What is hot desking anxiety & how to help employees overcome it

With many companies transitioning away from the pre-pandemic Monday-Friday, 9-5 in-person work week in favor of a hybrid model that allows employees to split time between the office and home, there is no longer as much of a need for permanent, individual offices. Instead, many companies are reimagining their office layout and taking advantage of newfound space. One way companies are adjusting to the hybrid modality is by adopting hot desking, a system where multiple employees use the same desk, just at different times, rather than employees having an individual office.  With that said, the concept of desk sharing can produce its share of reluctance and anxiety, specifically for employees who are accustomed to having their own space. In this post we are going to address some of the reasons why hot desking could cause stress for employees, and then take a look at how to help employees work around that stress.

Hot Desking Basics

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Before we get into the anxiety that could come about because of hot desking, let’s first start with the basics and define hot desking, especially for those not familiar with the concept. 

At Smartway2 we have written extensively on the subject, including this post  which incorporates everything you need to know about hot desking in 2021. As part of this post, Smartway 2 provides a pithy explanation of hot desking that we are sharing below:

“Hot desking is a fancy term to describe a flexible working system where multiple people share desks in an office space. Simply put, the idea is to get away from employees having an assigned workspace. The system can improve productivity, flexibility and cut down on wasted space.”

Hot Desking Anxiety

LABS, a customizable workspace company, published a helpful post identifying how companies can address hot desking anxiety. According to LABS, “Hot desking doesn’t work for everyone – many people prefer to have a set routine and find it hard to build relationships with their colleagues when their desk neighbours are constantly changing. Sometimes this practice even leads to something called hot desking anxiety. This can occur for several reasons.”

LABS’ post goes on to list the following 3 reasons for hot desking anxiety:

  • Not finding a desk
  • Feeling lonely
  • Lack of personal touches

CircleHub, a shared office and coworking space company, published a post on hot desking anxiety entitled “How to Deal with Hot Desking Anxiety.” According to Circle Hub, “Hot desking anxiety can be caused by a mixture of things pertaining to this practice, but it can also be caused by one particular aspect of it.”

CircleHub shares the following list of reasons for hot desking anxiety:

  • Worrying over seating
  • Setting up desks
  • No personal space
  • Poor memory
  • Loneliness
  • Finding co-workers

HR Magazine, based in the UK, published an article in 2019 on the subject of hot desking anxiety. Rachel Muller-Heyndyk, then a reporter for HR Magazine, cites research that breaks down the root causes of hot desking anxiety. Muller-Heyndyk writes,“The survey, of 1,001 UK office workers aged 18 and over, looked at the impact of hot desking, and found that 80% of office workers reported that office seating can negatively affect their mental wellbeing. The most prominent causes for hot desking malaise were: wasting time setting up a computer (44%), wasting time looking for a desk when starting work (31%) and difficulty bonding with their team (22%). Over half (58%) of respondents cited the prospect of not knowing where to sit every day as the biggest stressor when it comes to hot desking, while 61% felt the ability to pre-book their seat in advance would ease this worry.”

Addressing Hot Desking Anxiety

Now that we have focused on some of the reasons that people might be anxious regarding hot desking, let’s take a look at some solutions to alleviate that stress.

The LABS article we cited above has some helpful advice for addressing hot desking anxiety. LABS writes, “Firstly, implementing a booking system for hot desking will reduce the anxiety some people feel at having to search for a desk when they arrive at work. Instead, they can book days or weeks in advance, taking the pressure off and improving the effectiveness of the system.

Next, do your research. Regularly assess employees using surveys, emails or interviews to find out how often people are hot desking and adjust your facilities accordingly. Not everyone enjoys hot desking, so you may need to up your ratio of assigned desks. Encourage your employees to give feedback – after all, communication is key. Finally, arrange some social sessions or work drinks to help employees connect and blow off steam after work. Socialising leads to stronger bonds and better teamwork and these sessions will make up for any time spent away from colleagues during the day…”

When it comes to the first piece of advice from LABS, desk booking, Smartway2 can help. We offer an easy-to-use system so you and your employees can easily book desks and other office space in advance, which makes the reservation process stress free.

As people start to return to the in-person office in a post-COVID world, our system can help alleviate some common concerns, including in the following ways: 

  • Social distancing
  • Contact tracing
  • Managing who comes in when
  • Sanitation procedures
  • Approvals and self-certification
  • Employee feedback surveys

S1Jobs, a website that offers career advice and job news, tackles the subject of hot desking anxiety in an article by Ann Carrigan. Carrigan highlights some hot desking etiquette that can also help to reduce stress. According to Carrigan, “Typical rules might include not eating at your desk (especially egg and tuna sandwiches!), a use it or lose it approach to unattended work stations, not leaving a cardigan over the chair to reserve the best placed desk and a ban on sitting next to your office bestie every day.” 

Carrigan goes on to offer the following advice for employees on how to avoid hot desking anxiety:

  • Get organized
  • Only carry what you need
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness
  • Enjoy the social aspect

Smartway2 is a workplace scheduling system that helps enable peak performance from employees. Using Smartway2 is easy and can help to pave the way towards a “culture of innovation.”

Stefania Vatidis

Stefania Vatidis

Last updated June 10, 2021