When shifting to a hybrid work model, many companies find themselves in a situation where they have more employees than available desks.

This situation requires adopting a new form of office space organization, where most desks are shared between people, with very few (if any) being assigned to individual employees.

There are 2 ways to implement this arrangement in your workplace — hot desking and desk hoteling. Frequently, these terms are mixed up and used interchangeably.

However, the differences between these 2 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.

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Hot Desking vs. Hoteling vs. Desk Sharing: What’s the Difference?

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, so here are the main differences between them, starting with the broadest term:

  • Desk sharing is an umbrella term that denotes a work arrangement in which there’s no fixed “ownership” of desks. Instead, desks are shared on the basis of some principle. Hot desking and desk hoteling are two different implementations of desk sharing.
  • Hot desking is an office organization system where workstations (shared desks) are not assigned and cannot be reserved in advance, so employees don’t know where they’ll be sitting on any given day. There are different ways to make hot desking work, like a “first come, first serve” basis, or on a rotational or shift-based principle. Regardless of the mechanism, hot desking offers more freedom, but less control over desk availability. This arrangement is frequently used by companies that don’t mandate employees to come to the office.
  • Hoteling (sometimes called office hoteling or desk hoteling) is an organization system, where employees reserve workstations before coming to the office, typically via a desk booking system. Hoteling provides greater control for employees and removes the possibility of arriving to work to find out there are no free workstations. Hoteling is often used by companies that have a more mature hybrid work model, especially those that mandate employees to be in the office a set number of days per week.

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

What are the Pros and Cons of Hot Desking?

Hot desking is frequently employed in more flexible work environments that don’t require employees to come in regularly. At such companies, employees often work at different places each week, and drop by the office for meetings or other events.

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

However, the problems of hot desking usually stem from companies trying to implement it, while also forcing employees back to an office that doesn’t have nearly enough workstations for everyone. Plus, the problems multiply when managers use obsolete Excel templates instead of proper software.

That said, here are the 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 takes employee autonomy to the next level. For separate individuals, this may not seem like much but when considered in terms of teams, this communicates a great deal of trust. For self-directed teams that require little to no oversight, such a level of autonomy is naturally seen as an advantage.

3. Freshness, inspiration, and collaboration

Due to the dynamic nature of hot desking, it can be refreshing and creatively stimulating to work in such an environment. Hot desking breaks up routines and keeps people more alert. As a result, it can disrupt repetitive patterns and help people approach problems differently. It also promotes more collaboration, as you sit around and naturally talk to new people all the time.

4. Reduced costs and fast implementation

Without dedicated desks, you can have more people using the same workstations, which reduces your overall workspace 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

Without the possibility of reserving a desk, employees may find themselves without a place to work. Or, even if there are available desks, these may not offer the type of environment that a particular employee may require at that time. Along with the fairly constant movement of people coming and going, all of this may lead to drops in productivity and reduced focus.

2. Communication breakdown

With hot desking, there is a certain risk of communication breaking down. Trying to find a colleague can become difficult if no one has an assigned workspace. This requires clear communication guidelines so that 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 the sense of hierarchy at a company — naturally, that may be desirable for some businesses. However, more traditional companies with a clear sense of hierarchy can have a tough time removing the distinctions between different kinds of employees. In turn, this may have an effect on motivation and accountability.

4. Health and safety hazards

This pandemic-induced concern applies to all kinds of desk-sharing arrangements but is usually most pronounced with hot desking. If there is a constant turnover of employees coming and going then the risk of transmitting diseases can increase. To avoid the dangers that come with this, greater personal responsibility and clear etiquette and safety rules need to be put in place.

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

Last but not least, 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 may never come to the office, while others are there occasionally or every workday.

In these cases, companies usually don’t want to overinvest in new workstations (since they may remain unused), so they end up with far fewer desks than employees. In these cases, it’s essential to have a proper desk reservation system in place.

Desk Hoteling Pros

1. Improved space utilization

Desk hoteling (through the right office hoteling policy) allows companies to allocate office desk space efficiently. This translates into improved occupancy, a greater variety of spaces dedicated to different purposes (e.g., office neighborhoods), as well as reduced desk vacancy.

2. Reduced costs

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

3. Greater control and no uncertainty for employees

Being able to reserve spaces in advance gives employees control over where to position themselves according to their needs and preferences. This is particularly valid if you have designated spaces for different purposes, and people can opt to work in a silent area or book several adjacent desks when more collaboration and teamwork are required.

Technology plays an important part in this setup, and companies that opt for desk hoteling typically use hybrid workplace management platforms to steer this process. Such systems take the burden off of managers and administrators and make the desk allocation process largely self-managed.

4. Increased employee satisfaction and collaboration

Unlike hot desking which may feel chaotic or even somewhat alienating, desk hoteling can increase the experience of community and connection at work – two factors that improve employee satisfaction. This is largely due to 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

Desk hoteling may be more conducive to maintaining cleanliness at the office than hot desking. This is simply due to the increased accountability that comes with booking a desk and being responsible for it for a certain amount of time.

Desk Hoteling Cons

1. The required setup

Unlike hot desking, desk hoteling needs to be set up in advance by organizations. At a minimum, this means creating a virtual floorplan and providing a way for employees to book desks. A robust hybrid workspace management platform does make the setup much simpler, but it’s still more demanding than simply turning all desks into hot desks.

2. Organizational flaws

Due to its reliance on scheduling, employees may occasionally run into reservation and check-in issues, double-bookings, or other difficulties when booking a specific space (like a cubicle or conference room). Moreover, if not carefully implemented, there may be times when the limited number of desks creates problems – such as when more employees suddenly need or want to come to the office or when there are important projects that require more people to be present at once. Again, all of these issues can be largely avoided with a good hybrid workspace solution.

3. Disruptive for teams

One common con of both hot desking and desk hoteling is that teams who wish to be physically present together, in one spot, may find it difficult to do so. At the same time, as we already said, this can be resolved by establishing office neighborhoods, where desks can be reserved only by team members working on a specific project.

Is Hot Desking or Hoteling Right for Your Organization?

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., 3 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 hot desking and desk hoteling for different teams in their organization. Consider your organization’s goals, culture, and employee satisfaction before anything else.

If you decide to adopt hybrid work, a technological solution can be extremely useful for handling the challenges associated with the process. OfficeRnD Hybrid is specifically tailored to help you transition to hybrid and help you manage your hybrid workspace, with modules like desk reservation and meeting room booking system, as well as integrations with Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Google Calendar, and more.

You can learn more about OfficeRnD Hybrid here or book a live demo to see how our platform can help your business.

OfficeRnD Team
We are team OfficeRnD! We build software to run hybrid workplaces, coworking spaces, and all kinds of flex spaces. We power flexible working! We love writing about everything that relates to the future of work, flexible work, and working from anywhere.