The rise in flexible working has been steady over a number of years now, with each new technological development allowing more freedom to managers and employees - but only if that technology is utilised correctly.
Improvements in technology have enabled businesses to embrace flexibility - but who benefits?
Companies are certainly seeing gains.
More people needing less desks brings big savings on overheads, as well as easier and quicker onboarding.
Recruiting by skill-set rather than geography is now possible with businesses no longer confined to the local population to find their perfect match.
New technologies and cloud storage mean systems and digital objects aren’t tied to a specific location, so their distribution can be easier to manage, as well as providing flexibility for employees.
And there are benefits to employees as well of course.
Widening your social network has been cited as a benefit of hot-desking, as it naturally encourages the growth of relationships outside an original team. Employees will gain a better understanding of the skills and knowledge of their co-workers, while also growing their understanding of the organisations’ bigger picture.
As fixed desks are replaced with a more flexible working environment, these spaces might allow for relaxed break-out areas for brainstorming, quiet areas for concentration and meeting areas locally. This brings the opportunity to design a space around the needs of workers and their working practice.
And of course, the flexibility of choosing your own workspace will benefit many employees.
It’s a win-win then?
Maybe not, the news isn’t all positive.
While workspace flexibility and increased social interaction are improvements for some workers, others are suffering with the loss of security and sense of belonging having their own space gave them.
Research by Brickendon Digital (in the Facilities Management Journal) reports key concerns are:
The health and safety considerations of setting up a workstation to meet individual requirements.
Stresses caused by not knowing what seating will be available in the office.
Concerns about isolation and losing a sense of belonging in the work environment.
The Open Sourced Workplace also identifies a number of negative impacts of hot-desking reporting that many employees, particularly older workers, women and introverts, struggle with it.
The potential for disturbance means many employees find focus and concentration difficult.
The lack of privacy can impact employee productivity.
So, what is the answer?
Organisations need to understand their workforce and what makes them tick.
While financial concerns and productivity are key, so too are the needs of employees which will impact on every aspect of business running.
Technology can certainly be utilised to ease some of the concerns identified in these reports.
Booking solutions can remove the worry that a desk won’t be available by allowing advanced reservation.
These solutions should also be smart enough to ensure a proximity to team members.
Meeting room booking systems should highlight the rooms features as well as showing the rooms availability, location and utilise location services to provide directions.
We’re used to smart technology in our homes meaning that we have information and access to systems when we’re not there, the systems we use at work should be at least as smart.
Innovation across workspaces will need solutions which integrate and solve real pain points for real people - any strategy must stem from a wider business focus on employee engagement and productivity.
Find out more
While hot-desking offers opportunities for improvement for companies and employees, there are concerns for employee wellbeing which shouldn’t be ignored.
Smarter, more innovative, solutions will give organisations the opportunity to enhance workspaces by ensuring they work for individuals and the way they work.
About the Author
I'm Terry Chana. I am an innovation strategist that connects customer, employee and brand experiences. My passion lies in building ecosystems to solve business problems by combining creativity and technology.