Adopting a hybrid work model often lands companies in a predicament: more employees than available desks.

This calls for a fresh approach to office space organization, one where desks are mainly shared, with limited or no individual assignments.

Your workplace has two options for implementing this arrangement — hot desking and desk hoteling, terms that are often used interchangeably.

When it comes to hot desking vs hoteling, the differences between these two office organization systems are vital. In this blog post, we’ll discuss these differences in-depth, so you can decide which approach to take.

We’ll also consider the benefits and drawbacks of each approach and the role technology plays in the process.

Quick Summary: In hot desking, workstations are neither assigned nor pre-booked, meaning employees don’t know where they’ll be sitting before each workday. In hoteling, employees use desk booking systems to reserve workstations prior to coming to work.

Hot Desking vs Hoteling vs Desk Sharing

Again, you may have heard terms like hot desking, desk hoteling, and desk sharing used interchangeably, so it’s easy to get the impression that they’re the same thing.

That’s not the case (which is why people often compare desk sharing vs hot desking vs hoteling), so here are the main differences between them:

  • Desk sharing is an umbrella term that denotes a work arrangement without assigned desks. Instead, desks are shared based on some principle. Hot desking and desk hoteling are two different implementations of desk sharing.
  • Hot desking is an office setup where workstations (shared desks) aren’t assigned or pre-booked, so employees don’t know where they’ll be sitting on any given day. Employees choose seats daily, either on a “first come, first serve” basis or on a rotational or shift-based principle. A hot desking arrangement offers more freedom but less control over desk availability and is often used by companies that don’t enforce office attendance. Check out our complete hot desking guide for more info.
  • Hoteling (sometimes called office hoteling or desk hoteling) lets employees reserve workstations through desk booking systems before coming to the office. Hoteling enhances employee control and removes the risk of arriving at work only to find no available workstations. It’s common in companies with mature hybrid work models, especially those with mandated weekly office days.

So, now that you know the differences, let’s talk about the pros and cons of hot desking and office hoteling.

If you want to know more about what are the hybrid work trends shaping 2024, sign up for our free webinar Evolving Workplaces: Top Hybrid Work Trends in 2024.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Hot Desking?

Hot desking is often employed in more flexible work environments that don’t require employees to come in regularly.

At such companies, employees often switch locations weekly and drop by the office for meetings or other events.

Unfortunately, hot desking has garnered a bad reputation. It’s sometimes described as a jungle due to a lack of stability and organization, especially for employees who are used to working at the same desk every day.

However, issues with hot desking usually stem from companies trying to implement it while also enforcing office returns without providing enough workstations.

Plus, problems multiply when managers use obsolete Excel templates instead of proper software.

That said, here are the pros and cons of hot desking.

pros and cons of hot desking

Hot Desking Pros

1. Desk availability on short notice

With hot desking, employees can show up at any time and just get to work. This arrangement can also be useful for people in the company who travel and need to stop by and do a bit of work or those who mostly work from home but want to change the scenery from time to time.

2. Greater employee freedom

Hot desking (vs desk sharing in general) takes employee autonomy to the next level. It may not seem like much for separate individuals, but for teams, it signifies trust. This setup greatly favors self-directed teams accustomed to independence.

3. Freshness, inspiration, and collaboration

Hot desking’s dynamic nature revitalizes creativity. It breaks routines and heightens alertness. As a result, it can disrupt repetitive patterns and help people approach problems differently. It also nurtures spontaneous collaboration through interactions with fresh faces.

4. Reduced costs and fast implementation

Removing dedicated desks enables increased workstation sharing, which can reduce your office space needs and minimize rental costs.

Plus, if you do decide to implement hot desking, you don’t need a lot of preparation or a complicated setup.

Hot Desking Cons

1. Limited or no seating options

The absence of assigned desks can leave employees without a place to work. Even if desks are open, they might not suit a worker’s specific needs.

Similarly, meeting rooms are also used on a first-come, first-served basis. Along with the constant movement of people coming and going, all of this may lead to drops in productivity and reduced focus.

2. Communication breakdown

Communication may falter in hot desking when colleagues lack designated desks or their own private offices.

Clear communication guidelines are essential to mitigating this, as even if someone doesn’t show up at the office, they can reliably be tracked down with little effort.

3. Hierarchy disruption

Hot desking can disrupt a company’s hierarchy, which may be appealing to some businesses. However, traditional companies with a clear hierarchical structure may struggle to erase employee distinctions, possibly impacting motivation and accountability.

4. Health and safety hazards

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact is visible across desk-sharing arrangements but is usually most pronounced with hot desking.

Numerous employees coming and going amps up the risk of diseases spreading throughout the office. Greater personal responsibility and clear safety protocols need to be put in place to minimize health risks.

As a related resource, don’t miss our article about the main differences between activity-based working and hot desking.

Lastly, you’ll have to invest in some must-have hot desking accessories to maximize its potential.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Desk Hoteling?

Before we dive in, it’s important to consider desk hoteling in the context of a hybrid workplace, where some employees work remotely on a regular basis while others split their time between working on-site and remotely.

pros and cons of desk hoteling

Given this scenario, companies often hesitate to overinvest in new workstations (since they may remain unused), so they end up with more employees than desk space. That’s why it’s essential to have a proper desk reservation system in place.

