Updated: September 06, 2023

Hot Desking: Ultimate Guide for Employers in 2024

This is a guide to hot desking.

Hot desking refers to the practice of enabling workers to use any open workstation rather than designating a specific desk. The system has gained popularity in line with the expansion of open-plan workplaces in the 1990s. The goal of the practice is to improve space efficiency and lower real estate risk by minimizing unnecessary office space. The benefits of hot desking include flexibility, convenience, creativity, and a sense of community. This system is a common technique in hybrid companies that use a mix of on-site and remote work arrangements. The tactic is also sometimes known as “desk hoteling.”

This concept has been appearing more often in office management books and HR books over the past few years. The practice is common in coworking spaces and can serve as a get to know you activity.

This article contains:

  • the definition of hot desking
  • hot desking advantages and disadvantages
  • hot desking examples
  • hot desking best practices

Let’s get right into it!

The definition of hot desking

Hot desking is a modern office arrangement where employees do not have dedicated desks. Instead, workers can choose their workspace daily from a shared pool of available desks, workstations, or common areas. Organizations where employees may not be present in the office every day due to remote work options or flexible schedules often use this arrangement.

This approach to office space management aims to use resources more effectively and promote a collaborative work environment. Hot desking encourages employees to move away from fixed workstations and promotes the idea of a fluid workspace. The specific needs and tasks of the day influence the choice of where to work. This setup can lead to increased interaction and collaboration among team members. Additionally, firms may benefit from cost savings by reducing the amount of physical office space required. However, this setup requires effective management and coordination systems. This planning ensures employees can easily access available spaces and resources without conflicts.

Pros of hot desking

The system’s rise in popularity may be because of its many positive features. The section below highlights the benefits and why they are desirable in contemporary professional settings.

1. Saves money

Cost savings with hot desking means businesses can spend less on office space, electricity, and maintenance. By sharing workspaces, firms can use smaller offices and have fewer individual desks, which reduces rent and utility bills. Plus, sharing meeting rooms and equipment makes resources more cost-effective. So, hot desking helps companies save money on their office expenses.

2. Works for hybrid workplaces

The fact that hot desking is so well-suited to hybrid work styles is one of the key benefits of this arrangement. When employees can work from home or in the office, it might be a good idea to provide various seating options. There are several advantages to this strategy, not the least of which is being in line with current workplace design trends. The system will also save you from allocating workspaces to people who might not be at work daily.

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3. Fosters teamwork

Hot desking proponents claim that allowing employees to contact different coworkers daily instead of the same colleagues fosters teamwork. In a hybrid work arrangement, this system will only apply to physically present employees, not those who work from home. However, hot desking may be a valuable asset, allowing for the type of new discussions that lead to new ideas and improvements.

Here is a list of books on teamwork.

4. Promotes workplace equality

Despite that hot desking may not suit all workplaces or corporate cultures, another beneficial element to consider is creating a fair playing field for every employee. Regardless of a worker’s position in the organizational structure, they all sit and work together. Onboarding new employees and building a work atmosphere that encourages open communication are just two examples of how this system may be beneficial.

5. Helps keep the office organized

One of the more underestimated benefits of hot desking is its ability to make the workplace look more organized. When workers do not have their own designated workspaces, they are less likely to leave items lying about the workplace. Clutter and untidiness may negatively influence both productivity and the aesthetics of the office since personal workstations can quickly get filled up over time.

Cons of hot desking

Hot desking advantages and disadvantages are a balancing act, and weighing advantages against the drawbacks is important. Some of the probable disadvantages include the following.

1. Lack of personalization

With hot desking, employees cannot make their workspaces their own as they would in a regular desk setup. In a traditional office, workers can decorate their desks with personal items, making it comfortable and familiar. However, in hot desking, workspaces change regularly, so employees cannot personalize them. This concern might make the office feel less like workers’ own space, which can be uncomfortable for those who like to have a cozy and unique work area where they feel at home.

2. Desk availability issues

In hot desking, there may not always be enough desks for the whole team, especially in busy offices. Thus, employees might struggle to find an available desk to work at. This issue can be frustrating and time-consuming. To avoid these issues, companies need to manage the number of employees and available desks carefully, ensuring that each member has a place to work during the busiest times.

