Hybrid work is here to stay. In May 2023, a survey by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development found that 83 percent of organizations polled had instituted a hybrid workplace model, with employees spending, on average, 1.5 days working remotely.

Nowadays, attracting and retaining top talent often hinges on offering some sort of hybrid work policy. A Zoom poll found that only 8 percent of workers prefer working in an office full-time, and many organizations are turning to hot desking to accommodate a hybrid workforce while reducing wasted office space. When it is done right, a hot desk workspace model can improve employee productivity, satisfaction, and innovation.

Here, we dive into what hot desking is, its benefits and downsides, and what to consider when implementing a hot desking workspace model.

What is Hot Desking?

Hot desking, also known as “hoteling,” is a flexible workspace arrangement where desks are used by different employees at different times, eliminating assigned seating and allowing businesses to maximize their work area and minimize unused space.

Hot desking was first introduced in the ‘90s when IBM began using it for its workforce. It became particularly popular in the wake of the pandemic when many companies moved to a hybrid work model — or closed their offices altogether and had employees “hot desk” from co-working spaces like WeWork, Regus, and LiquidSpace.

Graphic displaying "Hot Desking" definition: flexible workplace strategy where desks are shared between employees.

Hot Desking vs. Hoteling

The terms “hot desking” and “hoteling” are typically used interchangeably, and while they’re similar, there are some differences.

Hot desking traditionally gives employees access to a desk on a first-come, first-served basis — they just show up at the office and find an empty desk to use. Hoteling, on the other hand, lets employees reserve a desk ahead of time, either for a day or for a few days.

Since “hot desking” is a more commonly known term, it’s widely used to refer to the practice of using whatever desk is available, whether you reserve an available desk ahead of time or pop into the office and find one that’s empty.

Benefits of Hot Desking

Hot desking has several benefits for companies whose employees work from home some days and in the office other days. Many hybrid companies that haven’t adopted a hot desking model end up with a lot of wasted office space that could be better utilized — or they’re holding on to (and paying for) more real estate than they need.

If your workspace has desks, cubicles, or private offices that sit empty much of the time, here are some of the ways hot desking can benefit both your company’s bottom line and your employee’s satisfaction and productivity.

  1. It maximizes your workspace

Hot desking helps you get the most out of your office space, and it can decrease overhead costs. By not assigning permanent workspaces to hybrid employees, you can better utilize the space you have. For example, if your workspace includes private offices, but the employees who inhabit them don’t come in every day, you can turn them into meeting rooms or allow employees to book them for heads-down work or small-team collaborations.

  2. It helps you manage hybrid employees

Successfully implementing hot desking requires room and desk booking software that enables employees to reserve a desk, meeting room, or other collaborative space. By its nature, this type of software collects a wide range of data that makes it easy to keep track of when, how often, and for how long your employees are coming into the office.

  3. It helps facilitate collaboration and teamwork

Research shows that the less siloed a company’s departments are, the more innovative its workforce is. Hot desking leads to interactions between employees who may not otherwise see each other, which facilitates cross-functional collaboration and helps spark inspiration and innovation.

Hot desking makes it easy for employees to book desk space on the same day to work on a project — or multiple employees can reserve a conference room for in-person meetings or collaboration.

  4. It drives better decision-making

Desk and room booking software helps you streamline your operations through robust data collection and comprehensive reports and analytics. The data can help you analyze usage patterns and plan your workspace more effectively, as well as provide insight into the amount of real estate you might need (or need to let go of) in the future.

Graphic showcasing hot desking benefits: maximizes workspace, manages employees, helps collaboration, drives decision making.

What are the Disadvantages of Hot Desking?

Hot desking has a few disadvantages, including:

  1. Increased noise and reduced privacy

Hot desks can reduce privacy if employees share workspaces, which can make it harder to concentrate. Having a designated place for making phone calls or taking a Zoom meeting can help reduce noise in the shared workspace environment — or you can create different hot desk “zones” so employees can choose a “quiet zone” desk for heads-down work or a more bustling area where they can enjoy the company of co-workers.

