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Hot Desking 101: the Advantages and Disadvantages

office layout, desk setup, hot desking
The Robin Team
Published on

Hot desking enables a more fluid approach to meeting workspace needs, while better addressing the evolving (and increasingly flexible) nature of work schedules and how work gets done today. 

Hot desking has been widely adopted by organizations for a number of reasons. The flexibility of hot desking means that organizations don’t need to “spend” as much floor space and money/overhead cost on desks that may go underused or totally unused (for example, when an employee with a dedicated desk is on vacation or medical leave). In a hybrid work model, implementing hot desking also supports employee productivity, flexibility, and EX/experience.

This article explores what you need to know about a hot desking advantages and disadvantages, and how to do it right in your workplace.

What is Hot Desking?

With a hot desking set up, a pool of unassigned seating is created and allotted on a reservation basis to anyone in the office who needs a place to work for the day (compared to desk hoteling which are reservations for multiple days).

Hot desking gives everyone just the right amount of space for the day and duration they need it. It can even assist in growth management, as it helps facilities respond to future workplace desking needs as they arise. 

Hot desking enables team members to book desks for their in-office days.

5 Advantages of Hot Desking for People and Organizations

The benefits of hot desking extend to both the organization and the employees:

1. Optimized office spaces

A hot desk setup, with clearly communicated hot desk usage guidelines, can help organizations make the best use of their space while empowering employees to choose their own workday adventure.

2. Role requirements

Hot desk arrangements allow employers to account for people’s diverse roles and space requirements. While a field sales rep, for example, may only require a desk once or twice per month, an accountant may need more frequent access to a desk. A shared desk approach can accommodate users no matter how many days per month they spend in the office. 

3. Reduced square footage

A hot desk setup reduces the amount of square footage and infrastructure required to give workers the workspace they need. Rather than populate your open floor plan or office layout with an abundance of desks to satisfy maximum capacity, facilities managers and other workplace experience planners can take a more thoughtful approach, creating other types of activity-based working areas or shared spaces. This can not only benefit teams but helps companies reduce real estate costs by limiting wasted space.

4. Welcoming mobile workers and visitors

A hot desking environment can also accommodate full time remote workers and visitors who can enjoy the soft benefits of visiting the office to build relationships and collaborate with colleagues, attend important meetings or events, or even just get a change of scenery. 

5. Culture and collaboration

Hot desk setups can give the proper mix of a team member having their own personal space and shared workspaces for meetings. This can improve company culture and be a source of fresh ideas and collaboration. Being able to check into a hot desk near a different department for the day, for example, allows people to work closely with another team on a project or for community-building purposes, giving you the right access to the area without having to displace other permanent desk space or squat in a meeting room. 

When done right, hot desking can enable more peer-to-peer collaboration.

4 Disadvantages of Hot Desking (with solutions)

While the hot desking concept is ideal for many needs and purposes within the office, it’s not without its pitfalls (see below). The good news is, many of the perceived shortcomings of flexible workspaces can be remedied through thoughtful planning and a good tech stack. 

1. Noise

Noise mitigation is needed to make any hot desk setup more convenient and comfortable. Busy days may make the office hot desking area a noisier space, which can lead to a drop in productivity. One popular solution is to have an office design with separate, enclosed meeting room options to either support focused work or give workers needing to conduct video or phone calls a place where they can work without disturbing others. 

2. Availability

Making calculations on your density, average traffic patterns, meeting room requirements, and desking needs can be a little tricky. But not making these calculations can mean employees are struggling to find seating on a busy day. Heated competition for limited desks can catalyze undesired behaviors such as an individual camping out in a conference room or parking in a common area such as a kitchen or open breakout space. 

Different people may have varying work patterns, but events or special occasions within the office can drive up in-office attendance. Having clear hot desk guidelines for those high-occupancy periods can make a big difference for your entire office. 

‍Many organizations include a mix of hot desks and permanently assigned desks as part of their hot desk setup/inventory. It should be clear to employees what desks are available and where for their usage.

‍3. Cleanliness and etiquette issues

Because different people with different ideas about cleanliness will share the same desk at different times of the day and/or week, special consideration must be given to the cleaning and hygiene needs of shared desks and spaces. Your hot desk guidelines should have clear rules about what condition to leave the shared desk/space in when you vacate it and leave it for the next person. Hot desking etiquette should be a simple and widely-communicated set of rules.

4. Booking

Having available desks is only half the battle when planning an effective hot desking program for your office. Shared spaces need to be efficient in terms of booking and use. While using spreadsheets may get the job done adequately enough in some cases, they leave a lot to be desired and leave some fairly exciting features on the table. Upgrading your booking system from the shared spreadsheet or office binder to an integrated, interactive desk booking system allows your staff to take the best advantage of the space available to them, without the mistakes and friction points of solutions from “ye olden times.” 

Despite some challenges, the advantages of a hot desking setup can far outweigh its flaws in terms of effective and comfortable use of resources.

Having the right desk booking software makes it easier for teams to effectively hot desk.

Better Managing Your Office Space with Hot Desks

Hot desking is an increasingly popular option for flexible workplaces. It's critical that you have the right guidelines, processes and technology in place to support your teams when they come into the office.

Robin is here to help - learn more about our industry-leading desk and room booking software today!

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