Hot-desking: The benefits for a small business

In this piece, in association with Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), we look at the value of hot-desking, the practice that affords workers more freedom over where they carry out their work.

Hot-desking is a favoured option for agile small businesses

Hot-desking is a favoured option for agile small businesses

In an era of ever-changing working habits, it is important to look at how best to keep your staff productive and happy, or you may lose your most valuable people to more forward-thinking competitors. Shaking up tired workplace practices can be achieved in many ways, but from an office working perspective, the concept of hot-desking may well be worth introducing to your organisation.

Hot-desking can be defined as an office organisation system which involves multiple workers using a single physical work station or surface during different time periods.

Phil Mottram, head of enterprise at Vodafone UK says that, when businesses redesign the way they work to support their employees, additional gains can be made elsewhere too. ‘Office spaces no longer have to be fixed. Advances in remote technology allow for the ability for an inbound customer contact to be routed to available staff members wherever they are, in the office or on the move.

‘This solution is especially valuable if businesses are considering hot-desking, helping to reduce the size of the workspace needed and freeing up space for communal or open plan collaboration areas.’

A flexible arrangement

Holly Garland, founder of Edinburgh-based communications company Garland PR, began hot-desking at a co-working space a year ago and has grown her business since to three full-time people. ‘It gave me great flexibility, the meeting space was brilliant and I really am a team worker – my creativity thrives from being around other people,’ she says.

Garland finds the meeting space provided by a hot-desking arrangement is invaluable for bringing clients in as well as contractors and freelancers needed during rapid growth.

’The networking opportunities have been great, and here they do a Friday drinks session with all the businesses so you can get to know your co-workers. I have also gained a couple of clients in the building which has been fantastic.’

Garland says she would highly recommend hot-desking to others thinking about it, as it opens up opportunities and contacts that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.

‘Also, a good business address is important to many businesses, and hot-desking enables you to have that without enormous overheads.’

Garland suggests that smaller business owners ask how the property is managed. ‘You need to know that if the Wi-Fi goes wrong someone is going to deal with it very quickly.’

Also, how many people share the space is an important consideration: ‘There is no point having to queue for a desk every morning to add to your stress levels.’

When approaching hot-desking, business owners are advised to ask what all the available packages are. ‘Ideally this space will grow with your business, but you don’t want a disproportionate jump in cost the second you go from one person to two or three people,’ Garland says.

The level of success the hot-desking space has seen is another important consideration. ’Have resident businesses won clients? How do the businesses there really work together?’

While collaboration can be beneficial, you should make sure you don’t have direct competition sat next to you. ‘It is going to seriously diminish your chances of winning clients in the building if you’re a graphic designer and there are five others in the room,’ Garland says.

Richa Bhalla started using hot-desking space shared with other businesses when she was thinking about starting flower delivery business Pedals, and agrees that it is a great chance to network. ‘I knew it wouldn’t be a practical place to base the company once I started shipping flowers out but it was a great place to meet people doing similar things while I was in the conception phase,’ she says.

‘When you’re working alone, working from home can get lonely and often you don’t see anyone face to face during the whole working day. Being surrounded by people working on their own things was good motivation and helped create some structure in those early days.’

Stay in control of your staff

Business owners are under a duty of care toward employees so must provide a safe working environment, and this extends to employees who are hot-desking, says Minal Backhouse, founder of Backhouse Solicitors.

‘Assessing a workstation to ensure it meets health and safety requirements must be carried out to ensure compliance with The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992,’ Backhouse adds.

The situation becomes more difficult when multiple people use the same workstation to ensure that the desk and chair heights are suitable for individual users.

‘Employees risk developing RSI as a result, leaving employers liable. Other issues to consider are hygiene and cleanliness where there are multiple users for the same pieces of equipment. Sourcing easily-adjustable specialist equipment can combat this issue as it allows employees to adapt their work space.’

Hot desking can provide many benefits for a smaller business but also many challenges, particularly relating to employment law and health and safety, which can be very time-consuming for business owners so it’s worthwhile seeking support.

One low-cost way of doing this is to join a business membership organisation such as FSB, where businesses can access the 24/7 legal advice helpline as well as take advantage of the unlimited access to our factsheets and templates. Visit fsb.org.uk for more information.

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