  2. Lack of personalization

Hot desking can make it harder for employees to create a sense of ownership at the office since their workstations are always temporary. Some employees compensate by keeping a few personal pictures or figurines in their briefcase that they can set up while they’re working at the office.

  3. Potential for Conflict

Hot desks can lead to conflicts over desk or workspace availability, particularly if there are more employees than desks available. Desk booking software helps eliminate these issues — over time, as the data begins to roll in, employers can adjust the workspace configuration to reduce conflicts and ensure everyone has a place to work when they need it.

Hot Desking Infrastructure

Hot desking is effective and efficient, as long as the requisite infrastructure is in place, including hot desk booking software. Additionally, each workspace will need accessible power outlets, and you’ll need a station for printers and phones. Other infrastructure that can help ensure a smooth transition to hot desking includes:

  • Secure storage for employees, such as lockers or desks with lockable drawers
  • Common areas, including a kitchen
  • Private meeting rooms
  • Conference rooms with built-in tech for presentations

A 2023 Gensler survey of office workers in six U.S. cities found that employees who had access to different types of spaces within the office were happier and more productive in the office. If implementing hot desking within your organization leaves you with extra space, consider offering your employees spaces such as:

  • A workout room with equipment
  • A yoga or meditation room
  • A focus room or library
  • A mother’s room
  • A game room

How Hot Desk Booking Software Works

Accruent’s EMS hot desk booking software simplifies the logistics of instituting hot desks in your workplace. It also provides data insights to help drive decision-making that supports your bottom line and KPIs.

  1. Manage Your Space

Hot desking software has comprehensive space scheduling capabilities that make it easy to manage your space, whether it’s a single floor, multiple floors in a building, or even multiple buildings. The software can help you manage desks, conference rooms, A/V equipment, and more.

  • Use real-time calendar information to align schedules and find a free space
  • Reserve rooms based on location, capacity, available resources, and other key criteria
  • Schedule via mobile device
  • Keep everyone up-to-date with email alerts
  • Incorporate video conferencing

  2. Create the Best Experience for Users

The use of a hot desk booking system creates a personalized, hassle-free experience for users by allowing them to easily view spaces, book them, and check in to them. Using the software, employees can also:

  • Modify their booking
  • Access and update meeting information at various points of access
  • Book appropriate spaces based on the activity that will be taking place
  • Opt for reminders

3. Provide Access Across Platforms

The best hot desk booking software allows simple  integrations for seamless experiences. For example, with EMS you can connect to:

  • Microsoft Exchange/Outlook
  • Video conferencing systems like Skype for Business, Polycom and Cisco TMS
  • Student information systems
  • Facilities management systems
  • Building automated control systems

Hot Desking Made Simple with Accruent’s EMS Software

A smooth transition from assigned workspaces to a hot desking model requires a strategic approach that considers factors like employee readiness, space planning, technology integration, adapting company policies, and ensuring adequate resources.

Accruent’s EMS cloud-based workspace management and hot desk booking software offer a simple, flexible process that fits seamlessly into your established workflows using tools you already have to give you greater visibility into how your space is being used.

To learn more about EMS hot desk booking software, watch our demo — or contact us to learn more about our workplace management solutions for every industry.

With the right hot desk software solution, hot desking helps your organization utilize office space more effectively to cut costs, increase productivity, and solve many modern workspace management woes.

Hot Desking FAQs

Why is it called hot desking?

Hot desking got its name from the term "hot racking," which was a military practice of assigning several soldiers to a single bunk. This saved space, since they worked and slept in shifts.

How does hot desking work?

Hot desking allows hybrid workers to choose where they sit each day when they work in person at the office. Some models operate on a first-come, first-served basis, while others allow employees to reserve desks or meeting spaces in advance.

What happens if employees reserve the same desk?

Some companies take a loose approach to hot desking, which can create chaos or competition. With the right hot desk booking software, users won't be able to book the same desk as another person. Once a room or desk is booked, it will no longer appear as available on the app.

What are the downsides of hot desking?

Challenges of a hot desking system include a lack of personalization, potential for conflict, and reduced privacy. However, all of these potential issues are easily solved with the right implementation process and space management software.