What Is Hot Desking and How to Make It Work for Your Team

How can you help your team reach their maximum potential? What kind of office setting will help them enhance their productivity and engagement post-pandemic? Maybe you’ve tried remote work. Maybe you’ve tried combining it with working from the office and embracing the hybrid work model to improve employees’ work-life balance.

But what about hot desking?

If you’re not sure what it looks like, this guide is for you. You’ll learn what hot desking is, how to fully enjoy the benefits it brings, and how to tackle the challenges so you can make the most out of it.

What Is Hot Desking?

Hot desking is one of the newer office practices where employees don’t have dedicated workspaces. Instead, everyone can use any desk that is available - kind of like an on-demand workstation. Simply put, when you arrive on-site, you find an open seat, plug in your laptop, and occupy it until you’re done with your tasks. When you leave, another person can sit there and work.

The term hot desking is thought to have derived from “hot racking”, which is a naval practice where soldiers from different shifts share bunks based on their shift schedule. This type of work environment is gaining traction even in big corporations, and some well-known companies have already implemented it: Deloitte, LEGO, Square, Microsoft, etc.

Hot desking is suitable both for offices and flexible workspaces, depending on your team’s needs. However, there are differences between these, and we’ll discuss them shortly

Hot Desking vs. Flexible Workspaces

Hot desking doesn’t depend on the location where you choose to work. You can apply this model to your office and rent or buy a smaller space where you won’t assign specific seats to your employees.

On the other hand, you can do the same in a flexible workspace. Many employers pay for a traditional office or a few desks on a monthly basis, but their employees come in at different times, so two or more people can use the same desk space.

Good organization is the key here - everyone should have specific working hours, so there won’t be situations where there’s no room for someone who’s come to work.

Hot Desking vs. Hoteling

So you’ve heard of flexible workspaces and coworking, but what about hoteling?

Hoteling is pretty similar to hot desking, and some people even use the terms interchangeably, but there’s a slight difference.

While hot desking is typically used in the city where your team is located, and the desk/workspace rent works on an ongoing basis, hoteling is usually a short-term workspace occupation.

Say you’re going to be working from another country or city for a month. In that case, your company may book an office or a desk in a hotel for you to work from. This is typically done via booking software or a website.

Benefits of Hot Desks

Hot desking has plenty of benefits, and over 80% of employees enjoy the flexibility this hybrid workplace model offers. Let’s take a closer look at the upsides of hot desking.

1. Reduced Real Estate Costs

One of the main and most obvious benefits for employers who offer hot desks as an option is cost savings. Hot desking enables them to rent smaller offices and have their employees switch turns in working.

Employers who rent flexible workspaces can experience the same benefits since they can pay for fewer desks and smaller meeting rooms. Not to mention lower utility bills, cleaning expenses, and reduced overhead costs.

If you’re not sure whether renting a flexible workspace is more cost-effective than a small office, you can check out our complete comparison of workspace costs.

2. Access to Global Talent

Adding hot desks to your company policy is ideal if you’re planning to hire globally.

Collaborating with flexible workspaces that offer this type of flexible desk renting can help you find ideal workers for your team. They may live across the city or even the world, and using a hot desk at a flexible workspace can help you overcome boundaries and find a way to work together. You will no longer be restricted by location and reliant on permanent desks and long-term leases.

3. Good for Contractors and Self-Employed

Your solopreneur or independent contractor associates may find it challenging to work from home all the time. It can feel a bit lonely; they may have too many distractions or don’t have a suitable working space. Renting an office may be too high of a cost, but using hot desks in a coworking space may be the ideal solution

4. Networking and Bonding

Using hot desking gives you a chance to create a dynamic atmosphere in your team where different people will work together at different times. As an employer, you can create different schedules for every week and give everyone a chance to get to know each other, bond, and foster teamwork.

As much as 44% of remote workers say their biggest challenge with working remotely is connecting with their team. Working together in-office at least a couple of times a week can help your team feel connected. So whether it’s conference rooms or hot desks, making sure employees have spaces to connect in person is a must in a remote workplace.

5. Efficiency at Its Finest

Since they’re sharing a desk with another colleague, employees will avoid bringing too many personal items to the office and over-decorating the place. Think this is a downside? Think again. A survey conducted by Office Max showed that for 77% of respondents, workspace clutter meant lower productivity and an inability to focus.

