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What is Desk Booking? Your Complete Guide

office desk, employee at desk
The Robin Team
Published on

Desk booking became an increasingly popular topic due to the rise of the hybrid workplace.

When teams don't have regular schedules, they need a way to book desks in the office so they have the resources they need. This guide will explain what desk booking is, what the software does, how to implement it effectively at your company, tips for getting your team to use it successfully, and more.

What is Desk Booking?

Desk booking is the practice of reserving or booking a workspace or desk in a shared office environment. It is commonly used in flexible working arrangements or co-working spaces where multiple individuals or teams share the same office space.

Different Types of Desk Booking

Hot desking is an arrangement where individual employees can book desks on a day-by-day basis. This is a popular method in hybrid workplaces as people can reserve a space for their in-office days and organizations can ensure they are using their spaces effectively.

Desk hoteling refers to longer-term desk bookings. This is most useful for for out-of-town team members visiting your office, contractors in need of a temporary space or visiting clients and guests. The length of stay will vary depending on your needs but hoteling is generally defined as any reservation that spans more than 2 days at a time.

Assigned seating refers to a traditional office setup where each employee has a permanent desk or workspace. It offers stability and personalization but may be less efficient in terms of space management and utilization.

Desk booking is the process of reserving a desk space in the office.

What is a Desk Booking System?

A desk booking system is the defined process for locating and reserving desks in the workplace. This includes your desk booking strategy, policy and plans.

What is Desk Booking Software?

Desk booking software is the platform you use to book these desks. It's worth noting that sometimes the terms desk booking software and desk booking system are used interchangeably.

Desk booking software, also known as hot desking or hoteling software, makes it easy for teams to book office spaces when they plan to come in. It shows your team a map of the office, so they can easily choose a desk that fits their needs and is close to their colleagues.

Key Features of Desk Booking Software

As you consider which desk booking software your team will implement, look for these desk booking features to ensure your hot desk booking software rollout will be a success.

Desk Finder

A desk finder is a feature that enables employees to easily search for and locate available workstations in the office on any given day and time.
Any desk finding functionality should make it easy for users to search based on their preferences, such as location, amenities, and accessibility features.

Role-Based Permissions

Your desk booking software should make it possible to set different permissions for different users. For example, if you want individual contributors (or anyone not a manager) to be limited to individual workspace booking, but not conference or meeting room booking, you should be able to set that up easily.

Make it simple for teams to share their in-office schedule.

Workplace Analytics

Any desk booking software should provide analytics that give you insights into how your employees are making use of the office space. Collecting workplace data on metrics like desk occupancy, booking patterns, and user preferences for specific types of workstations will give you actionable insights into how you can optimize your own space usage. For example, if you find that a group of desks meant for independent work aren’t being used, you can swap that space into one aligned to more collaborative group work. 


Wayfinding features in desk booking software help employees navigate the office and locate their reserved workspace or meeting rooms with ease. This can include interactive maps, visual aids, and step-by-step directions that give employees the ability to find their way around the office and reducing the time spent searching for available workstations.

Smart Booking

More advanced hot desking functionality will enable you to pre-configure “neighborhoods” so teammates can work near each other to collaborate without worrying about someone else booking a desk they’ll need to sit with their teams. 

Neighborhoods can be activity-based work environments that allow people to do similar types of work in the same space.

Another key smart booking feature involves suggesting desks to employees based on their previous choices. 

Mobile Booking

A modern desk booking system will offer mobile desk booking capabilities that allow all users to check desk availability, book a desk, and check in all from their mobile devices. It should enable users to share schedules, book meeting or conference rooms (if their permissions allow it), and even alert their teams if changes happen.

If you don't offer flexible seating, desk booking software can help you better organize seating charts and map out your office floor plan in real time using interactive layout tools. For more details on additional key features, check out this in-depth article on desk booking software.

In Robin, teams will get suggestions about where to sit based on their preferences.

How Does a Desk Booking System Work?

Typically, desk booking systems provide a user-friendly way for teams to find, reserve and manage their bookings. This is done through a desk booking software. Teams use your chosen desk booking software to book desks and make plans for their in-office days.

When employees book desks they'll get an email notification confirming their reservation and receive a reminder on the day of their booking. Admins can manage which desks are available to who and also set permissions around usage and bookings.

What are the Benefits of Desk Booking?

When implementing desk booking in your workplace, there are lots of positive benefits. Here are a few of the most notable ones.

Better Space Utilization

Desk booking can contribute to cost and space savings for organizations by accurately determining the necessary number of desks each day. With employees not all present simultaneously, the traditional "one-desk-per-employee" approach is unnecessary. Embracing desk booking in hybrid workplaces promotes efficiency. If you find that most of your desks remain unused due to hybrid policies, implementing a desk booking solution allows for downsizing and repurposing of spaces.

Enhanced Employee Flexibility

When you have a desk booking system in place, it provides workers with enhanced flexibility and mobility in the workplace. By allowing employees to reserve desks as needed, desk booking promotes fluid work arrangements and empowers workers to choose their preferred work settings. This increased flexibility can boost productivity and job satisfaction.

