The Do's and Don'ts of Hot Desking

Hot desking, or allocating desks on a rota system, is a fast growing trend that helps businesses use office space efficiently and save money.

Unfortunately, for hot deskers themselves, making the transition can be stressful, from frantic daily dashes for the last remaining spots to a general decline in upkeep as people shift from desk to desk leaving a trail of spilled drinks, biscuit crumbs and mangled keyboards in their wake.

Whether your workplace is expanding faster than it can create space, downsizing to save costs or organising staff in shifts, you may be faced with the prospect of hot desking at some point in your career.

But it doesn’t have to be a negative experience; it could even be an opportunity to change your habits and do some valuable networking.

Here are some of the top do’s and don’ts of hot desking:

Don’t: Make do without a desk
So, you’ve arrived in late after a breakfast meeting and all the desks are gone. Don’t try to compensate by producing your own makeshift table on the floor or sloping off to the café across the street. Talk to your manager. You may be able to find another place to sit in the building temporarily or take over from someone who is about to leave. Speak up, as your company needs to know if they’ve miscalculated their space allocation... 

Do: Report it when something breaks

As tempting as it is to leave that broken keyboard / mouse / chair for someone else to deal with or stealthily move it to another desk, chances are you’ll somehow find yourself sitting in front of it the next day anyway. If you report a problem right away, neither you nor anyone else will have to deal with it again. If you’re in a junior position, taking a quick tour of the office and detailing broken or missing items is a good way of showing initiative and contributing towards an altogether happier work environment.

Don't: Switch off
If you're moving around, you will likely need to sign in and transfer your extension to a different phone each day. This can be one of the easiest things to forget when hot desking, so make a point of always signing into your phone / skype / messenger service first thing.

Do: Clean up after yourself
A keyboard filled with crumbs, a mouse mat hardened with fossilized soft drink remains, and we’re not even going to get into what’s on the receiver of that phone… Just like broken equipment, the detritus you leave on your desk will eventually come back to haunt you.  Be considerate towards others and ultimately yourself, by cleaning up spills, breaking with routine to eat your lunch away from your desk and get some much needed fresh air and clearing everything away at the end of the day.
Do: Go paperless
If you can’t pile stuff on your desk anymore long-term, rather than hastily shoving everything into your filing cabinet / locker and forgetting about it, take it as an opportunity to have a clear out and think about changing the way you work. Start by throwing away print-outs and anything out-of-date, then scanning important documents onto the company drive.  Going paperless can help you reduce clutter, improve your organisation and ultimately relieve stress over time.

Don’t: Colonise
A classic move by reluctant hot deskers is to heap as many documents, coffee cups and personal artifacts onto their tables as possible and then refuse to clear them away, or for teams to make land grabs for the same space each day. On the first point, be aware that the cleaners may just relocate all your stuff to the bin overnight, but more importantly, in both cases you’ll also missing out on our final 'Do'…

Do: Network
Not only is hot desking a good way to get to know everyone in your office, if your workplace is fully open-plan and egalitarian, you could even find yourself sitting by the boss on occasion. Some people might find the idea of perching their laptop next to the most senior people in the company a little daunting, but instead of running away, use that empty desk by your boss as an opportunity to get yourself noticed.  In reality, it’s unlikely that they will be watching you out the corner of their eye waiting for you to make a mistake or check your Facebook, they’re more likely to ask for your help or advice on something. Even if it’s just ‘how do I use this printer’, it’s still a faithful office icebreaker and a way into future conversations.