With no clutter, employees will have fewer distractions when working and will avoid the risk of forgetting something at the office when they need it at home. That means maximum productivity and focus wherever they are

Challenges of Hot Desks

Despite the benefits of hot desking, we can’t deny the fact that some people aren’t huge fans of this work style. Gensler’s research showed that 19% of employees didn’t want to hot desk ever again. Why is that so? Let’s take a look at the possible pitfalls of this work model.

Availability of Seats

Isn’t that ironic? Hot desking, although it’s considered flexible working, may end up not being flexible enough for your needs. If you’re using a single desk and rotating with your coworker, you may not get a chance to work when you feel most focused and inspired since you have a schedule to follow.

Also, if your team is renting desks in a flexible workspace, you will depend on their working hours. This may not work if you’re an early bird and enjoy catching up with your tasks in the morning, and the space opens, let’s say, at 10 AM.

Lack of Privacy

Not everyone feels nostalgic about the stationery they no longer bring to the office, but the lack of privacy may make them feel this way. Without an assigned desk, you can’t make calls or have online meetings in private unless you go to another room.

For some, the lack of their own personal space and a dedicated desk makes the office feel impersonal, and they prefer having a desk waiting for them at all times.

Lack of Storage Space

Those who need additional equipment for their job may not have (enough) storage space for it. If they need to walk or commute to the office or flexible workspace with hot desks, it may be inconvenient to carry everything they need for the day.

And even if employees have a storage space in the office, they'll probably need to share it with a colleague with who they also share a desk. There may not be room for both.

How to Make Hot Desking Work for Your Company

Are your employees complaining about hot desks?

If it feels like that, it’s probably high time you made a couple of changes. It’s not so easy to implement hot desking the right way, but here are a few tips to follow to ensure your employees can fully enjoy its benefits

1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is crucial. Create schedules for every team and every employee to make sure everyone has an office desk available when they arrive to work.

If a person comes to the office and they have nowhere to sit, it may cause anxiety and demotivation, as they’ve come prepared to focus on work, and now they’re wasting time waiting for a seat or a computer. Ensure seat availability and occupancy don’t disrupt workflows.

2. Keep It Flexible

Whether you have an office or use a flexible workspace, you need to ensure enough flexibility for your team. If you’ve offered flexible working hours before, there’s no reason to stop now.

But as your employees will be sharing desks, you need to create flexible schedules that they can access and switch shifts or make modifications when necessary. That will help everyone avoid delays in processes.

3. Allow People to Work from Home, Too

Don’t forget that flexible workspaces or other working conditions can’t replace the benefits of working from home.

If you allow your teams this option, they’ll have their own dedicated workspace at home, so they’ll be more likely to embrace the hot desking culture at home where they’re sharing desks with coworkers.

4. Give People a Bit of Privacy.

Hot desking may work out just fine if you also provide a bit of privacy for your employees. If they’re video conferencing or need to make a phone call, they should be able to go to another room and do it without distractions.

Or they may need to stay a few minutes longer to complete a task. That doesn’t need to disrupt their colleague’s workflow when they arrive ready to take over the desk as they can use the meeting room, for example.

On the other hand, an open kitchen or a chillout area is pretty much a must since you don’t want your employees to eat or take breaks at their computer desks. The office environment should have quiet areas for focused work as well as meeting spaces to accommodate any work arrangement employees need.

5. Let Your Employees Choose

The least you can do is involve your employees in the decision-making process. Share the office or flexible workspace options you’re considering and ask for their opinions. They may have their own ideas, too.

The same goes for desk booking. If they’re going to be sharing it with a coworker, let them at least choose a spot they find most comfortable. Additionally, leave options for employees to use hot desks when they need to, not on a mandatory basis. People still need private offices, meeting rooms, and phone booths to do their tasks. Don’t make hot desks their only workstations, but rather a part of their new office layout.

Is Hot Desking Right for You?

Hot desking has plenty of benefits when it comes to reducing your office space and expenses and increasing your team members’ engagement. But it may not be the best choice for everyone.

However, testing different work models will help you discover what works for you and your team. Explore the options hot desking provides and see if you can optimize it to enable maximum productivity for you and your team.

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Andrea Rajic