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What Is Hot Desking and How You Can Benefit from It

June 1st, 2024 • 13 min read
Blog Hybrid Work What Is Hot Desking and How You Can Benefit from It
Blog Hybrid Work What Is Hot Desking and How You Can Benefit from It

Although we seemed to say goodbye to the COVID-19 pandemic a couple of years ago, its consequences have still been impacting businesses and workplaces. With over one-third of office spaces staying unoccupied on the global scale and only 14% of desks and cubicles used for five or more hours on a given day, companies do have an urgent need to rethink their office space utilization and layout as well as return-to-office policy.

Some major players responded to the massive workplace shake-up immediately in the aftermath of the pandemic, such as HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, which started transitioning to hybrid work and hot desking in 2021, thus shrinking its square forage by 40%. Explore what hot desking means, how it fits into the new, hybrid, and remote-first workplace reality, and how your company can embrace this flexible office system.

What Are Hot Desks?

Hot desking is one of the trending systems for hybrid office organization, which implies sharing workspaces between many people rather than having them assigned to particular individuals or jobs. While in a traditional office, every worker gets their personal seating, within the hot desk system, any person granted access to the office can use any workstation they like, provided it is not currently occupied.

Initially, the hot desking system was used to serve employees on a first-come, first-served basis without prior reservation required. This approach to hot desking translated into a stressful experience for workers, who had to either outrace each other for better seating or settle for what was left. With the development of digital reservation systems, hot desking became more streamlined and almost merged with another flexible office system called hoteling.

The latter concept is similar to hot desking as it also relies on unassigned workspaces that can be used by different people within working hours, but it is based on dynamic scheduling and requires booking tables in advance, often days or even weeks ahead. Alternatively, workers can spontaneously drop in at the office and get available hot desk spaces or use an app to book a workstation for several hours or the whole day.

UnSpot, a smart platform for hot desking and office hoteling reservations, allows workers to breezily switch between the options and book workplaces both short and long-term.

In fact, today’s hot desking system goes beyond table reservation and allows visitors to book different types of workstations and various premises for working in teams. Hot desk spaces can offer conference rooms, private offices, phone booths, areas for creative activities, soundproof pods for focused work, and workplaces equipped with specific technology like dual monitors or multimedia.

What Are the Benefits of Hot Desking for All: Business, C-Level, and Managers?

As it was mentioned above, the hot desking system allows businesses to manage their square footage more efficiently. Companies paying a lease on a large space not used to the fullest extent can reduce the floor area and all the associated expenses by switching to flexible hot desking solutions. Since several people can occupy the same workstation one after another day by day, a smaller office can accommodate a greater number of workers, giving the company a nice chance to scale down its real estate portfolio. In turn, companies renting out workspaces can cut down the number of empty desks and maximize their profit by offering a hot desk coworking space instead of cubicle farms and long rows of workstations.

However, the benefits of the system don’t end here since hot desking makes it easy for hybrid, WFH, and mobile workers to get a workplace with all the technology they need as soon as such a necessity arises without the hassle of planning and booking in advance. Hot desk spaces empower employees to choose when, how, and where they want to work, granting them more freedom and flexibility, which contributes to job satisfaction and better work-life balance.

Moreover, by letting people easily change their seating, the coworking hot desk system brings together members of different teams or even representatives of different businesses for improved collaboration, better knowledge sharing, and faster partnership development. As hot desking encourages employees to move across the office space and sit side by side with different co-workers, it also works toward expanding social interactions and building stronger professional bonds within the company, thus strengthening its culture.

By adopting the hot desk concept and optimizing their workstation utilization, companies can rearrange their floor plans to better suit modern workplace needs and boost employee productivity, for example, by introducing more premises for collaboration.

What Are the Pitfalls of Hot Desking?

No system is perfect, and hot desking is no exception. Before switching to this workspace model, evaluate the challenges it comes with and their possible impact on your work climate.

Since hot desk spaces are non-reservation-based, the system cannot ensure that everyone wishing to visit the office on a given day will get a place to work. Even if there are available spots, some workers can feel unhappy with the seating arrangements or a set of technologies attached to the workstations, which will affect their satisfaction and productivity. Within hot desking office space, it might be even trickier to find enough unoccupied places for a team wishing to sit side by side for collaboration.

Another issue associated with hot desking is a lack of personalization. For some employees, it’s harder to build a sense of belonging in the workplace if they cannot make it their own by keeping personal belongings there or adjusting everything to their preferences. The need to tune up monitor settings or tweak the chair height every time they visit the hot seat office can be frustrating. The lack of privacy and personalization can destroy employee morale and affect productivity.

