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Hot desking warms up as Covid-driven remote working continues

Employees previously assigned a seat will no longer have access to that seat on all working days. Instead, seats will be assigned according to a roster. It is estimated that companies could save between Rs 10 lakh-1 crore on a monthly basis if hot desking is adopted and extra floors and office space are given away on rent or leased.

February 23, 2021 / 01:01 PM IST

If you’re one of those corporate employees who meticulously arrange their work desks with pictures, plants and inspirational quotes, you could be in for some disappointment — it might be a while before you get back to that beloved desk. With remote working extending further amid the Covid outbreak, corporates are choosing hot desking as an alternative to permanent seats for employees.

This means that an employee who was previously assigned a fixed seat would no longer have access to that seat on all working days. Whoever comes to office on a particular day will be assigned whatever seat is empty on that day.

Currently, companies such as Grant Thornton Bharat, HDFC Life Insurance and Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas have made plans to offer hot desking facilities to staff.

It is estimated that companies could save between Rs 10 lakh-1 crore on a monthly basis if hot desking is adopted and extra floors and office space are given away on rent or leased.

Human resource consultants told Moneycontrol that several other companies in the banking, insurance, e-commerce and consulting sectors are looking to offer hot-desking facilities. This gives employees the flexibility to work from home for a few days in a week while companies save costs by giving up extra floors.

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Shresth Gupta, an HR consultant from Delhi, said that the idea is to minimise real estate costs wherever possible.

“Rather than having three floors of office with multiple seats, companies are choosing to have one or two floors with hot desking. This ensures that excess spaces are either leased or surrendered (if on rent). For employees, too, this could boost team building since the individual is not sitting around the same set of colleagues every day,” added Gupta.

How does it work?

Hot desking means that there are no fixed seats. Employees follow a roster system to work from office. This means that one cannot simply decide that he/she will work from office on any given day. If they walk in unannounced, there won't be any seating available in the office.

Top management — the C suite — will retain their cabins and it is primarily the general staff who sit in cubicles who will have a hot desking system. Each company is discussing these plans with senior management to take a final decision on implementation.

Accounting firm Grant Thornton Bharat is moving towards an open workspace model. Its National Office, in New Delhi Aerocity, has a digitally enabled hot-desking system, shared tables even for partners and collaborative workspaces for use by all.

Vishesh C. Chandiok, CEO, Grant Thornton Bharat LLP, said the company is in the process of optimising office space across the country. Instead of opting for a model where they have one big office per city, he said the company is moving towards multiple offices to give people easy access.

“This will decrease travel time (whenever being in office is required) and will also give those who do not have an appropriate space to work from home the option of working from an office space closer to them,” he added.

A similar initiative has been taken by private sector insurer HDFC Life. The insurer is now moving to a ‘Phygital’ working model, which is a combination of physical and digital.

HDFC Life MD & CEO Vibha Padalkar told Moneycontrol earlier that for teams (that can’t work from home), instead of fixed sets there would be hot desking. “So, if you come two days a week, then you will use that seat. On the other days, some other team will use those seats. That way we can reduce office costs and reduce the number of floors required,” she explained.

New properties are also being taken on lease to ensure hot desking. Legal firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) is taking up a new property in Noida on lease from Max Estates, where new concepts of office design will be adopted.

Cyril Shroff, Managing Partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, said that CAM Delhi will be shifting to this property in June 2021.

“This is a newly built, ultra-modern building and our office will incorporate the latest concepts in office design. These include special spaces for informal exchanges and hot-desking for lawyers mainly working from home,” he had said.

Will co-working gain traction?

Moneycontrol had reported earlier that co-working spaces are also gaining traction as a hot-desking destination for a few clients.

Sreevathsa Prabhakar, Chief Executive Officer, Servify, a device lifecycle management startup, told Moneycontrol earlier that they were tying up with co-working spaces for 10 to 11 offices across Hyderabad, Rajasthan, Gurugram and other cities. Here, staff will come to the office in rotation.

Co-working firms are also offering discounts to companies on hot-desking options for staff who do not need to be at work every day.
M Saraswathy is a business journalist with 10 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, she covers consumer durables, insurance, education and human resources beat for Moneycontrol.
first published: Feb 23, 2021 01:01 pm

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