Hybrid Office

What is Hot Desking, and How to Make it Work?

Hybrid work is the norm, people wonder what hot desking is and how to make it work. In our guide, we answer this and more.

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Future Work

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The way we run office space has undergone significant transformations in the last three years, now that hybrid remote work means many of us don't come to the office every day.

Flexible work arrangements allow people freedom in choosing where and when to work, but there's more. They also allow companies to adopt cost-saving and resource-efficient solutions such as hot desking – sharing fewer desks between more people, potentially decreasing the amount of office space you need.

But, hot desking isn't without its challenges as people often resist change.

In this guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at hot desking and how it can help hybrid companies optimize their workspaces and achieve their goals while providing employees the freedom and flexibility they desire.

What Is Hot Desking?

Hot desking is a workplace system in which employees are not assigned specific desks.

Instead, they have to book or reserve the available seats for work rather than having designated workstations. The desks can be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, the opposite of the conventional office setup.

This means that your office needs less desks than in a traditional set-up, where everyone has their own dedicated desks, regardless of how often its used.

Companies generally adopt hot desking to improve desk efficiency, maximize space utilization, and reduce real estate costs. Hot desking is a powerful solution businesses of all sizes can embrace and benefit from according to their needs. 

How does Hot Desking work?

Hot desking is a flexible workspace system that allows employees to choose from available desks at the office on a given day and time. It's the opposite of all employees having a fixed or dedicated desk that they can make their own.

Hot desks are typically paired with lockers, so that employees still have space to store their personal belongings.

Hot desk booking software makes it easy for workers to view which desks are available and book the seat they’d like to work from for a full or partial day. Depending on the office setup, employees may bring their own laptop or use a desk computer to access company drives, files, and folders with their credentials.

The effect of COVID-19 on hot desking

The pandemic changed work life forever. And as offices have reopened, a full return to office has not happened. Instead, hybrid remote work has become most companies' dominant way of working.

Kastle badge swipe data shows that office visits are leveling off at about 50%, meaning we come to the office half of the time we used to. This means that in many cases, it doesn't make sense to let people keep their own desks since they only use it sometimes.

Hot desking can enabling a balanced mix of at-home and in-office time, allowing employees to see coworkers in person, resulting in greater bonding, trust, and teamwork.

Benefits of Hot Desking

We expect hot desking to continue being popular due to its many benefits. This modern approach to office organization offers a variety of advantages that can reshape how we work. From cost savings to enhanced collaboration and sustainability, hot desking can revolutionize companies’ operations.  

Cost Saving

Especially in countries and cities with high costs of living and rent, desk booking can help organizations reduce costs associated with unused office space. Businesses can reduce their real estate footprint by optimizing space utilization, leading to significant cost savings.

Innovation

Hot desking can also promote innovation and creativity, as employees are exposed to new ideas and perspectives from working alongside colleagues from different backgrounds and departments.

Agility

Hot desking allows companies to be more agile and adaptable in their office space usage. It enables them to scale up or down quickly to meet changing business needs.

Collaboration

Desk booking systems can facilitate collaboration and communication among employees. By allowing employees to work in different areas of the office, they can interact with colleagues from various departments, leading to increased knowledge sharing and collaboration.

Sustainability

Hot desking can also contribute to sustainability efforts by reducing the environmental impact of office spaces through reduced energy consumption and resources.

Employee Satisfaction

Hot desking can improve employee satisfaction by offering greater flexibility and control over their work environment.

How Does Hot Desking Work for Different Work Models?

Before implementing hot desking, it is essential to consider whether it fits your company’s needs. 

If the main focus of your office is efficiency, flexibility, and safety, hot desking will be a great choice for you.

But if your team still wants a workspace they can call their own, or if they have specific requirements like a desktop workstation, implementing hot desking will backfire.

Here’s how to make hot desking work with different work models and get the maximum benefits.

Hybrid Teams  

If you have a hybrid work model, hot desking can help employees visit the office on different schedules according to their hybrid working policy. The software ensures you have sufficient workstations available for them to use and that space is distributed fairly. 

Remote or Distributed Workforce

If you are remote first or have a distributed workforce, hot desking can help your employees book a desk per their need in the office or any shared workspace of your organization.  

How to Implement Hot Desking

Most employers find it challenging to implement hot desking in their offices because they are worried about their employees having difficulty adjusting and feeling stressed by it. Here are some best practices to implement a hot desking system successfully in your office:

1: Assess wants and needs

Introduce hot desk in a way that feels like a value-add to employees. Run a survey to understand if and how they want to utilize hot desks and launch the new way of working accordingly.

2: Create and communicate clear guidelines

Create a hybrid working policy that includes the rules of desk booking or a tip sheet to ensure everyone knows how to use the hot desk booking system and make it accessible to everyone in the organization. When there are pre-set rules and expectations about using and sharing desks, the overall experience will be great for everyone.

3: Invest in a reliable hot desk booking app

Ensure you have reliable desk booking software and that people are trained to use it. 

With an easy-to-use hot desk management system, your employees can book their desks in advance, know where their coworkers are sitting, and know where to go after arriving in the office.

A new wave of desk booking apps like Kadance, Cafe, Flexy, and Deskfound can help you tackle logistical issues and drive collaboration and engagement by focusing on the human elements.

For more, read our comparison of the Top 35 Hot Desk Booking Software.

4: Replan your office layout

In order to implement hot desking, chances are that you need to reconfigure your office space. 

This can involve removing cubicles and offices to create collaboration areas, rest spaces, and meeting rooms. By reducing equipment and the number of people in the office, you can save on electricity costs and increase cost savings by up to 30%. 

