Comment: FM in hot-desking
Tarek Nizameddin, senior executive director, Ejadah Asset Management Group, writes about the pro and cons of hot-desking and the role of FM in it
When the pandemic began and amidst the implementation of lockdowns, there was a real concern across the industries about the inability of going back to the offices. Few weeks later, everybody was surprised that telecommuting not only benefits employees by eliminating their daily commutes but also increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles. Remote workers are undoubtedly more productive vis-à-vis their office-bound counterparts.
Thanks to the strong infrastructure that we have in the GCC, companies were and are still able to use online meeting platforms, and we found ourselves stepping into a new work reality building on the role and value of video conferencing in driving better and effective business outcome. These communication evolutions have impacted our mindset and the way we work and will be even more revolutionary in the future as and when more innovative technological solutions start to materialise.
As the pandemic threat is being contained and mitigated to some extent, many businesses are now questioning the viability of going back to normal office practices or considering working from home as the “new normal” or even coming up with a hybrid model that satisfies the business needs bearing in mind that telecommuting has proven to drive up employee efficiency.
Some companies have started implementing the ‘work anywhere, anytime’ alternative workplace (AW). The ‘desk’ becomes a shared resource rather than something that is allocated or attributed to an individual. In other words, employees become workspace consumer, meaning that employees consume space on demand. Employees choose where, how and when they work, reaching out to a wide range of working hubs spread across their neighbourhood.
Post pandemic, the typical 9-to-5 work schedule may be a thing of the past whilst capitalising on technology revolutions and incremental innovations to create work patterns radically different than those of today to achieve a satisfying work-life balance.
Employees, will come to office as and when required and they will be given the opportunity to book their desk through their smart phone. This, of course, will require a major transformation and paradigm shift in our society, our lives and our organizations, as well as in the way we design and operate our shared workplaces.
As with any business model, contriving a new strategy around shared workplaces or “hot-desking” shall reflect on its upsides and downsides to ensure a successful formulation and implementation of that strategy. Hot-desking means less leasable or owned area required for office space, tools and assets including but not limited to FF&E, monitors and keyboards.
Some of the pros of hot-desking include:
• Not only it is easier to set up and maintain offices with smaller footprints but also hot-desking will reduce the operating costs, utility bills, FM services costs and obviously the office rent.
• A shared workspace will minimise the traffic and rush hours. Since commutes are costly, both on the environment and the economy, hot-desking implementation accompanied with working from home has a substantial potential to lessen employees stress caused by the traffic and most importantly the traffic congestion that heavily consumes energy and burns most of the world’s petroleum. Reducing the transportation footprint will ultimately alleviate air pollution, including nitrous oxides and particulates, a significant contributor to global warming through CO2 emissions.
Some of the cons of hot-desking are:
• Hot-desking will adversely impact the commercial real estate market as it will lower the demand on the office workspace. Property Managers will need to consider a dispersed real estate model with mixed facilities and multipurpose environments to enable fast response to changes in user needs, and to meet new customer utilisation patterns and demands.
• Hot-desking also risks employees feeling less valued, which can impact their morale and motivation which are directly linked to employee engagement. Another disadvantage is a lack of team cohesion, studies have also raised concerns about wellbeing, as having to find somewhere to sit every day can make it harder for some people to deal with stress.
• Germs could spread as people may share dirty equipment which can be handled by having a robust system for cleaning and disinfecting of workspace after every single use.
The role of facilities managers in hot-desking
FM is defined as a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology. In other words, providing an environment in which people can create value for the organisation with which they are associated with. However, facility managers will need to respond in real time to user demand by integrating invisible technologies in facilities to track user activities and record user experiences. FM also plays a vital role in the management of the booking system and preparing the work space after every single use to ensure its readiness to welcome the next user.
Moreover, the success of converting an office to a hot-desk facility, require collaboration between facilities management, human resources and IT departments. Historically, these departments have been fairly working in silos, but when the “new normal” is in place and employees are given the ability to work in multiple settings, it’s time for collaboration between these three departments.
In addition, shifting to hot-desking is not an easy task. It involves a “social contract” with the office users and a learning process. Human resources and FM department should redesign the organisation’s policies to consider storage of personal items in lockers, making desks available when they’re not being used, not taking daily ownership of a preferred desk, ensuring eating lunch in the cafeteria rather than on desks, keeping confidential documents out of sight, and maintaining a hygiene standard.
It is a fact that the future of office environment relies on the concept of hot-desking. In order for it to succeed, the right balance has to be struck. Facilities managers have been entrusted to build the right environment to gain users acceptance and tackling the hidden challenges. If hot-desking is applied properly then it will free people from a desk-bound environment. If not, then it can disrupt group cohesion and lose valuable human resources.