The idea of having an office space without assigned desks is not exactly new. It’s been around since the 1990s but was being applied in a limited way — by companies that had shift workers or in places where real estate was too expensive. Some even claimed that introducing hot desking would kill your company.

But that was before the pandemic. Then everything changed overnight.

Remote work rose to fame in no time because of the COVID-19 restrictions and considerations for employees’ health and safety and because of the necessity to adapt offices and working processes to this new reality.

Although COVID restrictions have dwindled, remote work clearly isn’t going anywhere. According to Gartner, by the end of 2023, 39% of global knowledge workers will work hybrid. With more employees working both at home and in the office, companies need to find a way to manage their office capacity.

Many companies around the globe are turning to hot desking for a practical and long-term solution to their office arrangements. The shared desk concept has already gained traction — and for good reasons. It allows companies to accommodate their changing workforce, embrace flexibility, and reduce overhead costs.

In this hot desking guide, you will learn:

  • What Is Hot Desking?
  • The Benefits of Hot Desking
  • The various hot Desking Challenges
  • How to Make Hot Desking Work for Your Team
  • How to choose the right technology to help you enable and manage hot desking

Let’s dive straight in — and check what’s so hot about hot desking.

What Is Hot Desking?

Hot desking is a flexible work arrangement where employees can use any available desk or workspace in the office or shared workspace environment. Essentially, they don’t have assigned desks.

hot desking in the office

Hot desking is often used in modern, flexible work environments where employees have varying schedules or work remotely part of the time. It’s designed to promote collaboration, flexibility, and efficiency by allowing employees to choose a workspace that best fits their needs for the day.

The concept of hot desking rose to prominence with the growing popularity of remote work and the hybrid model. Many companies turn to hot desking for practical reasons, considering the increasing number of employees working from home and occasionally coming to the office.

Without strategies like hot desking, businesses may end up with many empty desks on a daily basis — while they still have to pay for renting a large office space and covering overhead costs.

In some workplaces, hot desking is based on a first-come, first-served basis each day. However, managing hot desks can be challenging as it requires keeping track of desk availability and when employees are in the office.

OfficeRnD Hybrid’s hot desking software addresses this challenge with an easy desk booking system and shared desk scheduling to maximize your office space. It even provides a flawless Google Workspace desk booking system.

Check out the video below:

Why Is It Called “Hot Desking”?

The term “hot desking” is believed to have originated from hot racking, the practice of sailors using the same bunk, or rack, when working different shifts. The concept of hot racking was used to maximize the limited space available onboard ships.

In the modern context, though, hot desking refers to different people using the same workstation at different times of the day.

What’s the Difference Between Hot Desking, Desk Sharing, and Hoteling?

Hot desking is sometimes referred to as “desk sharing” or ‘desk hoteling,” though there are slight nuances between these terms.

hot desking desk sharing and hoteling explanation

Hot Desking

  • Hot desking is a workplace strategy in which multiple employees use the same workspace at different times.
  • It means that employees don’t have an assigned desk or workstation.
  • Instead, they use whatever workspace is available when they arrive at work or the desk they booked via a hot desking software.
  • Hot desking can be a cost-effective way to manage a workspace and promote collaboration among employees.

Desk Sharing

  • Desk sharing involves two or more employees sharing the same workspace simultaneously.
  • It can involve multiple employees sharing a single workstation or using the same desk or workspace during different shifts or times of the day.
  • Desk sharing is often used in industries where workspace is limited or in high demand.

Here’s a useful guide on sharing a desk in a hybrid office setting.

Desk Hoteling

  • Desk hoteling is a workplace strategy that involves employees reserving a workspace or meeting room for a specific period, typically on an as-needed basis.
  • Hoteling typically involves an online reservation system, which allows employees to reserve a specific workspace or meeting room in advance.
  • It can be a useful strategy for businesses that have remote workers or need to accommodate visiting employees.

To learn more about the difference between desk hoteling, desk sharing, and hot desking, check out this article. Now, let’s continue this hot desking guide by presenting the benefits that hot desking brings.

Hot Desking Advantages

The shared desk concept has gained popularity for companies across the globe because it has several advantages.

Here’s an overview of what you can gain as an executive by introducing hot desking to your team.

hot desking advantages

Maximize Office Space Use and Decreased Costs

Two-thirds of desks are unused, and just over a quarter of people come into offices. Attendance drops 12% on Fridays — a scary statistic for companies that pay a lot of office rent.

One of the basic purposes — and advantages — of hot desking is that it optimizes how your team uses the physical office space. Rather than having numerous empty desks while a significant part of the workforce is working remotely, the available desks in the office can be put to maximum use. Here, you can check how much office space you need.

