Future of Work

Take my desk, I dare you

Hot-desking, desk hoteling, and how unassigned seats will reformat your office.

After three months without driving, I sold my car.

Living in the city I could use ridesharing apps, public transportation, or car rentals. I got more if I shared — with trip-by-trip flexibility.

At work, you might not need a desk. And you could even get more out of the office if you ditch it. Unassigned seating, commonly called “hot-desking,” is reformatting the workplace.

Why hot-desking is heating up


Unassigned environments offer variety. People gain access to more spaces, tools, and other people. Individuals can choose where they work, based on the work. While lively and collaborative, employees might compete for scarce resources.


Who gets a desk?

Some employees need dedicated workstations.

But traditional desk scheduling forces you to find the perfect ratio of space vs demand. After all that math, you find you still have empty desks day to day. What gives?

Hotdesk personas

When desks go unused, that’s space that could get reallocated to other people (or purposes). So how do you go about designating which employees get desks that are perm, semi-perm, or fully up for grabs? The space people occupy should reflect the reality of how they work.

  1. Resident (Assigned)

    More than 60% of time at assigned desk. 5 hrs at desk assuming 8 hour workday (20% of org).

  2. Flex (Mixed)

    Between 20%-60% of time at assigned desk. Between 1.5 to 5 hrs at desk each day (60% of org).

  3. Mobile (Unassigned)

    Less than 20% of time at unassigned desk. Less than 1.5 hours at desk each day (20% of org).


The office floor plan, reformatted

“Where else would I go? Our office isn’t designed for this”
— Incredulous Employee

No matter the combination of resident, flex, or mobile, you’re likely to hear this (or believe it yourself). If that’s the case, odds are your current office isn’t built for activity based work— yet. Hot-desking might sound like a nightmare, but you are thinking through the rollout without addressing a core requirement: activity based workspaces.


A space for every activity and every activity in its space

Flexible facilities pepper the coworking space Neuehouse. via Office Snapshots

Workplaces built for activity based tasks provide a seat and/or surface in many formats across one office. This way everyone can choose their preferred spots to work in throughout the day, in addition to desks. With activity based spaces, you’ll notice desk usage naturally decreasing. Without them, hot-desking will be a tough sell.

The default: assigned seating

Get a permanent seat, usually picked out by a manager or dept admin. 1:1 people to desks. Works for Flex and Resident types.

Options for unassigned seating

Hot-desking (free address)

Book a desk same day, on demand. Often refers to the entire philosophy of the shared desk and activity based work. Works for Flex and Mobile types.

Desk hoteling (desk booking, desk sharing)

Book non-permanent desks for longer periods of time, ahead of time. Long-term reservations (vs. hot-desking is short-term). Works for Resident and Flex types.  Note: different countries have different meanings for desk hoteling.

Reverse desk hoteling (easy to try)

Permanent seat is given up for hot-desking if employee is OOO. Helps reduce social anxiety, since you don’t need to be first in office to get a seat. Works for Resident and Flex types.

“If the company needs to save money, I’m happy to work from home” — Selfless employee


A workplace with choices

With hot-desking being done in smaller real estate footprints, the comfort and productivity of employees requires an office with flexibility. Done well, hot-desking and activity based work gives the power back to the people to choose where, when, and how they work. Employees are happier. No one feels chained to a desk.

I ditched my desk back in January. I can honestly say I don’t miss it, and I wouldn’t go back.

Robin makes scheduling software for meeting rooms and desks— with insights, maps, and tools to manage the modern workplace.

sources: Office SnapshotsVecteezy