Desk Hoteling Pros

1. Improved space utilization

By implementing the right office hoteling policy, desk hoteling optimizes the allocation of available office space. This translates into improved occupancy, diverse designated spaces (like office neighborhoods), and reduced desk vacancy.

2. Reduced costs

Similar to hot desking, desk hoteling leads to improved desk space utilization, which reduces real estate costs (usually one of the highest overhead costs).

3. Greater control and no uncertainty for employees

Reserving spaces in advance empowers employees to tailor their work environment according to their needs and preferences.

This proves vital in setups with designated spaces for different purposes, giving employees a choice between a conference room, silent areas, or multiple adjacent desks for collaborative endeavors.

Technology is pivotal here, and companies that opt for office hoteling vs hot desking typically use hybrid workplace management platforms to steer this process.

These systems take the burden off managers and administrators and make the workspace allocation process largely self-managed.

4. Increased employee satisfaction and collaboration

Unlike the potential chaos and alienation of hot desking, desk hoteling promotes a sense of community and connection at work — two factors that improve employee satisfaction.

This largely stems from the balance offered by working under a hybrid model while at the same time being able to control when and how to use the office.

5. Improved cleanliness and organization

In the battle between hoteling vs hot desking, the former is more effective at maintaining office cleanliness and hygiene.

This is simply due to the increased accountability that comes with booking and looking after a desk for a specific duration.

Desk Hoteling Cons

1. The required setup

Unlike hot desking, organizations need to set up desk hoteling in advance. At a minimum, this means creating a virtual floor plan and providing a way for employees to book desks. this is usually done via a hybrid work management solution such as OfficeRnD Hybrid:

Although a robust hybrid workspace management platform simplifies this process, it’s still more demanding than simply turning all desks into hot desks.

desk booking solution

2. Organizational flaws

Due to its reliance on scheduling, employees can sometimes encounter double bookings and check-in issues when trying to reserve desks, conference rooms, cubicles, or a private office on short notice.

Moreover, if not carefully implemented, the limited workspace can create problems during unexpected office surges for an urgent project or emergency meeting. Again, you can avoid all of these issues with a good hybrid workspace solution.

3. Disruptive for teams

Both hot desking and desk hoteling share a common downside: teams who want to work closely in one spot may find it difficult to do so.

However, you can resolve this by establishing office neighborhoods, where desks are reserved only by team members working on a specific project.

Make the Most of Your Organization’s Office Space

We’ve said before that we believe desk hoteling is the better alternative, especially for companies that are setting a baseline for employees to be at the office, e.g., three days per week.

However, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hybrid work and workspace arrangement. Some companies prefer hot desking.

Others go for desk hoteling, and some even combine both methods across different teams. Consider your organization’s goals, culture, and employee satisfaction before anything else.

If you decide to adopt hybrid work, a tech solution is vital for handling its challenges effectively. OfficeRnD Hybrid is specifically tailored to streamline your transition and help you manage your hybrid workspace, with features like desk reservation, meeting room booking systems, and integrations with Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Google Calendar, and more.

Start for free with OfficeRnD Hybrid or book a live demo to see how our platform can help your business.


What is the Difference Between Hoteling and Hot Desking?

Hoteling requires employees to reserve desks or workspaces in advance for a specified time, ensuring a spot when they come in. Hot desking, on the other hand, operates on a first-come, first-served basis, where employees choose any available desk upon arrival. For a healthier workplace, it’s important to think about some hot desking ergonomics that could improve employee physical and mental well-being.

What Does Hoteling Mean in an Office?

In an office context, hoteling refers to a system where employees reserve specific desks or workspaces for a set period rather than having a permanent, assigned spot. This approach maximizes space utilization and offers flexibility, catering to organizations with a mobile workforce or those adopting hybrid work models. Employees “check-in” to their reserved space, much like booking a hotel room, ensuring they have a workspace when needed.

What is an Example of Hoteling?

An example of hoteling in an office setting is when a company uses a reservation system for its workspaces. Imagine an employee, Jane, who typically works remotely but needs to be in the office next Tuesday for meetings. Instead of having a fixed desk, Jane logs into the company’s workspace booking platform and reserves a desk for that specific day. When she arrives on Tuesday, she uses the reserved spot, ensuring she has a dedicated workspace without the need for a permanent desk assignment.

What is the Disadvantage of Hot Desking?

A disadvantage of hot desking is the lack of personalization and consistency in workspace. Since employees don’t have a fixed desk, they can’t leave personal items or set up their workspace to suit their preferences. This can lead to feelings of impermanence and reduced sense of belonging. Additionally, hot desking can sometimes result in competition for preferred spaces, potentially causing stress and reducing the predictability of one’s work environment.

Miro Miroslavov
CEO and Co-founder of OfficeRnD
Miro Miroslavov is a software engineer turned into a tech entrepreneur. In 2015 he co-founded OfficeRnD - a leading flex space and hybrid work management platform. As a CEO at OfficeRnD, he grew the company from inception to a leading software vendor that serves thousands of customers worldwide. He is a big fan of flexible working and is on a mission to "Making Flexible Working the Way of Working".