This means you’re likely to need a smaller real estate property. Naturally, renting smaller office spaces is cost-efficient. Cleaning and maintenance are typically cheaper, too. This allows you to reduce overhead expenses, build a more sustainable workspace, and redirect finances to more important projects.

Easier COVID-19 Compliance

In times of pandemic, disinfection of office spaces needs to be more regular and thorough. Having a smaller workspace makes the cleaning process easier and faster.

an office janitor

To comply with COVID-19 social distancing measures, having fewer people in the office at one time is generally preferred. This also provides for easier tracking of contacts in case somebody does get ill.

Enabling the Hybrid Workplace

The pandemic accelerated the trend to move work to remote and hybrid models. In fact, 76% of employees confirmed that their companies shifted to a hybrid working model.

The hot desking model is a common companion to the hybrid workplace. It allows for the flexibility and agility embedded in the hybrid concept, in which the office space is not the only place where work happens.

Having fewer desks in the office than the number of your team members also means there’s no pressure on employees to attend physically at all times.

This can be a psychological factor for some people who still feel uneasy about the way remote work is perceived by management.

Improved Communication and Collaboration

Hot desking allows a new kind of organization in the workspace. It enables a less hierarchical arrangement in the office since all desks can be “created equal.” Seating arrangements can be used on an ad-hoc basis to enable different forms of collaboration.

You can mix employees from different teams to foster better communication. Mingling and collaboration across departments are improved, which can lead to unexpected benefits in terms of creativity and productivity.

employees communicating

At the same time, team members who need to sit together when working on a project can also arrange that — and then switch around for the next project with other people.

Escaping the Office Routine

Changing places in the office space can be refreshing for some people. It can make team members appreciate the workspace better and give them a sense of novelty in the work routine.

Switching spots in the office also means that team members will have new desk neighbors — which can be stimulating and fun. Or if people don’t get along so well, the good news is that they’ll sit next to each other only for the day.

Hot Desking Disadvantages

Hot desking has been welcomed by a large pool of companies. Yet, it does have its limitations — so it’s better to keep them in mind from the start.

hot desking disadvantages

Personal Desks Are No More

One of the main challenges that hot desking presents for company culture is the potential loss of personal space in the office. Employees don’t have their private cubicles or desks anymore — and that may be difficult for some.

This naturally leaves companies pondering the hot desk vs dedicated desk conundrum. As both options have their benefits, it’s important to figure out what your team’s needs are and how to meet them in the best possible way.

And even with this aspect of hot desking, there are still ways to create privacy for those employees who need it. For example, you can add cubicle doors, set up a cubicle privacy screen, and even implement an “open/close” sign system for each desk.

Hardware Issues

Another potential challenge relates to hardware use. Some employees need a special technical setup to get their job done. This typically requires a dedicated space where the arrangement can stay permanently.

hardware issues

Having to move the setup around isn’t practical and can get quite complicated in shared desk space. For such cases, it may be a good solution to have dedicated desks within your shared desk space — either on a permanent or project basis.

More Chaotic Environment

It’s no secret that hot desking can become chaotic if not managed well. Organizing who sits where and when can get overwhelming, and it can be confusing for employees too.

The good news is that hot desking is definitely manageable — especially when you plan in advance and use a solid software solution.

It’s all about setting clear rules about room and desk booking, providing an easy way to book for team members, and keeping an eye on arrangements and trends to make changes on the go.

Here’s a nice guide on the best desk booking solutions as of 2023.

Security Concerns

As employees can’t leave personal belongings and computers on the desks, there can be issues with the security of private items. This also relates to the lack of personal space, which may be problematic for some employees.

employee working in a computer

Lockers may be a good solution for both issues — so team members can safely store stuff in the office without having to carry it around. With good hot desk booking software in place, you’ll also be able to track who’s been in the office and in which part of it in case a security breach occurs.

Increased Cleaning Needs

Fewer people in the office at one time are safer in terms of COVID-19 measures. At the same time, different employees use the same desk spaces on consecutive days — and each of them should get a clean one.

That’s why running a shared desk office may entail more disinfection and stricter hygiene rules. Employees have to collect their personal belongings from their desks whenever they leave for the day.

Then, all desks and shared spaces have to be thoroughly cleaned so the next people using them are protected.

How to Make Hot Desking Work for Your Team

What do you need in order to apply the shared desk concept successfully?

With careful preparation, you’ll be able to escape the common pitfalls of shared desks and create a great experience for your team while reaping the efficiency benefits of hot desking.

hot desking best practices

Figure Out Your Desk Needs

Planning how to manage hot desking starts with getting to know country-specific regulations about COVID-19 social distancing.

The measures that apply in your area can guide your decisions on how to ensure safe distances and proper facilities for employees. There may be restrictions on the number of people who should be in one space or similar rules that will inform your approach.

