Calling an end to hot desking?

Staggered shifts, extensive home working, and a reduction in hot desking: all, at the time of writing, are being mooted as potential requirements for a phased return to work. With the Prime Minister due to announce the government’s blueprint for return in a week’s time, full details are as yet unknown. However, a number of media outlets including the BBC have been commenting on draft plans which, in addition to the measures above, also look towards the use of desk screening and PPE as a means of providing protection for workers.

Measures such as mixing home working with a staggered attendance in the office are likely to put additional pressure on working schedules which have already been disrupted by the lockdown. But for now they may be the only solution, particularly in businesses which prior to the pandemic had already moved towards extensive hot desking or work in confined office spaces.

Providing each hot-desk employee with their own headset, keyboard and mouse might go some way towards reducing the risk of cross contamination. However, in an ideal world the entire workstation including desk, chair and screen surround would also need to be sanitised between users; a process which may place an extra burden on businesses which may already be having to consider matters of additional cleanliness across the office space including shared kitchens and rest rooms.

Nevertheless, if staggered office attendance is to become the new normal then businesses may wish to review their communication channels with a view to ensuring that they are flexible and scalable enough to meet the requirements of the business. For example, hunt groups which transfer calls around departments may need to be reprogrammed on a regular basis throughout the day as employees arrive and depart. After all, there is little point in maintaining hygienic workstations if employees regularly have to dash across the office in order to answer a ringing phone at an unattended desk.

One answer may be to opt for group divert with automated call distribution login facilities. This enables supervisors or individuals to log individual extensions into and out of designated hunt groups. It’s a process which call centre managers may already use as a means of controlling which employees are live on the call handling system; but it is also one which may help businesses to ensure that phones will only ring if employees are at their desk.

Another option for smaller businesses may be to opt for straight divert. This enables businesses to divert calls to a designated landline or mobile number. For those who are spending part of their time in the office and part working from home, switching calls to mobile or home landline as required may help to ensure connectivity; an essential element of a return to full business working. Callers can even be pre-announced; an added benefit whether you are trying to keep the line free for an expected call or just like to be able to greet callers by name.

Even before COVID-19 hit there was a general move away from a rigid 9-5 and towards a more flexible working pattern. Embracing a flexible connectivity mix which enables individuals to work from home, the office or any other space will help organisations not only to manage a phased return to work but also to develop a new working pattern for tomorrow’s businesses.

Written by Alison