Hot Desking

August 2, 2013

An Effective Operations Strategy or Does it Disconnect an Employee from the Employer Brand and Organization?

Aug. 2, 2013 — The spacious workstations that employees used to enjoy as their “Little Office Home” by putting up family pictures and small decorative stuff are getting to be a thing of the past.

Many organisations are emphasizing reducing operating costs by adapting the LEAN methodology (a six sigma method). With this method, organisations try to reduce or eliminate the costs that have been identified as Non-Value Added (NVAs) activities. In this endeavour, due to increasing office rental costs, “hot desking” is one of the strategies which helps save money significantly. What this also means is that there is now no “Little Office Home” and employees now cannot even hang their coats or personalize their workstation since it may be a different desk they use each day at the office.

The term “hot desking” is said to have emerged from the naval field where they call it “hot racking”. It means the sailors who work in different shifts need to share the same bunks with their colleagues. This space sharing model was adopted first in the North America, Europe, and then it spread out to the Asia-Pacific regions such as Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong etc. Now, it has become a differentiating factor for attracting and retaining talent in this region.

From an organisation’s perspective, hot desking is attractive because it saves costs and office space. It is estimated that some companies have been able to save up to 30% of overhead costs and space. Besides, this approach is being considered as “futuristic” since the scarcity of office space will intensify in the near future, and increasingly, organisations perceive hot desking to provide a competitive edge over the others.

Now, let us see some of the advantages and disadvantages of hot desking:


  1. Saves costs and space significantly that will help generate more operating profit.
  2. The work environment has become more interactive since there is more communication amongst the employees who otherwise would have sat in one area of the office and only mingle with those around them in that zone.
  3. Employees come out of their comfort zone and become more flexible in terms of managing work with relatively limited resources.
  4. Useful for individual contributors as they work independently for most of their work hours.


  1. An employee might get anxious since he/she has to find a new workstation every day.
  2. It may be challenging for internal and external contacts to locate an employee.
  3. This may be challenging for employees who are part of teams as proximity has always been important in how teams work and communicate with other members of the team
  4. This arrangement may disconnect an employee from his environment and in this case, the company’s culture and social environment

The advantages of “hot desking” cannot be denied, though the lists of disadvantages are getting longer. Specialist recruitment consultancy, en world has identified and observed the usage of “hot desking” within numerous large organisations in the Asia-Pacific region and is cautioning employers to consider both the pros and cons before implementing this strategy. The reason behind this suggestion is that “hot desking” will not be suitable equally for all types of businesses, and may trigger employee dissent and dissatisfaction. As a result, an organisation’s brand identity and brand value may take a hit since its best resources; the “People” won’t be able to perform at the optimum level.

According to Mr. Brian Richards, President, en world Singapore, who commented,” While most employees are receptive to the shared workspaces concept, they typically end up feeling detached and less engaged with the business, possibly leading to lower morale and motivational levels.”

Mr. Richards further added, “Even as businesses are constantly pursuing more cost effective solutions, it would be prudent to note that for many employees, having their “own” work space gives them a sense of importance and belonging to the organisation. Hence, while shifting to a hot desking structure may initially result in cost savings the eventuality could be reduced productivity and higher attrition levels.”

“In a hot desking environment, it is even more important for managers to maintain open and frequent communication so that employees stay engaged in the organization’s goals and continue to achieve corporate objectives through managing the outcome of employees’ efforts rather than managing the number of hours people spend sitting at their desks.” Mr Richards said.

The de-personalisation of the workstation means the employees feel stressed and less connected. The HR managers — especially the prominent ones — have a significant role to play here by educating organisations to focus more on the “Humane” aspect of the business and try to provide a comfortable and productive work environment to have a win-win situation.

About en world:

en world is an international recruiting agency, focusing on managerial and senior-level career solutions. en world was established in Japan in 1999 and has expanded to Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Australia and Vietnam. With 270 staff representing 15 nationalities in 10 offices, we are supporting over 12,000 placements with 2,400 clients across the Asia Pacific Region. en world is a subsidiary of en-japan inc., Japan’s leading internet-based recruitment solutions provider.

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Media Contact:
Vikram Tandon
Tel: +65-6420-0574