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Are Australians Adapting to the Rapid Growth in Hot-Desk Environments?

12-05-2017, Lavina Harte

To Hot-Desk or Not ? This seems to be an ongoing topic around the water cooler. If you are unsure of what the term hot-desking is, it's when you don’t have a fixed office desk or working space. Your once sacred office cubicle of solitude adorned with family photos is now entering its last days with company’s adopting for a shared-desk environment. It’s predicted in the next 3 years around 400 multinational companies within the Asian Pacific region will convert into a shared desk environment.

Milestone IT recently conducted a study to see how Australian workers felt about hot-desk office and the results were predominately against the shared desk experience. The results showed that 65.2% of survey participants found hot-desking was not an ideal working environment. Some believed by implementing a hot-desk environment it would lead to conditions of terrible ergonomics and hygiene from previous occupants, which would probably be suboptimal. Other workers believed that the idea of sharing a desk was seen as a waste of time, in terms of setting up in the morning and packing up at night.

Which raises the question? With all of these negatives views, why are employers turning to hot-desk environments? Most companies admit the main reason is to increase productivity and creativity, but is this really the intent of the employer? Or is it about cutting costs within a company?

When you look at top expenses for a business it’s the cost of staff or the cost of the workplace (bills, maintenance, inventory etc.) So the what better way to cut costs then to relocate to a smaller office with less desk and give workers options to work out of the office. Though if employers think they are fooling any one think again. Our study shows that employees are aware that companies were choosing hot-desking to save costs rather than the to increase creativity and productivity.

Even from the start, the logic behind the idea of productivity in a desk-sharing environment is flawed. Most workers spend the first 15 minutes of the day trying to find a desk. With one participant giving a first hand encounter “ If you come in after 8 am you can spend an hour aimlessly wandering the building looking for a workspace. Their is no ability to keep a textbook library handy, all in all the least productive period of my work life ever."

Don't forget the seven level office labyrinth you need to get through in order to make face-to-face contact with a team member or manager. One survey participant felt that having to locate team members “stifles your ability to work. Your team can't find you. Your stakeholders and clients can't find you. Everyone loses. In fact while a company may save on floor space the net loss to morale and productivity will suck up all the savings in lost commercial opportunity.”

Other studies show a negative impact from a worker's point of view implicating hot-desking as a source of increasing stress levels, creating a disengaging effect on morale (due to being away from your team) and broken promises of flexibility and efficiency. Not to mention team building and team maintenance becoming harder with workers having a much lower sense of belonging.

Which opens the point of the workers mental health toll due to these changes. Some workers believed that hot-desks would lead to “a massive culture shift currently, demographic influence, 2 tier application software constraint, network restrictions based on IP etc.“ Employers must be aware that not every worker can work in the same way. Therefore implementing an open plan office may not work for all staff members"

If an employer changes the workplace environment and the culture they need to also put in appropriate measures to look after their staff's wellbeing. A manager who has been doing their job in a traditional office environment for the past 30 years is not going to be as open to hot-desking as opposed to a graduate employee, who has spent the past 4 years in a similar environment at their University.

It's all of these details that need to be taken into account when a company decides to make significant changes. The predicted 66% rise in hot-desking workplaces within the next 3 years means employers will need to work closely with staff in order to make sure their is a smooth transition across to the new work environment.



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