Employee engagement is a topic which often comes up in the world of awards. Companies who wish to show their prowess when it comes to looking after their employees can look to specific awards events and categories to gain recognition for their workplace culture, staff retention, key employer status etcetera.
One thing which we see being considered by those hoping to hone the perfect working environment and ‘culture the culture’ is office design. Whilst we are by no means experts on this topic we read with interest a recent article which spoke about hot-desking and how it affects those who have to share their workspace.
At one point in very recent history the idea of hot-desking was quite a new, trendy – dare we say innovative – way to ‘mix things up’ in the office and move away from the traditions and limitations of permanent seating positions.
As it turns out, hot-desking is more likely to get employees hot under the collar than warm their attitude to their employer.
Firstly, there is the stress element which has been described to be close to the kind of anxiety involved for packing for a holiday under significant time pressure. The idea that if you leave your belongings behind they are likely to be removed is a little like setting off for the trip of a lifetime with the taxi waiting impatiently outside and then remembering there’s a few essential bits you still need to pack…
Whilst here at The Awards People we don’t hot-desk we’ve all had at least some personal experience of it and the general consensus is that getting the right spot is more akin to the ‘beach towels on the sunbeds’ palaver of any foreign holiday; highly stressful and nearly always unsuccessful unless you manage to get there at 6am or earlier.
Even taking the stress to one side there’s the element of removing all trace of personality from the workspace. Being treated more like a number than a valued person is not generally good for staff morale and, whilst even we would draw the line at having a line of soft toys from edge to edge, the addition of a few cheery photos or mementos on the desk top is sometimes the source of inspiration (or perhaps even strength) in challenging times.
Open plan working of course very often accompanies hot-desking and this too can be a source of frustration for many people. Research suggests that offices which are entirely open plan in nature result in a significant reduction in face-to-face engagements, indeed staff may simply text or message each other rather than have their conversation overheard by others. This in itself can be alienating and lead to a feeling of isolation; not exactly morale-boosting and a bad move in the longer term when considering the already-challenging subject of employee retention.
Of course the general reason why organisations look to hot-desk is to save on cost. With more flexibility in people’s work patterns there are often days and times when only half of the desks in the office are being used. At a time when overheads must be closely controlled, many businesses see an opportunity to reduce the number of workstations and reduce the actual office area required. The question, however, is whether saving costs in one area may indeed be adding to other costs elsewhere such as employee absence, temporary cover, recruitment etc and there may ultimately be no financial advantage to be gained.
So, if employee engagement is an area in which you’d like to see your business excel (whether you intend to pursue an award for your activities or not) we would strongly recommend that hot-desking is an arrangement which needs a great deal of thought and, on balance, may take you further from your intended ‘ideal’ of creating office harmony.