Besides, the ever-changing hot desking environment can make workers feel isolated and unsupported. Suppose a person has to sit next to different people all the time with no idea where their team members and supervisors are located. In that case, they can suffer from abandonment and face difficulties with finding help and guidance from their colleagues.

How to Make Hot Desking Work?

Luckily, these obstacles can be eliminated or minimized by arranging hot desk spaces properly, and here are some best practices applicable to the system.

For hot desk spaces to be more comfortable and efficient, provide them with sufficient support facilities, such as lockers for storing personal belongings, a print and copy area, filing and supply storage spaces, a breakout room, a waiting area for visitors, and other dedicated zones. They will help reduce noise levels in the workplace, allow for some privacy and personalization, and make the hot desking office space easier to navigate.

You should also find a balance between individual workstations and collaboration areas, as well as rethink meeting room utilization. Research says that only 41% of large conference rooms are occupied within working hours, against 90% of meeting spaces sized for 2-3 people. By rearranging your floor plans and adding privacy zones, phone booths, or differently sized premises for teams, you will arrive at a more flexible, productive, and comfortable hot desking office space.

Make sure to design a clear hot desk policy covering reservation rules, clean desk requirements, security systems, visitor management, shared resource usage, and other aspects of the unassigned workspace to ensure everyone knows how to behave themselves in the workplace and provide a smooth experience for all parties.

You can also adopt a customized approach to your hot desking arrangements by creating “neighborhoods” for specific teams, introducing activity-based workspaces for creative, collaborative, or quiet work, holding some workstations available for peak loads, and even integrating hot desking with the schedule-based hoteling system.

How Does Modern Technological Solutions Support Hot Desking in Office Spaces?

An efficient hot desk setup is technology-driven, as both smart digital systems and advanced equipment can add to your office space efficiency, employee productivity, and comfortable workplace environment. You should choose a reliable and feature-rich reservation system that will be available for your coworking hot desk users on multiple devices, including mobile phones, tablets, displays, and kiosks. Smart hot desking solutions with real-time maps will allow visitors to book workplaces in a convenient way without the help of a manager, removing possible bottlenecks and streamlining their hot desk experience.

You also need to equip your hot desk spaces with all the technology and appliances required to immediately get the workstations ready for use, such as easily accessible power outlets, high-speed internet connection via WiFi, charging stations, external monitors, additional cables, and even stationary laptops or PCs if they fit into your hot desking program. Your employees will be more productive spending less time struggling with connections, and your visitors will have less equipment to bring to the hot desking office.

Digital office hot desking solutions can increase productivity and enhance collaboration and communication in the workplace despite the hectic seating arrangement, so get your workstations connected to popular business tools like calendars, messengers, document-sharing systems, team management solutions, and video conferencing platforms. Don’t forget to track the efficiency of your hot desking system by gathering statistics on workspace utilization and attendance via a standalone app or a business analytics feature integrated into your reservation software. Insights into workspace usage help to assess your hot desking strategy, find areas for improvement, better plan for load spikes and drops, and make data-driven decisions about your real estate needs.

UnSpot collects workspace utilization data, delivers stats in real-time, offers easy-to-digest visualization, and generates meaningful reports for intelligent office space optimization.

Who Are the Best Candidates for Hot Desking?

Although the hot desking system can be blended with traditional workplace settings to get the best of both worlds, there are certain types of workers and companies capable of yielding the maximum benefits from hot desking.

Self-employed workers won’t need to pay a long-term lease or meet with clients at any random place, which looks unprofessional and might be disruptive when they have a hot desking option and a simple way to book a conference room or a workstation on the fly.

A study by OnePoll and TravelPerk reveals that 25% of employees working from home are less productive because of distractions at home or a lack of equipment. Thanks to hot desking, WFH workers can get fast access to the technology they need and a more friendly working environment, where they can also connect with their co-workers.

Entrepreneurs, especially those traveling a lot, can take advantage of the hot desking system not only because it can provide them with temporary offices or on-demand meeting rooms but also because of business connections they can build in the coworking environment.

With hot desking, companies adopting hybrid work have a great chance to reduce their real estate footprint and occupancy costs while fostering collaboration and keeping their workforce productive. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reports that 38% of organizations and 46% of employees confirmed improved productivity due to hybrid work, on top of a 61% increase in talent retention.

When implemented correctly, hot desking offers many opportunities for agility, collaboration, and innovation. Now that you know how hot desking works, you can make an informed decision whether this option fits into your scenario.

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