3. Possibility of disruption

One of the most common objections to hot desking is the possibility of workplace disruption. When workers do not have a dedicated workstation, they may spend time searching for an open desk and then arranging it the way they want. Some employees may discover that their productivity suffers due to a lack of routine and familiar faces.

4. Diminished sense of belonging

The ultimate goal is to develop a feeling of belonging among your employees, reduce turnover, and boost morale. Hot desking can sometimes hamper team building. Employees may be less comfortable and uneasy if they do not have a personal workstation. In addition, hot desking inhibits workers from customizing their work location, making each workstation less personalized and more generic.

5. Absence of structure

Although hot desking provides a fair playing field which can be helpful in certain businesses, it will not be suitable for everyone. Certain firms require a clear hierarchy, while others need a clear structure regarding where employees work and with whom they collaborate. Hot desking, on the other hand, may result in a less orderly work atmosphere by removing the benefits of having colleagues who are on the same team sit next to one other.

Hot desking best practices

Although hot desking has its challenges, there are best practices to make the system work.

1. Consider ergonomics

When considering hot desking, it is important to pay attention to ergonomics. Firms should design the workspace to fit the needs of employees to boost comfort and productivity while minimizing the risk of injury. In a hot desking environment, this process means investing in ergonomic office furniture, including chairs, desks, and computer accessories. Additionally, this furniture should be easily adjusted to suit individual preferences. Giving employees the tools and equipment needed to maintain good posture and reduce strain is essential. Ergonomics contribute to employee well-being and help prevent potential health issues associated with prolonged desk work.

2. Have senior leaders buy-in

Successfully implementing hot desking often requires the support and buy-in of senior leadership within an organization. When leaders support and actively participate in the hot desking program, it signals to employees that this is a valuable and accepted approach to work. Senior leaders should lead by example, embracing the flexibility and collaboration that hot desking can offer. Leaders’ visible support can help overcome resistance to change and encourage employees at all levels to embrace the new workspace arrangement. Additionally, senior leadership can provide the necessary resources and budgets to ensure that the hot desking transition is smooth and well-executed.

3. Offer diverse workspaces

Creating a diverse range of workspaces is a key part of effective hot desking. This process involves offering various types of work environments to cater to different tasks and work styles. These spaces may include quiet zones for focused work, collaborative areas for group discussions, informal lounges for casual meetings, and standing desks for those who prefer them. By providing a variety of workspace options, employees can choose the one that best suits their needs on any given day. Diverse workspaces enhance productivity and foster creativity and innovation. These spaces allow employees to match their work settings to the specific demands of their tasks.

4. Utilize technology

Successful hot desking requires appropriate technologies, including hot desking software and apps. Cloud-based collaboration technologies like Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365 allow teams to work together online in “real time,” and messaging apps like Skype, Yammer, and Slack enable communication.

Adapted visual solutions are critical to fostering cooperation. Considering how flexible and adaptable this work system is, USB-C displays will enable employees to connect and charge laptops directly. In addition, connecting on-site and off-site personnel will be easier with interactive screens strategically positioned around the workplace, including meeting rooms, huddle rooms, and common spaces.

You can make it easy for workers to share desks by providing them with hot desking tools. Using hot desking software in the office can speed up the process for workers. Desk booking software can help keep track of hot workstations. With the right desk booking software, you can monitor the performance of your hot desking plan in real-time and make it easier for every worker to reserve a desk in your company.

Your hot-desking team will benefit from regular face-to-face communication, though. Therefore, be sure to have regular face-to-face team meetings. Remembering that employees will still need access to your company’s networks and systems, plan accordingly by allocating computers, monitors, and phones.

5. Consider “Hoteling” and “Zoning”

One of the most common hot desking examples is “hoteling,” enabling users to book desks in advance. This system ensures hot desking’s advantages and removes the daily scramble for chairs. Tools like Skedda with Google Calendar allow you to schedule your workstations.

Zoning means dividing up workspaces where team members can collaborate. This system might be temporary, perhaps for a task, or it could be a long-term arrangement. However, it is vital to ensure that no worker sees the arrangement as a method to utilize the same workstation each day.

The battle for the “best desks” may still be fierce despite having hoteling and zoning. A good idea would be to set an example by switching up your workstation every day. If workers need more persuading, consider asking folks to relocate if they are hogging their preferred workstations.

