By Jana Zuidema (BSc Physio)
So, what is hot desking? It’s a trend currently being adopted whereby no one seat is assigned to a single person in an office building. This trend is becoming so popular the likes of Deloitte, BBC, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft and others are adopting it as their modus operandi for their employees.
It works like this: you arrive at work and you check into a ‘hot desk’ which you can book for an hour or the day. The desks are usually supplied with laptop and cell phone chargers, maybe a phone and maybe video conferencing system. All you need to bring is your laptop and cell phone, you find your spot and make yourself comfortable for the time frame you need that desk. If you work at one company all day this may mean that you sit in a different spot every day.
Advocates of hot desking say it’s great because it allows more collaborative space within the office environment, i.e. meeting rooms, coffee stations and chill out areas. They say it gets people moving, and call it activity based working (ABW). Employees working in organisations that adopt ABW predominantly use mobile devices and are seated based on the activity or project they are working on at the time. And let’s not forget that hot desking is a cost saver. Less money is spent on creating individual offices and the focus is more on the collaborative spaces. They even say that there is an increase in inventive thinking when people meet in short term co-working spaces. And, Standford University says that hot desking is more productive than working from home.
So that all sounds great, but what implications does hot desking have on ergonomics and work station set-up? I guess this all depends on what equipment you are offered at your hot desk.
Is the chair an ergonomically designed chair and is it adjustable for each user? Does the desk height allow for the range of different heights of people sitting at the desk? Is there a footrest for the shorter people? Does the phone have a headset attachment and most importantly what sort of docking station is offered for the laptop? In short, would you be able to set yourself up ergonomically at any hot desk you may be forced to work at?
From the research I’ve done I have noticed that most hot desking offices are designed by designers and not ergonomists’. So they look amazing, slick and offer state of the art IT systems, but are not human body friendly. So, if you are thinking of changing your business to the hot desking concept keep these few ergonomic guidelines in mind:
- Always provide the best seating – height, arm rest and back rest adjustable seating. It is imperative to make sure each user is comfortable.
- All desks should have foot stools to accommodate the shorter people.
- Ideally laptops should be provided with either a separate screen or keyboard or a laptop stand to allow the best anatomically correct position for the neck and shoulders.
- Phone headsets are also advisable.
Basically – good ergonomic principles should be used when hot desks are designed. Education on ergonomics is also imperative so that each user has the knowledge to set themselves up correctly.
So, hot desking is the trend – but maybe that is all that it will be, and trends, as we know, have a way of dying away. If you find yourself hot desking make it work for you, apply the best ergonomic principles and tools and your hot desking experience may just be more comfortable than you imagined.