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Introduction

Flexible work programs have been a hot topic for quite a few years now. According to a survey conducted by FlexJobs and WorldAtWork, 80% of U.S. companies currently offer their employees flexible work arrangements, with these attractive programs offering employees a greater scope for work-life balance and employers a number of cost saving opportunities. One such flexible work program that offers employees greater freedom in their day-to-day working environment is the concept known as ‘desk sharing’.

Facility managers who are weighing up the pros and cons of implementing a desk sharing program need to begin their research by identifying their main business driver:

  • Financial: FMs want to maximize their existing real estate space
  • Physical: The business is expanding faster than the company can increase real estate
  • Cultural: The workplace requires flexible seating to more effectively promote communication and collaboration

For any desk sharing policy to be successful, a diligent and well-structured implementation plan is required to ensure its adoption is a success. As such, FMs curious about this style of flexible work should introduce desk sharing into an organization gradually. Start by piloting the strategy with a team that is open and excited about the new process, then track the policy’s progress by holding in-house feedback sessions or by sending out surveys. These types of insights will help iron out any kinks, make necessary adjustments to optimize internal processes and ultimately determine whether to expand the policy company-wide.

If you’ve determined that desk sharing policies align with your organization’s goals, then adopting a desk booking strategy could be the right fit for your company. Now it’s time to find out how to implement such a strategy across your organization and what it takes to make it successful.

Implementing Desk Sharing

Implementing Desk Sharing

Two of the most common desk sharing strategies today are hot desking and office hoteling. While similar, the two differ in that office hoteling allows employees to reserve a desk for a set amount of time, while hot desking allocates seats to employees as they are required. If your company is considering implementing either of these strategies, you will first need to explore whether your organization is truly suited to a flexible office program. Signs that this option could be the right fit for your company include: 

  • You employ a largely mobile workforce
  • Your organization is made up of consultants, a sales team that comes and goes or contractors who are only in the office part-time
  • Your office floor plan is flexible
  • You have offices in multiple cities
  • You’re looking to trim down square footage and save on facility rental costs
  • You’re interested in improving cross-departmental collaboration
  • You want to attract an adaptable, modern workforce that values flexibility

If this sounds like your organization, you’ll need to develop a solid strategy for next steps. This will involve training staff on new procedures and preparing the office space to accommodate this new work environment. Everything from quality furniture to private meeting areas are essential to running an effective hot desking or office hoteling program, and will therefore need to be addressed before you officially roll out the new policy. 

One of the most important aspects of any implementation plan involves working together with your organization’s HR and IT teams. A shift to a desk sharing arrangement is as much about changing employee work habits as it is about changing the physical layout of an office, so it’s crucial that HR is on board to help employees adapt to this shakeup. Regardless of the initial driver (Financial, Cultural or Physical), it’s important that the new strategy’s implementation does not lead to a drop in productivity or efficiency—in fact, it’s likely the C-Suite will be looking for efficiency gains. So, for the strategy to be a success, FMs need to collaborate with HR to understand how employees work and how office communication and processes can be improved. Similarly, involving IT is key to a smooth roll out, as any new strategy will include technology updates that will need to be implemented, managed and measured. IT will always be the gatekeeper for technology within the organization, so involving them early allows them to communicate any red flags they have early on so that your project doesn’t get derailed.

Moreover, the corporate culture of an organization plays an important role in the success or failure of hot desking and office hoteling. For example, if a company gives employees ample flexibility to attain their objectives at work, then a successful transition to either of these desk booking strategies is much more likely. At Deloitte Canada, hot desking was determined to be the right option for their corporate culture—the company switched to “hot-desking-type office arrangements in all its buildings across the country”, and found Deloitte teams are “more engaged and productive when they can control how and where they work”. This decision to implement hot desking country-wide would have been made following extensive research and a close look at compatibility with corporate culture, including the organization’s overall philosophy on freedom and flexibility in the workplace.

In addition to these important considerations, FMs need to decide which desk booking system to invest in. This decision will impact how readily and efficiently your policy is adopted across your company. 

Some things to look for in a desk booking solution include:

  • Emphasis on user experience and easy adoption
  • Real-time data and reporting
  • A cloud-based system
  • Dedicated customer support for all members of your team

It’s important to note too that even once the appropriate software is in place and you’ve optimized your office environment for desk sharing, the strategizing doesn’t stop. Continued efficiency demands that you gather feedback and measure the results of your new strategy to ensure your team is actually benefiting from the policy. 