6. Use desk stacking

When it comes to hot desking, one of the biggest concerns is that employees do not always know who owns specific workstations. With desk stacking, you can address the concern and easily implement hot desking at the departmental level.

Stacks sit in between complete autonomy and personal workstations. Employees have a broad idea of where and with whom they will be working. The only clause is with choosing the spaces. This system helps to keep a hierarchy in place by grouping a team under a manager or team leader.

Companies implement this system in diverse styles, from pods of three workers to stacks of six to ten persons working around a figurative round table. The goal is to provide workers with a choice of workstations inside a comfortable organizational structure.

7. Standardize check-in

Implementing order can make hot desking a success. Employees should be able to check into their desks, and finding and managing the employee should be easier. It is impossible to overstate the significance of hot desking software and central checking.

Different methods exist for standardizing and centralizing check-in. Reporting to the team leader is the simplest option at the departmental level. Facility managers can perform this function as the system grows. Automated check-in can work by using login credentials, employee ID badges, and kiosks. Regardless of the check-in system, it is important to have a standardized system of monitoring desk use and employee location.

It is much easier to implement hot desking on a larger scale if departments have mastered check-in and desk assignment.

8. Color-code your workstations

Color-coding hot desks is a fun and easy arrangement method. This method may not be a big deal for single departments. With the increasing acceptance of hot desking, colors and alphanumeric identifiers can work to identify and manage hot desks. Color coding options include:

  • By department: You can use different colors for different departments. For example, Marketing is green, Accounting is blue, and Business Administration is orange. This tactic eliminates the need for staff to go from desk to desk to read alphanumeric labels and makes the workstations recognizable from afar.
  • By priority: You can designate different desk colors for different lengths of use. For example, eight hours for red desks, two hours for white desks, or half a day for purple desks. This system allows facility managers to see occupied stations at any given time.
  • By type: You can set black desks as private workstations, whereas those with yellow surfaces have AV connections, and those with pink surfaces are standing desks.

Color-coding workstations can help differentiate the desk based on their purpose, which employees can use, and their location in the company.

9. Provide a sense of ownership

Some employees may find hot desking stressful because they can no longer customize their workstations. Therefore, look for alternative methods to offer them a feeling of “ownership.”

Workers may not be able to shift their personal belongings from one workstation to the next. A good solution is to provide lockers to keep personal effects. You could also have an area in the workplace where employees can display items like awards or a board for pictures and info.

Your employees should have the freedom to set up their desks the way they want. Factors like desk arrangement, monitor height, adjustable armrests, and lumbar supports, for example, play a key role in giving employees a sense of desk ownership.

10. Clean and organize workstations

Workstations need to be tidy. Also, a messy or unkempt workplace might hurt productivity. With hot desking, employees may be less concerned about keeping their workstation tidy since they will not use it the next day. It is a good idea to clarify that employees clean their desks after the day’s end. Be sure to make antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers readily available and mandate employees to have lunch away from their workstations.

Employees should also keep personal or private information out of the workplace’s workstations and computers. Workers should remove personal data and store physical things safely at home or in a locker.

Conclusion

Many companies have adopted hot desking as a seating strategy because of the proliferation of open-plan workplaces and hybrid work arrangements. The method has several substantial advantages, such as the capacity to conserve money and space. If combined with an adjustable workstation, hot desking has the potential to level the playing field. However, it would help if you also considered the drawbacks of this strategy before making a final decision.

When setting up hot desking, start new ideas at the departmental level, get input from workers, keep tabs on trends, use hot desking software and apps, and make adjustments as necessary. It is easy to scale a hot desking concept already successful at the departmental level.

For more resources, check out these lists of books on remote work and hybrid team building activities.

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FAQ: Hot desking

Here are some frequently asked questions about hot desking.

What is hot desking?

Hot desking is a company workspace system where different employees can utilize the same desk at various times. The system means no worker gets a dedicated desk, and any employee can work at any available workstation.

How do you do hot desking in the office?

You can do hot desking in the office by creating policies, asking for employees’ feedback, and standardizing check-in.

What are the pros of hot desking?

Some of the pros of hot desking include improved collaboration, lower operating costs, and an optimized workplace.

What are the cons of hot desking?

Some of the cons of hot desking include lack of structure, disruption potential, and higher work distractions.

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Author:

People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.

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