While hot desking may not be suitable for all offices, it can create a more open and appealing workspace for employees. To ensure productivity, it's important to invest in ergonomic seating, multi-user computers, phones, printers, and any other necessary technology and equipment.

For more, read our guide to hybrid office design.

5: Give people time

Before you roll out your hot desks, give people plenty of time to get used to the idea. Communicate a clear timeline that allows you and your team to be ready. 

Hot desking may simplify the office and reduce equipment usage but it requires careful planning and preparation, including updating policies, changing layouts, and getting feedback from employees. 

The process takes time and a realistic plan is crucial, accounting for delays that are likely to occur.

6: Be hands-on during the initial roll-out

As you prepare to launch your new hot desk model, it's important to prioritize visibility and accessibility, especially near and on the launch day. Consider having a team of ambassadors who can answer questions, help solve challenges, and guide people into the new way of working. 

Anticipate that there may be complaints or concerns, and approach them with a genuine sense of empathy. By being proactive and considerate, you can help ensure a smooth transition and positive experience for everyone involved.

7: Collect desk analytics

It's only half the battle when you know your hot desk management system is in place. Collect data and feedback to understand how your employees use the desks, including how often and who is booking them, to gain better insights into improving employee experience, productivity, and happiness. Frequently revise your policies and the way your office is designed. 

Tip: Create a trial period

Consider implementing a hot desking trial for a few months to give employees a taste of the arrangement without committing to it long-term. This allows for unbiased feedback and an easy return to the previous setup if needed, without significant financial loss.

Typical Challenges of Implementing Hot Desks and How to Avoid Them

Implementing a hot desk model can bring numerous benefits, but it also comes with challenges. Here are some common challenges and strategies to avoid or mitigate them:

Resistance to Change: Many employees may be resistant to the idea of giving up their dedicated workspaces. To overcome this, start with a clear and transparent communication plan. 

Explain the benefits of hot desking and involve employees in the transition process by addressing their concerns. As shared above, it’s best to gain buy-in early by basing the hot desk implementation plan on employee feedback.

Office Space Management: Without proper management, it's easy to run into issues with space availability and overcrowding. Utilize desk booking software and analytics tools to monitor space utilization. Adjust the office layout based on data to ensure optimal usage. 

Technology and Infrastructure: Inadequate technology and IT infrastructure can hinder productivity. Ensure that the office has sufficient power outlets, reliable Wi-Fi, and necessary tools like docking stations and charging points to support mobile work.

Privacy and Security Concerns: Hot desking may raise data security and privacy concerns. Educate employees on best practices and use privacy screens on monitors to protect sensitive information for people who need it – as your legal or HR team member may now be sitting next to people outside their department.

Maintaining a Clean and Organized Workspace: With multiple users, workspaces can become messy quickly. Encourage employees to clean up after themselves and have a cleaning schedule to ensure a tidy and hygienic environment. Appoint ambassadors of the new working style to support people sticking to the clean desk policy and locker usage.

"Unlocking the benefits of hot desking requires clear communication, smart space management, tech readiness, privacy safeguards, cleanliness culture, personalization options, fair reservations, cultural alignment, feedback loops, and data-driven refinement. Embrace these strategies for success in the flexible workspace era." #HotDeskingSuccess

Personalization and Comfort: Some employees may miss the personalization and comfort of their dedicated desks. Provide spaces for personalization, like lockers or shelves, and invest in ergonomic furniture to make shared workspaces comfortable. 

Reservations and Availability: Establish clear reservation policies and booking systems to prevent conflicts over desk availability. Encourage employees to plan ahead when reserving desks and make sure no one monopolizes spaces.

Cultural Shift: Transitioning to hot desking requires a cultural shift towards more agile and collaborative work. Invest in training and workshops to foster a culture of flexibility, teamwork, and adaptability.

Feedback Mechanisms: Create channels for employees to provide feedback about their hot desk experience. Regularly gather input and make adjustments based on their suggestions to improve the system continuously.

Monitoring and Evaluation: Continuously monitor the effectiveness of the hot desk model through data analysis. Use this information to refine the implementation and address any emerging issues promptly.

By addressing these challenges proactively and involving employees in the process, companies can successfully implement a hot desk model that enhances flexibility, collaboration, and efficiency while minimizing potential drawbacks.

Examples of Companies Hot Desking

Many companies have implemented hot desking. 

Dropbox launched Dropbox Studio, which offers on-demand desks, meeting rooms, and collaboration spaces for the otherwise remote-first company.

The multinational pharmaceutical company Takeda has removed fixed workstations to create more meeting rooms and community spaces and introduced 40 hot-desking workstations.

At the same time, law firm Dentons Rodyk has shifted from individual workstations to work cubicles and open workspaces to allow employees to work from different locations within the office.

Dropbox Studios Hot Desking
Dropbox Studios

Conclusion

Hot desking can be a valuable option for teams, especially remote- or hybrid-first, to increase collaboration and flexibility. 

By allowing employees to work from any desk or location, hot desking can help to break down silos, foster better communication and improve overall productivity. Other benefits include increased flexibility and cost savings. 

With careful planning and implementation, hot desking can be a powerful tool in building a successful and adaptive workplace culture.

We hope this article clears your doubts about hot desking and gives you a helpful guide to implement your hot desk plan. 

Welcome to
Future Work

Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.

Not a member yet? Join over 10,000 people-centric managers and subscribe here.

Rather listen? The spoken version will be available tomorrow on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

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