How to create an effective hot desk booking policy and maintain workforce productivity during coronavirus

August 11, 2020

When compiling a list of workplace behaviours on hold right now — shaking hands, business travel, carpooling — you might be tempted to add ‘hot desking’ into the mix.

But think again. 

While hot desking does present some complexities for COVID security, desk sharing is by no means gone for good. 

In fact, hot desks may become more popular in 2020 and beyond, as offices reduce their floor space to help support laser-focused cleaning efforts. Perhaps you’re even considering moving from dedicated desks to hot desks, in a bid to re-open your workplace securely?

Whether you’re welcoming back coworking regulars, or introducing a hot desk strategy for the first time, it all comes down to having a watertight hot desk policy — one that outlines all the rules and regulations, allowing colleagues to work safely side by side. 

Firstly, what does ‘hot desk’ really mean?

Hot desking started in the 1990s, but it’s really taken off in the last decade or so, as technology’s made it easier and easier for people to work flexibly, and from many locations.

At its heart, hot desking is a simple concept. Rather than having an assigned desk in an office, staff take whatever desk is available — sometimes on a first-come, first-served basis, and sometimes using check-ins or other protocols.

Today — or, before the pandemic — hot desking made a lot of sense. It gave many workers the flexibility they craved, made collaboration a little more manageable, and could even save organisations up to 30% in overheads.

But even as we look forward into more uncertain times, there are many reasons to keep the hot desking culture going strong...

Why should we hot desk?

Hot desking is all about creating better communication between colleagues, and improving professional relationships within a team. With traditional fixed desks, you see the same people day in, day out, and may not have the opportunity to meet people beyond your department.

Hot desking turns this — sometimes limiting — setup on its head. Suddenly, department members can intermingle. Cross-functional teams can work near each other, chat with new people, and get a sense of the business as a whole.

Of course, this emphasis on socialisation might sound a little scary in the context of a post-pandemic workplace. So what can you do to mitigate risk and allow safe hot desking?

Enter a hot desk policy.

What is a hot desk policy?

A hot desk policy is essentially an etiquette guide, but for your workspace. We all have colleagues who take a different approach to their personal and working space — and a set of guidelines gets everyone aligned on what is and isn’t acceptable.

This is particularly important now with pandemic protocols and enhanced sanitisation procedures, too. Because when your workers feel protected, they’ll be more productive.

Ready to put pen to paper? Here’s what you’ll need to include in your hot desk policy.

How to reserve your desk (and what not to do)

As it stands today, desks can’t really be a free-for-all. First-come first-served might be a nice idea in principle, but with the added pressures of COVID security, it could get messy — and quick.

Your best bet is to ask colleagues to reserve their desk ahead of time; checking-in when they arrive, and checking-out when they go home. Hot desk software like ToggleDesk is a great way to make things easy for everyone. Businesses can set their own attendance limits — to avoid overcrowding — and even contact tracing is simple to roll out, should the worst happen.

Simply use your hot desk policy to direct staff to software like ToggleDesk, and you can be COVID-compliant within minutes.

You’ll also want to use your policy to outline bad hot desk behaviours — lingering beyond your allocated time, or turning up without a booking, are big no-nos.

How to store your personal items

If you’re making hot desking available, you should also provide storage for personal items, gym bags, coats, etc. Employees should be made aware of the importance of avoiding clutter in their shared workspace, too. 

Describe these provisions in your policy, along with any associated rules and regulations.

How to be a good hot desking partner

In a business environment, calls are inevitable. Speaking on the phone for an hour or two is fine, but whistling constantly and listening to music without headphones — no thank you.

A good hot desking policy will encourage staff to pay attention to their surroundings as they move around the office, and respect the atmosphere of the zone they are in.

This also means respecting things like social distancing and the various pandemic procedures and behaviours in place. Which leads neatly on to...

How to leave your desk

No one wants to arrive at a dirty desk. And when a lack of cleanliness might imply a lack of sanitisation, this rule becomes doubly important.

Cleaning is a hot topic for hot deskers at the best of times, and will be even more crucial under “the new normal”. Employees should be encouraged to put everything back where they found it at the end of their session and to give the table a quick wipe down. Sure, you’ll have professional cleaners to deep clean each day, too, but colleagues should also play their part.

Where to eat lunch

This one’s simple: when hot desking, don’t eat lunch at your desk. Head to common space or the cafeteria, and avoid crumbs, smells and stains.

How to manage confidentiality

While hot desking helps promote collaboration, there is still such a thing as oversharing.

An important part of a hot desk policy is reminding staff to have confidential conversations and calls in a meeting room or private space.

What is the company responsible for?

Finally, a hot desk policy should also cover the company’s responsibility to its staff. 

For one, everyone who wants a hot desk should get one — even if it’s only for one or two days a week. Meeting rooms should be available to book as normal, and zones should be allocated to allow groups to work together (with 2 metre distance, of course). 

Finally, you should do everything you can to make returning to work an easy transition for staff — whether it’s their first time at a hot desk, or they’re coworkers adjusting to the current climate. Write up your hot desk policy, share it with the team, be available for questions, and then it’s launch time. 

ToggleDesk helps businesses manage semi-remote worker to maximise their available office space. Just let us know your email address and company name, and we’ll manage the rest.
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