"Anywhere that's free - it's hot-desking here"
Thinks: OMG - not again . .
We're working to an agile world where people move teams and projects on a regular basis.
We have flexi-time and people work at home some of the time.
We have 'campuses' where there is no 'big office' and there may be multiple buildings in a 'metro-area' with shuttles moving between them.
We are living in the future!
1. Turn up at the office
2. Find the first desk with no-one in it (or working at it that day)
3. Sit down, unpack, plug in, start work!
What's the problem?
There are a number of problems with this approach...
Not all desks are created equal.
In an environment where hot-desking actually works, all the desks have identical facilities. If one desk has a monitor and a phone and 4 power sockets, they all do. This is key for things you need to actually do your work - if a desk is nearer to a window then that's nice but it doesn't, cosmically speaking, matter.
What does matter is if your desk doesn't have an external monitor but all the others do. Or if three of the power sockets have fused and don't work. Or if this is the desk where the chair leaks gas and you end up sitting on the floor after 30 minutes.
Solution: Make all hot-desks identical equipment-wise. Keep maintaining them so there isn't 'That desk with the dodgy monitor' or similar.
Not all desks are hot-desks - and you can't tell
Where it works, hot desks are marked as hot desks. Not by implication of 'hot desks are ones with no name tags on them' - this does not work!
What looks like a hot-desk turns out not to be: "10am: Excuse me, this is my desk." "Is it? How so?" "Well it is, it's assigned to me on the plan, which is in the filing cabinet in the basement next to the sign saying 'beware of the leopard'". Cue packing up, moving, finding no more desks . .
Solution: Label the hot desks explicitly. Ensure people don't take the labels off (it happens!)
"Warm Desks" and the culture of entitlement
"When everyone is special, no-one will be!" - Syndrome, The Incredibles.
(see also "I think I deserve an office, so I've booked this meeting room all day. Every day.")
Some people don't like hot-desking. That's fine but they then start to subvert it. They start setting up 'their' desk with all their equipment and trinkets such as family photos, favourite coffee mug, pot plant etc on it. This becomes 'the desk they always sit at' and eventually 'Derek's desk'.
Solution: Heartlessly enforce the 'clean desk' policy overnight or first thing. ANYTHING that's not the 'standard hot desk equipment' gets removed and the 'offender' needs to go and get it back.
"Pre-Booking" or "German Towels" (see also "Warm Desks")
This is not as bad as 'Warm Desks' but this is the "OK, I'll be in tomorrow - I'll just leave my laptop here overnight to 'book' my desk for tomorrow. For extra security, I'll lock it to the desk.." approach.
Solution: Again, enforce the 'clean desk' policy. Also provide lockers so that if people want to leave equipment without taking it home, they can.
The 80-20 rule: We only provide desks for 80% of our people
This is the main drive for hot-desking: reduction of costs. Why have 'Andy's desk' if he's off at customer sites 4 days per week? He can hot desk when he comes in on a Friday.
No he can't - not if there isn't a desk available. Or he keeps getting shunted from desk to desk as the 'That's my (warm) desk!' people roll in.
There may be free desks that day, but they have names on them. They're not 'hot desks'. It might be possible to sit there, but how do you tell? Also, they're full of people's trinkets and there is the 'You sat at my desk and moved my monitor! How dare you???' culture - more common than you might think!
Solution: If people with assigned desks are not going to be in, ensure people can find that out. Make sure 'assigned' desks are actually usable by people 'borrowing' them
Solution: Have a 'If there's no desk, you can go home!' rule. It's not your fault that you don't have the equipment to do your job.
"This desk assigned to project Caribou"
This is a combination of wanting team members to sit together (good) and micro-cost centering where every desk needs to be billed to a project or team (bad).
If you're going to do this, why not do it for toilet stalls as well? Or seats in the cafeteria?
Solution: Have team 'areas' not desks. If project 'moose' has lots of people in that day and fills their spaces, then they overflow into project 'warthog' desks. Good grief, it's only a desk!
"Hotelling" or "Pre-booking properly"
In theory, this is a great idea and it can work. Before you come to the office, you go online and see if there are any free desks. If there are, you book one for the day - kind of like booking meeting room - or a hotel room, hence the name!
The problem is, just like booking meeting rooms, this has issues
"I'll book my desk for the week" - great! Except you go to visit another site on Wednesday and you decide to work from home on Friday. You don't cancel your reservation - why would you?
And why not just book your preferred desk for a month? That then becomes 'Derek's Desk'. You could even do it to a meeting room and then you have your own office!
Solution: Treat hotelling like a real hotel. If you don't turn up and you don't cancel before 6pm, you get 'charged' for your desk.
Also, you just book a room in a real hotel. The hotel decides which actual room you get. Allocate desks randomly and move people around. This avoids 'warm' desks.
OK, you don't get charged real money when you book desks at work, but you can use 'booking tokens'. Make people book their desk every day, the day before. They need to electronically 'spend' their booking 'token' to book a desk.
To get the 'token' back, they have to actually turn up and use their desk. Or cancel the reservation. If they don't, they can't get the 'token' back for the next day and they need to take their chances with what's left.
e.g. On Monday they book Tuesday. They decide to work from home Tuesday but don't cancel. They then try to book Wednesday but they don't have a 'token' to do it and they need to run the hot-desk gauntlet on Wednesday... at which point they get their 'token' back.
If you turn up without a reservation, you can look at the system and see what's free. If there is nothing free (see 80-20 rule) you can make other arrangements. With on-line hotelling, you can check before you leave home!