Hot Desking: Ultimate Guide for Employers in 2022

Home » Resources » Hot DeskingUpdated: June 17, 2022

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 flexible office sitting arrangement where employees may book a desk for the day. This system gives workers the freedom to collaborate on a project, work from a satellite office, or receive a fresh outlook. Employees often book on-demand desks for short periods, sometimes as little as one day in advance. An alternative seating arrangement, called “desk hoteling,” lets workers book an individual desk for a particular time. These bookings are often long-term, covering days, weeks, or even months at a time.

Hot desking may make a lot of sense in hybrid workplaces, where employees can work on-site or remotely. It might not be reasonable to allocate a desk to an employee who does not come into the office every day, from 9 to 5. Such a situation would leave many empty workstations for extended periods, which is a waste of costly office space. Nonetheless, it is better to weigh hot desking advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of hot desking

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

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Saves money and space

Hot desking’s potential to save space and money is one of the most compelling reasons to encourage the practice. Switching from a closed cubicle or private office space to an open-plan, hot-desking arrangement may help a company save on operating expenses. There are fewer desks required in hybrid workplaces since some employees will be working from home at any one moment.

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 has several advantages, but weighing those advantages against the drawbacks is important. Some of the probable disadvantages include:

1. 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.

2. More workplace distractions

There is a greater danger of workplace distractions with increasing workplace disruptions. This situation may result from several factors, from teams needing to collaborate while sitting in separate workplace sections to familiarizing themselves with the new faces. According to the University of California’s research, staff members’ stress levels rise, and their morale wavers from workplace distractions.

3. 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

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. Concerns about hygiene and health

A study by Initial Washroom Hygiene suggests that hot desking may be harmful to workers due to possible hygiene issues. Germs and bacteria can transfer quickly when different employees use the same equipment over a week or even on a single day. In addition, one’s well-being might take a hit too. For example, if an employee needs a lower desk height or more chair support, having their workstation makes it simpler to meet their needs.

Hot desking best practices

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

1. Be proactive about the change

Your company’s culture may change dramatically by switching to hot desking. Employees are more inclined to back a policy if they have a say in shaping it. To get your workers’ buy-in, you should clearly describe how the system will function and the ramifications for day-to-day work life. To show that you care about their problems and well-being, you should invite employees to provide feedback. Employees’ feedback may also give insight into other unknown issues.

You may also consider allowing employees to work from home as part of a more comprehensive policy on workplace flexibility. This move will make more desks vacant and persuade hesitant workers to embrace the shift.

It would help if you made hot desking available to as many employees as feasible for optimal effectiveness. Some employees, such as receptionists and Human Resources staff, may need to be allocated a desk to do their duties. As long as you do not make too many exceptions, most workers who transfer workstations daily will be happy.

Hot desking could go beyond workstations. To provide even more flexibility, you may be able to provide different workstation options, such as sofas for one-on-one discussions and booths for quiet, concentrated work.

For more advice, check out this list of books on change management.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Clean and organize workstations

According to a report by BBC, approximately 10 million bacteria are present on a typical office desk, leading to sickness. Therefore, 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.

9. Create and share a hot desking policy

It is good to highlight the instructions on hot desking in a policy document and distribute it to employees in your company so that everyone is on the same page. However, it is best to keep the policy simple and concise. The first step is to outline the policy’s scope and determine who is included and those excluded. You may then list each employee’s hot-desking duties.

It would help if you also highlighted the company’s responsibilities. This part will provide the required number of workstations, adequate equipment, and secure storage areas for personal effects. For best results, make sure your employees feel like part of the process.


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.

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: Grace He

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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