More Efficient Processes

Is there anything worse than making your way into the office only to realize you can't find an available desk? Having a desk booking system in place ensures employees can reserve a space in advance. This cuts down on time spent wandering around the office trying to find a spot and enables teams to be more effective and productive.

Desk booking solutions ensure people have a place to sit and work when they head into the office.

What are the Challenges of Desk Booking?

Limited Availability: If there are more employees than available desks, it can be challenging to accommodate everyone's preferences. Certain days or times may be in high demand, leading to conflicts or dissatisfaction among employees.

User Adoption: Employees may resist or have difficulty adapting to a new desk booking system, particularly if they were accustomed to a different setup. It might require training and ongoing support to ensure smooth adoption and usage by all employees.

Flexibility and Changes: Office dynamics change over time, with employees joining or leaving the company, teams reorganizing, or work requirements evolving. The desk booking system should be flexible enough to accommodate these changes without causing disruptions or confusion.

That's why having a desk booking solution in place is so important. The right platform can ensure you are:

  • Providing teams with a user-friendly way to reserve desks
  • Allocating the right amount of your office space to desks
  • Getting insight into desk utilization rates so you can better plan for the future
  • Remaining flexible in your approach to space management

How do you Create a Desk Booking Strategy?

Desk booking can be a major advantage for your office but it's important to have a strategy in place to ensure things run effectively. Creating a desk booking strategy involves a few key steps.

First, consider the needs of your teams. What kind of desk booking system would best suit their day-to-day interactions with the office? What kind of equipment do different teams need for desks?

Then, take stock of your office space. Look at the square footage you are working with and determine what kind of desk layout would make sense for your plans.

Your desk booking strategy may include suggestions around where people should sit.

From there, you can begin to create a process for the reservation of desks. Build out a workflow that is straightforward for your people and be sure to consider any nuances in your office. You can set policies and permissions around certain workspaces. For example, maybe you want to reserve desk reservations in Pod A for the sales teams in an effort to help that department sit together.

As a part of your strategy, consider how you plan to rollout your desk booking system and software. Think about what approaches would support the best adoption levels across your teams and put time in place to regularly review how the system is working.

How to Roll Out a Desk Booking Policy

Once you've defined your strategy and shaped your policy comes the hard part: rolling out the desk booking system to your teams. Here's a few things to keep in mind.

Support Your Teams with the Right Technology

Make sure desks are equipped with the right equipment and infrastructure. Include the right cables, monitors, keyboards and mouses so employees can access the things they need to do their best work. It helps to also consider including some standing desks so people can switch up their working position during the day.

Communicate Your Plans and Policy

Perhaps the most important part of the process is how you communicate your plans and policies to teams. Desk booking systems need to be paired with a clearly defined rollout plan so people know what is expected of them. Create a variety of communication of options to ensure no one misses the memo. Think: email reminders, company announcements in town halls, Slack or Teams messages and formally documented guidelines.

Provide Training

Although a good desk booking system facilitates easy and intuitive desk reservations, it is crucial to provide training and ongoing support, especially during the initial stage of implementation, to drive adoption and maintain high usage. Conduct initial training sessions and keep an open line of communication for any questions.

Review, Refine, Repeat

Once you've rolled out your policies and plans around desk bookings, make sure you continually review how the processes are working and make any necessary changes. Make sure teams have a dedicated feedback channel so they can surface any issues with the current process. Use workplace analytics to understand how your desks are being used and where there might be room for improvement.

For a more comprehensive look at how to roll out your desk booking policy, check out this blog on implementing a desk booking system.

Keep tabs on how your desk booking process is working so you can make the necessary adjustments as needed.

How to Manage Desk Booking

Now that your desk booking system is in place, you need to continue to manage and maintain your processes. You can use workplace analytics and employee feedback to determine what is and isn't working when it comes to desk booking in your office. Here are some key areas to keep in mind.

  • Desk usage. Use your desk usage data to keep a tab on what spaces are actually being used on a regular basis and by which teams. Forecast future desk needs based on utilization rates.
  • Desks by department. Break down desk booking data by team to see which teams are in-office collaborating more. Take corrective actions if teams aren’t using the office space or resources enough.
  • Space management. See which desks never get booked and determine ways to increase usage or repurpose the space for another use.
  • Employee feedback. Get feedback from employees to determine what they need from hot desks. For example, do they want an extra monitor? Standing desk options? Gather feedback and iterate on your approach.
  • Layout Considerations. Determine if people on the same team can get hot desks together, or if they find themselves being split up too often.

Use this data, along with more informal feedback-gathering methods, to see how employees are responding to the hot desking initiative. 

Desk Booking for Your Hybrid Workplace

Hopefully this guide gave you a good idea of what goes into desk booking. If you're interested in learning more about how to better manage desks in your office space, let's chat. Robin helps workplaces of all sizes streamline the management of their desks, meeting rooms and spaces.

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