Hot Desking & Desk Booking

Hot desking 101: a complete guide

Nick Mason
April 28th, 2022

Thanks to the flexibility that hot desking provides to employees and workplace teams, hot desks are likely to become one of the most common seating strategies we’ll see in hybrid workplaces in the years to come.

If you’re trying to understand whether hot desking is a smart move for your organization, read on. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at hot desking—what it is, when to use it, and how it can support hybrid companies achieve business goals while providing the level of flexibility and freedom that employees now demand in the era of the Great Resignation.

What is hot desking?

Hot desking is a workplace system where employees use available desks at different times on a first-come, first-served basis. Companies generally turn to hot desking to maximize space utilization, improve desk efficiency, and reduce real estate costs.

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Foundations of a successful hybrid workplace

Discover the strategies leading organizations are using to make hybrid work.

Why do we call it hot desking?

You might still be wondering: Why do we call it hot desking? The term is said to have derived from the term “hot racking”—the practice of sailors with different shifts sharing the same bunk at different times.

hot desking benefits

What are the benefits of hot desking?

Hot desking provides benefits to both team members and employers. However, benefits change depending on how organizations offer hot desks:

  1. Improved space utilization. Hot desking maximizes office space by reducing assigned desks from the floor plan.
  2. Cost savings. Reducing real estate costs is a primary advantage. With hot desks in place, companies can maximize the use of existing office space, limit the number of assigned desks from the floor plan, and reduce their real estate portfolio—or avoid expanding before they need to.
  3. Better employee relationships. Hot desking gives team members the chance to work alongside colleagues they may not see otherwise. This can help strengthen existing relationships, forge new connections, promote teamwork, and improve cross-departmental rapport.
  4. Improved collaboration. Hot desks can improve efficiency and collaboration in the workplace. If there are five departments working on a project, having a flexible work environment with a hot desking model can allow projects to be ramped up and down quickly as needs change, without the need to add more real estate.
  5. Efficiency. Employees don’t need to book hot desks in advance, which makes it easier for employees to simply sit down, plug in, and get to work.
  6. Hybrid work flexibility. Hot desking makes hybrid and flexible working easier. By providing unassigned flexible seating on a first-come, first-served basis, employees can show up and get to work without the hassle of booking desks in advance or adhering to set usage schedules.
  7. Employee satisfaction. Empowerment in the workplace can have a huge impact on employee satisfaction. Hot desking allows employees to choose where they sit, providing more employee choice and autonomy.
  8. Workplace cleanliness. Hot desking helps employees focus on work, without the distraction of a cluttered office desk. It also demands employees leave desks clean, as they may not return to the same desk.
hot desking office space

How can employers improve hot desking?

Although hot desking has many perks, it also has a few downsides. For example, without the right tools in place, it can be a hassle to find a hot desk for the day. And as a result, employees aren’t always enamored with the thought of changing desks each time they come to work. And teams don’t always get the chance to connect like they would in a traditional office with permanent desks and private offices on the floor plan.

Here’s how to resolve the most common hot desking issues that arise in the workplace.

  • Give employees hot desking tools that make sharing desks easier. Leveraging workplace software that makes hot desking quicker and more efficient for employees. A workplace mobile app and real-time office maps can go a long way to removing friction from the hot-desking experience.
  • Manage hot desks with desk booking software. Desk booking software that provides additional insight into how, when, and by whom desks and spaces are being used can help your workplace team track the success of your hot desking strategy in real time and improve the desk booking experience for everyone.
  • Make sure teams stick together. Post pandemic, it’s common for teams to split their time between remote work and in-office collaboration. To promote better team cohesion and prevent a feeling of isolation from creeping into the workplace experience, hold regular video conference meetings so that teams can interact with one another—even if they’re not physically in the same place. For socialization and teamwork, regular team outings or get-togethers can also be effective in bringing new employees, long-time office workers, and remote work team members together.
effective flexible hybrid workplace

Is hot desking effective? 