Consider Team Collaboration

Taking into account your team’s necessities and dynamics is essential in planning how to implement the concept of the shared desk in your office.

It’s important to consider the following aspects:

  • Which team members need to work together and how often
  • Whether you’ll need zoning within the office space for different teams
  • Which employees will use the desks more regularly (i.e., if they have preferences for remote-first work or if there are periods when many people have to work together in the office at the same time)

team collaboration

Team collaboration should be your priority in making decisions on how to approach hot desking.

At OfficeRnD, we provide a set of collaboration-boosting features for hybrid work — specifically, our collaborative scheduling tool.

These features are designed to enhance communication and coordination among team members in a hybrid work environment, enabling employers and employees to work together seamlessly, whether they are in the office or working remotely.

The collaborative scheduling key features power up your team’s most essential needs with functionalities such as:

  • Shared Calendar: Our shared calendar feature allows team members to view each other’s schedules, making it easy to coordinate and plan in-person workdays. This helps to avoid scheduling conflicts and ensures that team members can work together effectively when they are in the office.
  • Desk Reservations: With our desk reservation feature, employees can reserve specific desks in advance, ensuring that they have a dedicated workspace when they arrive at the office. This helps to foster a sense of ownership and belonging while also promoting collaboration, as team members can sit close to each other based on their project or team requirements.
  • Meeting Room Booking: Our meeting room booking feature allows team members to easily book meeting rooms for in-person meetings, brainstorming sessions, and collaborative discussions. This ensures that everyone has access to the necessary resources and spaces for effective collaboration, even if they aren’t physically present in the office.

officernd hybrid interface

Boosting in-person collaboration is crucial in a hybrid work environment, as it helps to foster creativity, innovation, and team dynamics.

In-person interactions facilitate spontaneous discussions, brainstorming sessions, and knowledge sharing, which are vital for building a cohesive and high-performing team.

Our collaborative scheduling tool empowers employees to collaborate effectively and come to the office for the moments that matter.

Provide a Storage Space and Guarantee Security

Even though they’re hot desking, people often need to keep personal stuff in the office. It’s essential to provide them with an option to do that. This might be in the form of lockers or other spaces.

This also relates to the feeling of security in the office. Employees should consider it safe to leave personal or work items in the dedicated places you provide. This would help team members have a good attitude towards the common office space.

Plus, storage spaces are among the most common hot desking ergonomics you can invest in.

In addition, you can also provide standing desks.

Set Up Private Spaces

Different employees prefer — and are more productive in — different kinds of office spaces. It’s important to include private spaces to cater to everyone.

Plus, there are times when an employee or a team would need privacy to take a call or discuss sensitive matters.

Besides the shared desks, your office should have private spaces for meetings and calls. They can be conference rooms, phone booths, lounges, or any other creative solution you may come up with. You can make them bookable in the same way as the working desks.

Hot Desking Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts

Getting used to the new way of working takes time and effort. You can help your team by creating a how-to guide explaining how the shared desks policy works in your office and some etiquette for hot desking.

Let’s look at some hot desking dos and don’ts for managers and employees.

hot desking etiquette

Dos for Managers

Address Hot Desking Anxiety

Recognize that hot desking can cause anxiety and uncertainty among employees. It could be part of the stress sometimes caused by hybrid work. Take steps to address their concerns and provide support through clear communication, training, and access to resources.

Use Suitable Software

Implement hot desking software, such as OfficeRnD Hybrid, to streamline the hot desking process and make it easy for employees to book and manage desk spaces.

With real-time insights on desk usage and streamlined administrative tasks, managers can help ensure a smooth and efficient hot desking experience.

Get the Right Equipment

Make sure that employees have the necessary equipment and resources to effectively work in a hot-desking environment.

the right equipment foe hot desking

This may include laptops, docking stations, monitors, and other tools that enable employees to work comfortably and efficiently.

Here’s a useful list of the best hot desking accessories.

Have a Plan in Place

Develop a comprehensive plan for hot desking, including guidelines, policies, and procedures. Communicate this plan clearly to all employees, and provide ongoing support and training to ensure compliance.

Don’ts for Managers

Don’t Overlook Employee Preferences

Consider employees’ preferences and needs when implementing hot desking. Think about factors such as job roles, work styles, physical abilities, and personal preferences to create a fair and inclusive hot desking policy.

Don’t Forget About Privacy and Security

Hot desking can raise concerns about privacy and security, as employees may have to share workspaces and devices with others. Take steps to address these concerns by providing privacy screens, securing devices with passwords, and implementing security protocols.

Don’t Ignore Feedback

Encourage employees to provide feedback on their hot desking experience, and take that feedback into account when making adjustments to the hot desking policy.

workers talking in the office

Regularly check in with employees to ensure that any issues or concerns are addressed in a timely manner.

