The first time I heard the term hot desking, I immediately thought, “that must be a desk that keeps your coffee warm, right?” Wrong. While a desk with a warming plate would be pretty neat (just get a Yeti for now), that’s not the type of hot desking we’re talking about here.
More and more companies are joining the hot desking movement. Fortune 500 companies around the world have shifted from a traditional to an activity-based workplace as a result of employees away from their assigned desks for more than half of the time, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
Multinational organizations aren’t the only ones incorporating open offices and activity-based environments, though. Emerging companies outgrowing their office space or expanding to new cities build out similar floor plans as well.
But making the jump to hot desking can seem daunting to offices with a 1-to-1 seating plan now, especially when the industry introduces new terms at what feels like the speed of light.
So we decided to put together a concise desking glossary to get you on board, clear up any confusion, and act as a reference any time you simply forget a term.
Welcome to the world of hot desking
First, let’s cover the different types of office environments and setups.
- Refers to the entire philosophy of creating a flexible environment for employees in an office setting, with specific practices like agile work meant to support it
- The practice of providing employees with a choice of office settings for a variety of tasks and activities throughout the workday
- Recognizes that certain activities require specific settings and gives employees the freedom to choose when, where, and how they work
Agile working (Agile office)
- The practice of creating a flexible and productive environment by providing employees with a variety of settings that they can move through quickly and easily in order to support an activity-based environment
- The variety of settings provided to employees to support different types of activities like couches or high top tables for social or collaborative purposes, or private pods for focus work, for example
Neighborhood (aka zone)
- An area in the office dedicated to a specific team or work function
- A collection of settings/spaces including an open area for people to gather in the heart of the neighborhood, a dedicated area to display work-in-progress, compact spaces for 2-4 people to gather and work, individual work points arranged to support collaboration, and private spaces for 1 to 2 people
- Multi-purpose spaces in the office based on the task at hand (e.g. meetings, brainstorming sessions, individual work, one-on-ones) that encourage employees to move around throughout the day
Types of desk reservations
- Assigned seats
- Hot desking
- Agile desking
- Free address
- Reverse hoteling
Seat assignments (Assigned desks)
- Everyone is assigned a permanent seat with no expiration date in mind, usually picked out by a manager or dept admin
- Office is 1-to-1 desks to people; employees have the option to add personality to their desks and use them as storage points
- On-demand, same-day reservable desks, requiring people to check in and out
- Does not allow booking in advance and reservations reset daily
- A flexible seating arrangement where employees have options of where to work from throughout the office instead of one particular assigned seat
- Hot desking is often referred to as free address; workspaces without assigned seating; same-day desk reservations that require employees to keep the space clean for the next employee to reserve
- Advanced reservation; People pre-schedule desks vs. spontaneous reservation, often longer-term
- With the right policies, hoteling feels similar to hot desking. We’d expect to find setups with rules that align with the spirit of traditional hot desking, e.g. “You can check in the night before”.
Reverse desk hoteling
- Assigned seats are reserved by others when their normal occupant isn’t in the office
- A desk auto-unbooks if no one shows
- When Sally’s out on vacation, her desk becomes open to book
Note: This glossary will be updated as the world of hot desking continues to change and/or expand.