The concept of hot desking — the practice of working in a shared office with unassigned desks — has been around for at least a decade. While much has been written about it from a worker’s point of view, employers and IT administrators have had a relatively small voice in the discussion around the latest office craze.

Before you even consider whether this type of model fits your operational structure, it’s important to review the networking and computing infrastructure required for hot desking.

Challenges of a Fluid Workspace

First, consider how long a particular employee needs a place to work. A few programs are designed for all-day tenancy, while others operate in shorter bursts. Some programs also have meeting rooms that can be reserved in advance so that conversations don’t interfere with the work environment.

Next, choose a standard collection of communication tools, including conference calling software, an instant messaging program and phone services. The challenge here is to make use of a single software standard for each so that every employee is able to connect with everyone else. Products such as Skype for Business and Slack offer multiple communication protocols.

Define Your Hot Desking Strategy

While most people now use their mobile devices as their main business phones, some organizations provide what is called a “follow me” service on their office private branch exchange (PBX). This feature enables employees to forward a phone number to a particular landline extension or cellular number.

The next step is to define your desktop strategy and decide whether you need a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution. Some hot desking programs support corporate-owned laptops, for example, while others allow employees to bring their own or require them to use virtual desktop workstations.

If you go the VDI route, be sure to provide persistent workstations. This will preserve the state of the desktop so employees can pick up where they left off upon logging back in. If you decide against VDI, leverage a tool such as roaming user profiles to automate user desktop setup.

Fighting for Window Seats

Hot desking creates challenges when it comes to printing, copying and scanning, since these tasks can be difficult if employees are moving from place to place every day. Some printers include special software that holds a document and will only print when a user enters a PIN code or otherwise authenticates the command. This helps ensure that unauthorized parties cannot access sensitive information from these office devices.

Finally, it’s important to ensure that each desk and piece of office equipment is equal to simplify setup time, minimize conflict and maximize productivity. Tales of window desks being “reserved” for managers increases tension within a shared office and sends the wrong message about hot desking.

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