Hot desking can be an effective workplace strategy when it is deployed in the right office environment, especially when it is used to support a flexible working strategy, collaborative workspace, or hybrid workplace model.

Here are the working environments that typically benefit most:

  1. Office neighborhoods. Office neighborhoods are groups of desks on a company floor plan that are dedicated to specific functions or departments. Hot desks can be used within each office neighborhood to support individual employee seating needs. Check out some office neighborhood examples if you’re new to this work setup.
  2. Activity-based workspaces. An activity-based workspace (ABW) is a dedicated group of seats or zone that is set up to support any type of collaboration in the workplace. Typically focused on a specific activity or type of work—quiet work, group work, desks to support team-specific tasks, and more—most activity-based workspace designs can benefit from the flexibility that hot desks provide.
  3. Agile workspaces. An agile workplace gives near-unlimited autonomy to employees. For example, workers are given a task, but they get to choose when, where, and even how to complete it. Agile working often relies directly on hot desks to deliver an extreme level of seating flexibility to employees.

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

Hot desking is when employees sit down at any available desk for the day without booking, whereas hoteling is when employees book unassigned seating in advance. Many people incorrectly use the terms hot desking and office hoteling interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.

Hot desking vs. free addressing: What’s the difference?

Both hot desking and free addressing both offer unassigned seating to employees on a first-come, first-served basis—no booking required. The difference is that free addressing desks use workplace sensors to track when each desk is occupied or empty. In a hot desking scenario, an employee casts their eye around the space to figure out which desks are available. With free addressing, employees simply open their company’s workplace management software or app to see which desks are available.

how to measure the success of hot desking

How to measure the success of hot desking

Integrating hot desking isn’t a one-and-done experience. Tracking desk usage and ensuring that available hot desks reflect the needs of your team takes time.

Teams should keep a close eye on the following metrics to measure the success of hot desking in their organization.

Workplace analytics

Workplace analytics can help companies analyze office desk utilization, facility planning, and other areas that impact the success of an organization. This provides a high-level view of exactly what a company needs to gain insights leading to intelligent decisions that affect the workplace. For example, monitoring hot desk usage will help workplace teams spot usage trends, understand the seating needs of employees, and provide a better seating setup on the floor plan.

Space utilization

This metric shows how space is divvied up and used by employees over time. For example, tracking space utilization can help companies understand where people gather, identify wasted space, improve office design, and optimize which types of desks are made available on the floor plan.

Occupancy rate

Tracking and improving occupancy rate is one of the simplest ways companies can create a more efficient office space. And it’s also the best way to ensure that they have the right ratio of hot desks to support the needs of in-office employees.

Keep reading: Using workplace analytics to embrace workplace trends


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

Hot desking and hybrid go hand in hand. From supporting hybrid work to improving space utilization, driving cost savings, and improving employee engagement, hot desking has a range of benefits for companies team members alike. But it’s hard to make it work well without the right tools on hand.

Workplace management software can streamline every aspect of the experience. For example, it can address everything from setup to day-to-day usage and management, give employees and teams the hybrid working tools they need, and improve many other aspects of the workplace experience for workplace teams and individual employees.

An effective workplace management platform has the following features:

  • Move management tools to plan and manage one-off and large-scale moves.
  • Space management tools to improve utilization and eliminate redundant space.
  • Real-time office maps that supports office wayfinding and shows employees which desks and meeting rooms are available to use.
  • Desk booking and room booking software to provide a frictionless booking experience for employees and support any type of conference room and desk booking strategy—hot desking, hoteling, free addressing, activity-based working, and neighborhoods.
  • Scenario planning and stack planning functionality to visually test hypothetical floor plan changes and make quick, effective changes to the company’s portfolio.
  • A workplace mobile app that users can access anywhere, anytime.

Whether you’re considering hot desks for a single office in New York, or looking to introduce shared desks across a global portfolio—OfficeSpace makes hot desking and hybrid work easy for everyone. Book a demo today.

Photos: iStock, Uneebo Office Design