Don’t Neglect to Communicate New Changes

Hot desking policies may evolve over time, and it’s important to keep employees informed of any changes. Communicate updates and expectations clearly to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.

Dos for Employees

Respect Your Colleagues’ Space

Be mindful of your colleagues’ personal space and belongings when using hot desking areas. Avoid moving or using others’ belongings without their permission, and keep shared spaces clean and tidy.

Be on Time and Use Hot Desking Software

Respect the booking system in place, and be on time when booking and using hot desking spaces. Use any hot desking software provided by your employer to ensure a smooth and efficient process for yourself and others.

Here’s an article explaining hot desking software in more detail.

Be Mindful of Others

Keep noise levels to a minimum, and be considerate of others working around you.

office environment

Avoid disruptive behaviors such as loud phone calls, music, or other distractions that can disrupt your colleagues’ work.

Be Flexible

Embrace the concept of hybrid work and hot desking, and be willing to adapt to different workspaces and environments. Stay flexible, open to change, and willing to work with others in a collaborative and inclusive manner.

Don’ts For Employees

Leave a Mess

Clean up after yourself and leave shared spaces clean and tidy. Avoid leaving personal belongings or trash behind, and make sure to clean up any spills or messes promptly.

Dominate the Space

Avoid monopolizing hot desking spaces for long periods of time, as this might limit availability for others. Be mindful of others’ needs, and share the space equitably.

Eat Your Lunch at Your Desk

Avoid eating meals at your hot desking space, as this can be disruptive to others and can lead to odors or messes. Use designated eating areas or break rooms for meals.

Keep Your Personal Items Permanently at a Desk

Hot desking is designed for flexibility, and it’s not intended for employees to permanently claim a specific desk as their own.

two workers in front of a computer

Avoid leaving personal items at a hot desking space permanently, as this can limit availability for others and disrupt the hot desking system. Keep your personal items with you or store them in designated areas when you’re not using them.

How to Set Up Hot Desking in Your Office

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up hot desking in your office:

steps for setting up hot desking in the office

Evaluate Your Space

Determine the available workspace in your office and how many employees can use it. Consider factors such as noise levels, natural light, and proximity to common areas.

Create a Hot Desking Policy

Develop a policy that outlines the hot desking process, including rules for workspace booking, equipment usage, and cleaning responsibilities. Make sure the policy is communicated clearly to all employees.

Invest in Technology

Consider investing in the right hot desking software to help streamline the hot desking process and promote a collaborative working environment.

Shameless plug: check out OfficeRnD Hybrid which has everything you need to foster a thriving hot desking environment. Create a Flexible Workspace

Choose furniture and equipment that can be easily moved and reconfigured to accommodate different workspace needs.

hybrid workplace

Consider using lightweight, mobile workstations or desks that can be easily adjusted to suit individual preferences.

Provide the Necessary Resources

Ensure that your employees have access to the resources they need to work effectively in a hot desking environment, such as charging stations, printers, and other equipment.

Implement and Evaluate the Process

Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the hot desking process and make adjustments as necessary. Solicit feedback from employees to ensure that the process is meeting their needs and improving their productivity.

OfficeRnD Hybrid Is Here to Help You Manage Hot Desking

Introducing the shared desk concept in your company is an exciting endeavor, but handling hot desking without appropriate software can be burdensome. Tables, graphs, and sheets of paper all get confusing when you have to manage, say, where 50 people will be sitting today.

Technology makes the management of shared desks easier and more efficient. Equipped with the right tool, you’ll be able to optimize the process of desk booking and management, as well as the use of storage and shared spaces for meetings and calls.

At OfficeRnD, we’ve designed the right tools that help you stay on top of hot desk management.

The OfficeRnD Hybrid platform allows you to automate desk booking and other shared resources such as meeting rooms. This means less hassle for you and for employees.

The floor plan booking option allows booking rooms and desks with a few clicks on an interactive map. On the other hand, in-depth workplace analytics, such as desk occupancy and who has been sitting where, can help you optimize the office footprint and costs.

Get started for free with OfficeRnD Hybrid.

Hot Desking Guide FAQ

What Is the Opposite of Hot Desking?

The opposite of hot desking is having fixed desks. In a fixed desk arrangement, each employee has a designated workspace reserved for them, and they typically do not need to move around or share their desk with others.

Is Hot Desking a Good Idea?

Yes, hot desking can be a good idea for many companies. In addition to reducing real estate costs, working in close proximity with different colleagues can encourage new office friendships and foster collaboration.

Why Is Hot Desking Popular?

Hot desking has cost-saving advantages and has gained popularity with the growing trend of hybrid work. Hot desking provides the flexibility for employees to work from different desks or locations within the office. This office setup can also promote a more collaborative and dynamic work environment, as it encourages employees to interact with different colleagues.

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".