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:
Let’s dive straight in — and check what’s so hot about 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 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:
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.
Hot desking is sometimes referred to as “desk sharing” or ‘desk hoteling,” though there are slight nuances between these terms.
Here’s a useful guide on sharing a desk in a hybrid office setting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Make sure that employees have the necessary equipment and resources to effectively work in a hot-desking environment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Encourage employees to provide feedback on their hot desking experience, and take that feedback into account when making adjustments to the hot desking policy.
Regularly check in with employees to ensure that any issues or concerns are addressed in a timely manner.
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.
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.
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.
Keep noise levels to a minimum, and be considerate of others working around you.
Avoid disruptive behaviors such as loud phone calls, music, or other distractions that can disrupt your colleagues’ work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hot desking is designed for flexibility, and it’s not intended for employees to permanently claim a specific desk as their own.
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.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up hot desking in your office:
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.
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.
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.
Consider using lightweight, mobile workstations or desks that can be easily adjusted to suit individual preferences.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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