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That office you abruptly left last year, it probably isn’t going to look the same when you go back. Several companies are moving to hybrid models that blend remote work with office work, reducing office space, and ditching assigned seating.

In this, the first of our Back to Work series, we’ll explore the trends shaping our return to the office in a post-pandemic world, and what you need to know before implementing them in your facility. In the next installment, we’ll walk you through setting up shared workspaces and take a look at the hardware that brings it all together.

What is Hot Desking

Hot Desking, it’s one of those buzzwords they used to throw around as the next big thing. And while it certainly found success in some offices, it was met with strife and contempt in others. So, what is hot desking and why should I care?

The ‘what’ is easy enough. Hot desking is the idea of an open office with unassigned seating. The idea is to set up a pool of desks, ideally all identical with a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and docking station. Get to the office, find a desk, plug in your laptop, and get to work. Simple in principle, but peppered with potential pitfalls when put into practice. And when it comes to work in the time of COVID, perhaps no pitfall is more prominent than the prospect of sharing a desk with the last occupant’s germs.

We’ll get to the why you should care in a minute, but first–

What is Hoteling

Despite the feeling of freedom some might expect from being unbound by a permanent desk address, most people find the idea of hunting for a workstation every morning to be somewhat daunting. Hoteling solves that, typically with software, by allowing employees to reserve a desk or work area in advance.

But before we ponder the potential problems or suggest solutions, let’s take a look at the bevy of benefits a smaller, more agile office can provide.

Why Should I Care

USBC-7IN1E connected to laptop and external monitor

Like your desire to keep up with the homemade sourdough hobby you picked up last March, the argument for going back to a full-time office is shrinking. In a recent survey commissioned by Plugable, 47% of respondents said they would prefer to work from home long-term, while 43% favored a hybrid option.

But employees aren’t the only ones expressing an interest in change. According to a recent survey conducted by Cisco Systems, 58% of the companies questioned said they had plans to adopt a hybrid work model with employees working from home at least two days a week.

With fewer people in the office at any given time, does it really make sense to keep all of that space? On average, in the US, a company can expect to spend between $8-$23 for every sqft of office space each month. You can expect that price to go up with the size of your city. Rent in NYC, for instance, averages between $75 and $84 per sqft. Now consider the average workstation takes up between 60 and 110 sqft. That’s a lot of money to spend on a floor no one is standing on.

Making it Work

Eventually–and it looks like eventually is going to be here sooner than later–people will start heading back to the office. And while there is no one size fits all solution for the post-COVID workplace, we’re seeing a noticeable shift in companies setting up for a hybrid environment.

With their employees only coming to the office two or three days a week, some companies have plans to reduce office size and stagger the days people come in. Smaller companies are getting by with a simple hot desk solution, but as your employee count grows, so grows your need for a software-driven hoteling solution.

Consider setting up ‘Zones’ or activity-based areas so project teams aren’t completely isolated from each other, and quiet zones for heads-down work. Just make sure you have a desk sanitizing policy in place.

It’ll be Hard Without the Hardware

UD-3900Z Docking station connected to laptop and two external monitors

However you set up the office, if people are sharing desks, you need a very simple hardware solution. Each workstation should be identical and well equipped. Our research shows the most productive arrangement is at least one additional monitor, an external mouse, and an external keyboard. But be careful, this is where things can get complicated. You’re going to want a simple, one plug solution to tie it all together.

When choosing a hub or docking station, consider the connections you’re going to be working with. Start with the monitor, is it HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA? Just make sure your hub or dock has a complement of ports in the proper configuration.

Additional Resources

Transitioning to a Hybrid Office
The Highs and Lows of a Year Spent Working From Home

Suggested Peripherals for the Hot Desk

Buy the Plugable Dual Monitor Universal Docking Station

Buy the Plugable USB-C 7-in-1 Hub with Ethernet

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