special equipment to ensure healthy working? I have a lumbar cushion I can use on each chair in the office by putting the elastic around the chair back.
- Enjoy being social – by moving desk you will sit with different people so will therefore learn new things about them and their work. It is a good opportunity to develop new contacts and learn about possible areas for you to work in the future.
Please leave a comment if you have any other tips on hot desking as I am always looking for new ideas for my working practices