 

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Benefits of Hot Desking & Hoteling

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Desk booking strategies like hot desking and office hoteling offer significant benefits to companies large and small. To start, they offer employees an adjustable work schedule, which attracts top talent who are interested in companies with great a work-life balance. A Deloitte study on human capital trends notes that workplace flexibility can be a deciding factor for top talent, with one in three workers reporting that work-life balance is the most important factor when choosing a job. Using desk booking software illustrates to potential employees that your company is a step ahead in policy and that their time is both valued and trusted.

Desk booking options can boost day-to-day productivity and employee effectiveness by allowing employees to find balance in their work days—this way, they’re able to put in time when they know they work best. Improved engagement and productivity go hand-in-hand with increased profits, indicating that a positive employee experience has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Desk booking adds a factor of novelty and excitement to an employee’s experience, each time they enter a work space. Not only do they get a clean and tidy space with each new session, but a chance to collaborate with team members from a variety of departments who have wide-ranging expertise. This type of collaboration is unique to organizations that offer flexible working arrangements, and is a proven way to keep creativity and camaraderie flowing within an organization. In fact, research by Gallup found that employees who have the option to move to different work areas throughout the day are 1.3 times more likely to be engaged than other employees.

Does your organization employ a mobile workforce, have a space with a flexible floor plan and the tools to make desk booking work? If so, investing in a desk booking solution could be a great way to cut down on unnecessary facility costs, as fewer in-house workers creates an opportunity to downsize. You can then invest these savings in areas where they’ll make a real difference, ensuring your desk booking strategy benefits your business in more ways than one.

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Desk Booking Software and Apps

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Using desk booking software is an important part of running a successful desk sharing program. Desk booking software provides flexibility in booking times, ensuring employees can book a desk in advance via mobile or desktop apps. What’s crucial though is that your chosen flexible working strategy doesn’t dictate a certain workflow or process, but rather offers a variety of options to ensure it fits seamlessly with your existing office culture.

Dedicated Desk Booking software should offer most, if not all, of these benefits:

  • You remove the human element, which means less room for error
  • Your company data is safe and secure
  • You can allocate roles and permissions appropriately
  • Booking in advance is simple, as you can easily see when the desk you want will become available
  • You gain access to important data and analytics through real-time reporting
  • You can use this data to track adoption rates, spot operational deficiencies and determine the success of the desk booking program
  • There are no limits to size; as your organization grows, the system grows with you


Above all else though, it’s important that companies do not rely on a phone system to manage their desk booking policy. Some companies have their employees sign in and out of desks using a phone, but since your telecommunications system won’t connect with your facilities management software, you will not be able to pull any insights from this data. So, while a phone system might be easy for the end user, it restricts an FMs ability to undertake a deep analysis of the data. As such, it is best to have all data points tied to one software, to ensure you are getting the most valuable insights into your new desk sharing strategy.

The best desk booking systems also offer integrations. OfficeSpace Software integrates with multiple directories and HR platforms, third-party applications and single sign-on solutions. These technologies are essential for organizations operating a desk sharing program. For example, instant chat services like Slack and Skype make it easy for remote workers to stay in touch as they come and go, while single sign-on solutions ensure that company data stays safe and secure, no matter where or when employees are logging on.

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ROI & Reporting

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The ability to analyze internal company data is vital in today’s office culture. Desk booking systems are tracking where employees choose to sit, how departments work together, how much time each employee spends in the office and which spaces get the most use, with this data used to optimize a flexible office program. A solid system provides access to real-time reports that highlight these usage trends and employee preferences, and top systems also offer custom reporting capabilities to help tackle an organization’s individual needs. This why it’s important to invest in desk booking software that allows you to measure the effectiveness of desk sharing strategies based on usage and adoption rates. Access to data and analytics leaves no questions unanswered—by using these metrics, FMs can take a close look at where their employees need further training or support. 

Even before implementing desk sharing, you can use internal data to understand whether the new process will actually benefit your organization. By using a space management tool, you can gather valuable information on space utilization around the office. For example, AXA Insurance used internal data to understand their space usage, finding that “53% of [their] space was underutilized, meeting spaces were often blocked and under-used, legacy systems were requiring updates and physical storage needed to be cleared and digitized". With this information, the company began implementing an activity-based working strategy to optimize their facility usage and reduce overhead.

Another important step when setting up a desk sharing policy is to determine specific goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) for the launch of the new system. FMs need to know what “success” looks like before they implement a desk booking strategy, which is why it’s so important to understand the business driver behind adopting hot desking or office hoteling. This will give FMs clear expectations for benchmarks when they’re analyzing data, as it will provide guidelines for exactly what they need to measure, whether that’s employee productivity, cost savings or any other factor. When determining these factors, it’s important to seek input from HR and IT, as these teams will be able to provide helpful insights from both a human and technological viewpoint.

