Prompted by the pandemic, many managers and start-ups have reconsidered office working spaces. Hot desking is one option – allocating seating to staff as required, rather than each worker established at their own desk. How do you assess what space will suit your requirements and company culture? You don’t want to find yourself committed to a lease yet faced with inadequate facilities, noisy co-workers and limitations on working hours.

Feryal Domingo, Operations Director of non-profit organisation (NPO) Inyathelo, has managed their hot desk space for the past five years. Situated in Buchanan Square, Woodstock, Cape Town, the attractive and well-designed space was gifted to the organisation by The Atlantic Philanthropies. It houses 36 hot desks with room for expansion, ensuring Inyathelo’s long-term financial sustainability as a lessor.

“Switching to hot desking can be challenging for some staff if they are accustomed to their own established space, with piles of folders, work memorabilia and children’s photographs,” says Feryal.

“However, if the new hot desking space is highly functional, appealing, and better for the bottom line, then it’s easier to make the transition. A more affordable and flexible working space has a lot in its favour in these challenging COVID-19 times.”

Feryal drew on her experience to offer handy hints for anyone searching for a suitable hot desking space:

1. Budget

Determine what you can afford, and then research and compare to get the very best for your budget.

2. Location:

Choose an area that suits your staff, depending on where they travel from. They could depend on public transport. How does the location match up with taxi ranks, bus stops and rapid transport routes? If you work involves frequent client visits, consider their locations too.

3. Right fit:

One person’s idea of design is another’s idea of disastrous. Check that the workspace offering fits your company style and culture. Inyathelo, itself an NPO, is popular among NPO tenants, although this is not a prerequisite.

4. Services:

Check what your contract covers regarding Wi-Fi, printing/scanning, heating, air-conditioning. Is parking available for staff and visitors? In the event of load shedding, what back-up is provided?

5. Security:

How do tenants and visitors gain access? Are there storage lockers for staff? If you are an early riser or night owl, or work on weekends, what access is available, and does the cost differ?

6. Catering:

Is there a good coffee machine and water-cooler? A communal kitchen space, or supermarkets, takeaways or coffee shops in the vicinity?

7. Break-outs and board meetings:

What spaces and facilities are available if you plan a board meeting, a confidential discussion, or training? Is catering available? Is tech support available on site for an important presentation?

8. Ergonomics:

Check that seating provides lower back support and you can work in comfort for long periods. Is lighting conducive to focused work?

9. COVID-19 protocols:

Is there adherence to pandemic protocols with established cleaning schedules and provision of sanitation products?

“The pandemic has shaken up traditional way of working and many property owners have adapted their existing spaces to offer hot desking and other office options,” says Feryal.

“It is advisable, however, to sign up with an organisation that understands this market and is prepared to go the extra mile to meet your needs. Do your homework and compare options before you sign on the dotted line.”

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