Is Office Hoteling Right for You?

April 10, 2018


10 Considerations Before You Switch to Flexible Workspaces

IBM has been doing it since the mid 1990’s. Accounting giant Deloitte touts its collaboration advantages. And the London office of UBS has used it to create a vibrant, productive work environment.

We are fast entering the golden age of office hoteling, where companies have turned away from permanent desks and offices to a more flexible system for creating and assigning work spaces on an as-needed basis.

In this model, the cubicle and coveted corner office have been replaced with a variety of spaces, from cozy nooks to large, open tables. Employees dynamically schedule these desks and meeting areas, which gives them the freedom to choose their optimal working environment. As a result, businesses in all industries are seeing a range of benefits, including everything from improved interdepartmental communication to significant overhead savings.

But would office hoteling benefit your organization?

To answer that question, here’s a handy checklist of 10 key considerations to think about before making the move.

Potential Benefits

  1. Workspace Utilization
    Employee travel, vacation time, illness, telecommuting and other factors contribute to the underutilization of traditional office space, a figure that some estimates put as high as 50 percent. Office hoteling promises to decrease building and facilities costs by slashing unneeded square footage.

    But your company shouldn’t count on such savings until you take a good, hard look at your own numbers. Gather any data that shows how, when, and by whom your spaces and resources currently are being used, and what costs are associated with disuse—so that you can make informed decisions. (Learn more about utilization reports for capturing and analyzing workspace data.)
  2. Company Culture
    Office hoteling can have a dramatic impact on company culture. It can break down barriers between departments and lead to increased communication between hierarchies, as individuals are more likely to interact with those outside their own divisions or positions. 

    Ask yourself: What is our company culture? What is the balance of interactions now, and would we benefit from the changes that hoteling would bring?
  3. Collaboration
    The very nature of work has changed and these days, and the overwhelming majority of it is knowledge-oriented rather than task-based. Most knowledge workers require an environment that supports collaboration and innovation rather than isolation. If your business is knowledge-based and does not already offer enough collaborative opportunities, it would likely benefit from the habitat that hoteling fosters.

Practical Considerations

  1. Security Concerns
    Do your employees routinely deal with confidential documents? Businesses in fields such as finance, government, and health care must carefully reflect on how hoteling might impact the safety and care of the information they handle. There’s a greater risk of information being compromised when employees regularly move sensitive documents from one place to another, as items (paper files, laptops, etc.) may be harder to secure or can get misplaced.

    In addition, you’ll also need to weigh the risks of potentially larger numbers of workers accessing your network via mobile devices, which can cause additional security challenges related to identity authentication and authorization.
  2. Change Management
    As when considering any other significant change in the workplace, it’s prudent to take the pulse of the workforce. What do your employees think about a change to flexible workspaces? Are they enthusiastic and ready to try something new, or will they have to be dragged kicking and screaming from their beloved cubicles?

    If the latter, your organization would be wise to conduct internal surveys to find out what concerns employees have so that you can deal with those issues in advance. Getting employees onboard ahead of time will go a long way toward a successful move to a new office environment.

  3. IT Framework
    Getting rid of permanent office spaces usually means jettisoning the fixed hardware that comes with them, like the computer workstation, the dedicated printer, etc., and switching to a system often reliant on mobile devices and high-speed WiFi. Along with new technology, you’ll want to consider ongoing IT maintenance required for a possible uptick in troubleshooting when, say, the network doesn’t recognize a device (which is more likely to happen when devices are continuously being connected and disconnected).

    Also, because employees will be setting up their workspaces fresh each day and dismantling them after each use, consider the impact hoteling might have on potential lost productivity.
  4. Personalization
    One of the biggest criticisms of office hoteling is that, depending upon how it is implemented, it can strip environmental control from the hands of the employees. How important is personalization to your workforce? Do employees have the ability to control lighting, music and other environmental factors? Do they get satisfaction from displaying personal photos and artwork?

    If so, a hoteling model that allows for plenty of personalization may work best for your organization. Instead of a workplace heavily weighted toward lots of open, cafeteria-style spaces, consider a balance of enriched spaces that allow for a variety of working styles and personalities.
  5. Fixed Resources
    It’s also important to think about what percentage of your office personnel could actually take advantage of the benefits of flexible workspaces. A move to hoteling doesn’t necessarily mean the entire workforce can participate. Be sure to take into account which people and resources will need to stay fixed when deciding whether an overhaul is worth it.

    For example, pools of administrative assistants may need to stay in one centralized area. The same may go for those who need closed, secure spaces for daily, high-concentration individual tasks. This doesn’t mean hoteling isn’t right for your company, but as with personalization, it needs to offer a variety of spaces to be successful.
  6. Health Effects
    Shared desk and workspace areas have the potential to increase the spread of disease, along with other health risks such as the stress of unexpected noises and ergonomically unfriendly seating arrangements common in shared desk and workspace areas. Consider whether your organization is equipped to combat these potential hazards, perhaps through employee education, distribution of antibacterial wipes, offering noise-canceling headphones, and more.
  7. Robust Scheduling
    Finally, implementing a flexible workspace is practically impossible without a robust scheduling system for reserving desk, room, meeting, and other workspaces. The system should allow users to reserve and check in to workspaces, enable companies to set up neighborhoods for seating by business unit, job function, project team, or other, and be able to enforce simple check-in and check-out processes to identify no-shows and ensure accurate utilization metrics.

    Ask yourself if your company has or is willing to invest in the backend system necessary to put hoteling into place. Because office hoteling will fail if your employees can’t identify open space or you can’t collect accurate utilization data.

Your Hoteling Scorecard

Hoteling promises many benefits, including reduced real estate costs and improved employee productivity, but clearly it isn’t for everyone. We hope this checklist has been helpful as you weigh the pros and cons for your particular business. And if you decide that this type of flexible workspace is right for your organization, we invite you to learn more about how EMS can help your organization simplify office hoteling.