September 2, 2022 | 6 minute

What is Hot Desking?

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Hot desking is a way of using available office and desk space in a way that fits the fluid, flexible demands of the modern office environment. Assigning a particular desk to a particular person to be used for set hours is another part of the conventional workplace arrangement that has been swept aside by huge recent changes in the way we work. Hot desking is the response to those changes and has become a defining feature of contemporary office life.

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Let’s look at hot desking in more detail to see what it’s all about and why it has become so widespread so quickly.

What are the benefits of hot desking?

The post-pandemic workplace is defined by the need for flexibility. The old days of knowing exactly how many employees would be in the office at a given time (and exactly where they would be sitting) are gone. Instead, today, we have hybrid work environments where employees may work nearly every day, a couple of days a week, for a few hours now and then or not all.

Many employees spend more time in their own homes working remotely than in offices and an increasing number of them have never even been to the offices of the company they work for. This means that workplaces have to not only adjust the space they have to fit their actual needs, but make that space available to employees who do not follow a fixed schedule.

By simply making a certain number of desk spaces available to staff on a first-come, first-served basis instead of the old way of assigning desks to individuals, employers can take advantage of the benefits of hot desking:

    • Reduced real estate costs. Office space is expensive and the flexibility that hot desking offers makes it possible to right-size office space commitments more easily. When you only need to accommodate, for example, 20 employees at any given time, why permanently maintain desk space for twice that amount?

    • Desks are available when desks are needed. Forget about “Whose desk is this?” — if you see an open workspace, take it. When desks don’t “belong” to anyone in particular, they’re open to everyone generally and that means that whoever needs one can quickly and easily take any desk that’s available. Nobody has to check a schedule, ask around or otherwise waste time on making sure that they can just sit down and get to work, start collaborating or simply get things done.

    • Better space utilization. Hot desking nearly always means fewer desks are needed than in a conventional office. Fewer desks means less space, which in turn means more opportunities to use the space you have in more productive ways.

    • Better overall efficiency. Fewer desks making it possible for more people to work? That’s the very definition of efficiency. Hot desking turns workspaces into an always-ready commodity that employees use as needed. Just think — what if, say, office supplies were treated the way we used to treat desk space? Would you see a free stapler but not use it because it “belonged” to someone else? See a free pen but not use it before asking everyone else if it was theirs? Of course not, you would simply use these things, get your work done and move on. That’s what hot desking is all about.

How can employers improve hot desking?

Hot desking might seem like a straightforward arrangement — set up the desks and let employees use them however they like. In fact, there are things employers and management can do to fine tune everything to better fit the needs of a particular office setting and get the most out of hot desking while minimizing any drawbacks.

    • Communicate the change. Some staff will immediately “get” hot desking while others will be reluctant to go along with the change. Making sure everyone understands the reasons for the change, the benefits they can expect and a timeline for the process of implementing it is a necessary part of the switch. Don’t just let employees come to the office and discover a surprise in the way the furniture is organized. Make sure that the rules of how hot desking works are clearly communicated.

    • You may want to keep some desks “private”. Some employees, especially those who spend the most time in the office, may not embrace hot desking and prefer to keep “their” desk. After all, many employees “personalize” their desks with everything from personal items to the way the monitor is positioned to the settings on the seat and more. It may happen that you will have to allow some employees to opt-out of hot desking and keep their own spaces.

    • It’s ok to enforce some kind of order on access to desks. Hot desking isn’t supposed to be some wild free-for-all. It’s ok to use a kind of reservation system (sometimes called “hoteling” – see below) to let staff working on priority tasks or projects be sure they have a place to work.

Hot desking vs. hoteling – What’s the difference?

“Hoteling” is a variation of hot desking with a little bit more predictability built in.

Whereas hot desking is short-term and on-demand, hoteling involves some structure and a calendar. With hoteling, the same “nobody ‘owns’ this desk” from hot desking applies but there are procedures in place that allow employees to reserve particular workstations for certain hours, days or longer-term.

Hot desking comes with a certain amount of uncertainty and those who show up looking for a space at a particularly busy time might be disappointed. Hoteling lets employees make a reservation and know that a space will be waiting for them at the appointed time.

Why you need hybrid workplace management software to make hot desking work

Hot desking is all about optimizing the space you have and making your workspace more responsive to the needs of your workforce. Hot desking is a response to a data-driven analysis of how your workspace is used but where does that data come from?

In a small office with just a handful of employees, you can probably get away with basing important decisions on personal observations and instinct. But in any office larger than that, you need data that can only be collected by technological deployments designed to digitally analyze the relationship between office occupants and the space they use.

With the insights that IoT-powered smart building solutions can provide, you don’t have to guess about how your space is being used and where room for improvement lies — the numbers will tell the story and hot desking, among other things, can be among the results.

If you want to learn more about how can help put your organization on the path to better productivity, more efficient operations, and improved employee engagement, reach out to our team today and set up a meeting.


what is hot desking


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