Desk booking requires an initial investment in software, as well as in the office space, so you’ll want to measure if this investment is providing a solid return. This includes determining whether the benefits of lower rent and improved employee performance outweigh the costs of your flexible office program. Effective reporting is an important tool in weighing these outcomes and monitoring your bottom line.

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Activity Based Working

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Activity-based work allows employees to use a range of different spaces for completing different tasks. Project teams can access large spaces conducive to team work, such as meeting rooms, lounge areas and specially designed pods. In this way, if a project team is made up of members from different departments, they won’t be restricted to conversing via email or in an ill-equipped space like the office kitchen. As such, communal spaces are ideal for companies that value or require cross departmental collaboration, and who wish to use their physical office space to enhance employee productivity

The benefits to offering multiple work spaces in an office are far-reaching. Within each environment, employees gain a fresh perspective on their work. Collaborative spaces encourage innovation and new ways of thinking, and promote relationship building across departments. Offering multiple workspace options accounts for the well-being of each employee—and inspired individuals are sure to keep the creativity flowing in an office. 

These benefits have been successfully measured on a qualitative scale by a number of companies. According to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle, employees who underwent a transition to activity-based working reported a change in their own working style, including increased collaboration and the ability to complete projects more quickly through better access to leadership and relevant teams. In addition to this, surveyed employees described a friendlier, more positive environment at work as a result of the introduction of communal “town hall” spaces, which offer flexibility and freedom at the office.

To implement an activity-based work environment, start by designing (or rearranging) a space to accommodate multiple working environments—floors filled with side-by-side cubicles are a thing of the past. First, consider spaces for both individual and team-based work—quiet meeting rooms, breakout spaces, areas for activity and casual seating should all be a part of your activity-based setup. Within these spaces, furniture and equipment are equally as important. Flexibility means offering variety, such as couches, standing desks, long tables and movable seating, as well as valued amenities. Ample lighting and plenty of charging stations should also be factored into your desk sharing design to ensure hot desking or office hoteling never leads to frustrations at having access to some amenities at some desks but not at others.

Tools and technologies play a big role in creating a successful activity-based working approach. Since employees are working in multiple locations across a space, they require portability (namely, laptops). Sensors are also important for tracking employee movement and space usage, and pair well with comprehensive desk booking software.

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Desk Sensors

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Desk sensors work in combination with a desk booking system to help FMs understand employee work patterns by tracking occupancy and space usage in real time. They offer insights into the ways people work, providing managers with an in-depth look at employee performance beyond traditional productivity benchmarks. Sensor information can also shine a light on a space’s functionality and design. For example, they can determine which areas in the office are most popular, which are underused and which foster collaboration and teamwork—and FMs can use this information to redesign spaces for optimal efficiency. Additionally, sensors can offer insights into an office’s environmental conditions, such as sound and air quality, which can then be adjusted to improve overall employee experience in a space.

There are a number of options for implementing sensors around the office. Desk or chair sensors can be installed to help keep track of how employees use their desk area. Similarly, tracking devices in ID cards can provide valuable information about the day-to-day actions of individual employees. Working hours, breaks, time spent in meetings and teamwork within departments can all be tracked through individual sensors. On the other hand, area sensors that track general movement can be useful for understanding how often a space is used and what it’s being used for. 

Workplace sensors can also offer benefits beyond insights into workplace patterns and can help companies run a more sustainable office. For example, sensors can monitor and collect data on temperature and lighting in a space, which can help determine how to optimize automated systems that save your company both time and money. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that sensors can help reduce energy waste by as much as 68% and increase energy savings by up to 60%.

However, one trap to avoid with workplace sensors is the initial instinct to try and measure everything in detail. Not every piece of data an office produces will be useful, so FMs need to be mindful of what they truly need to know. After all, these reports are only going to be as good as the data that’s going into the system. Before diving into every data point in detail, FMs must consider what behaviors need to be in place in order to get the report they require. Even something as simple as “Which desk is being used the most?” depends upon every employee routinely checking in and checking out of every desk they use. Human nature dictates that this won’t always happen. So, it’s important to think more strategically about what reports will actually help improve workplace productivity. What will you do with the data you get? What actions can be taken to try and improve employee experiences? Thinking through these questions will surface what is truly important to measure and what is just nice to know.

In conjunction with a desk sharing strategy and desk booking software, sensors can help enhance employee performance, optimize space usage and reduce everyday facility costs. If your organization is considering implementing workplace sensors, it’s necessary to weigh the costs and time required to install them against the benefits they’ll provide.

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“OfficeSpace has literally changed the way we do business. We got rid of our old system: it was complicated and costly.”
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Lena Thompson American Psychological Association

We were able to grow within our facility and not take another floor in this building saving the organization money.
Adrian Grad

Adrian Grad International Rescue Committee

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