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Hot desking has become a popular trend in the modern workplace, especially since COVID-19 and the switch to hybrid work.

In this guide, I’ll dive deep into the concept of hot desking, exploring its definition, origin, pros and cons, role of technology, implementation, as well as etiquette and best practices.

What Is Hot Desking?

Hot desking, also known as desk sharing or flexible working, is a workspace arrangement where employees do not have assigned desks or workstations. Instead, they can choose any available desk or workspace on a first-come, first-served basis.

The concept originated as a way to optimize office space and promote collaboration. The idea of shared workspaces resonated with the evolving nature of work, where mobility and flexibility became key components of a modern workplace.

Recently, since hybrid working has become more the norm, organizations are reducing office sizes and moving away from permanent desks to hot desking.

The philosophy behind hot desking

The philosophy behind hot desking is to create a dynamic and flexible work environment that encourages collaboration, creativity, and productivity. 

By eliminating fixed seating arrangements, hot desking aims to break down hierarchical barriers and foster a sense of equality among coworkers.

It also promotes cross-team interactions, knowledge sharing, and innovation through spontaneous conversations and idea exchanges.

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Hot desking vs hoteling

The difference between hoteling and hot-desking is the way employees can access desks in a workspace. Hot desking gives employees access to desks on a first-come-first-serve basis, while hoteling requires employees to reserve desks in advance.

Hot desking and hoteling also share some similarities. For instance, neither of them involves assigned seating common to a traditional workspace, and both rely on desk availability, so seating isn't guaranteed.

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Hot Desking

Infographic demonstrating the advantages and disadvantages of hotdesking.
Some of the key pros and cons of hot desking.

Advantages of hot desking

Organizations choose to implement hot desking for several reasons:

  • Optimized space utilization: Hot desking allows for more efficient use of office space by sharing desks among employees. This is especially the case for hybrid workforces in which employees are in the office on an ad hoc basis.
  • Cost savings: By reducing the need for individual workstations, hot desking can lead to reduced real estate costs for businesses.
  • Flexibility and autonomy: Employees have the freedom to choose their workspace based on their needs and preferences, promoting flexibility and autonomy.
  • Enhanced collaboration: Hot desking encourages interaction among employees from different teams and departments, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing.
  • Increased creativity and productivity: Varying work environments can stimulate creativity and productivity among employees.
  • Promotion of sustainability: Sharing desks promotes a more sustainable approach to office design and resource allocation.

Potential Drawbacks of Hot Desking

While hot desking has numerous benefits, it’s essential to consider its potential drawbacks:

  • Difficulty in finding available space: During peak hours, workers may find it challenging to locate available desks, leading to frustration and decreased productivity.
  • Loss of team cohesion: Constantly changing workspaces can hinder team cohesion and communication as employees may not always be in close proximity to their team members.
  • Hygiene concerns: Shared desks may increase the risk of spreading germs and illnesses if proper cleaning protocols are not consistently followed.
  • Security risks: Hot desking can pose security risks if confidential information is left exposed on shared desks or if unauthorized individuals gain access to sensitive areas.
  • Potential for distractions: Working in an open and shared environment may lead to more distractions, impacting concentration and focus.

How To Implement Hot Desking In Your Organization

Transitioning to a hot desking model requires careful planning and communication. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Evaluate and analyze your current office space utilization to identify areas where hot desking can be implemented.
  2. Communicate the reasons behind the change and the benefits that employees can expect from hot desking.
  3. Provide training and support to employees on how to navigate the new workspace arrangement and use the technology tools available.
  4. Research implementing a hot desk booking system or office management software to enable workers to check availability and reserve workspaces in advance.
  5. Regularly gather employee feedback and make adjustments to address any concerns or challenges that arise.

Overcoming challenges in hot desking implementation

Implementing hot desking can pose certain challenges but, with careful planning, they can be overcome.

  • Resistance to change: Employees may initially resist the change due to concerns about losing their personal space. Regular communication, training, and addressing their concerns openly can help alleviate resistance.
  • Ensuring fairness and availability: It is important to establish clear guidelines and policies to ensure fair desk allocation and prevent employees from monopolizing desirable workspaces.
  • Monitoring and managing noise levels: Open office environments can lead to increased noise levels. Implementing designated quiet zones or providing noise-canceling headphones can help employees focus and be productive.

Guidelines for good hot desking etiquette

To ensure a harmonious and productive hot desking environment, it is crucial to establish clear etiquette guidelines. These guidelines can include:

  • Respecting personal space and belongings.
  • Cleaning up after use and leaving the workspace tidy for the next user
  • Maintaining an appropriate noise level and using designated areas for group discussions or phone calls
  • Being mindful of others' preferences and needs.

Creating Offices Of The Future

The switch to remote and hybrid working has led to organizations reducing office space and redesigning them to foster greater collaboration and accommodate certain activities.

Hot desking has a part to play in this new way of working, helping reduce office space and helping foster greater organizational collaboration.

For more, check out our podcast on Dynamic Office Spaces For A Modern Workforce.

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By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.