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The Definitive Guide to Hot Desking

In today’s dynamic work landscape, companies across the globe are embracing a modern and flexible approach to workspace design known as hot desking. This trend has gained momentum, as evidenced by recent implementations at major organizations.


For example, Google’s cloud unit encouraged desk sharing among employees at its largest locations, promoting collaboration and adaptability. Similarly, Steve Barclay, the British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, transformed a floor in his Westminster offices to foster a collaborative working environment for government officials. Notably, payment-processing company Square has been successfully practicing hot desking since 2016.


In this article, we will explore the concept of hot desking in-depth, highlighting its advantages and challenges, and offering practical tips for implementing and thriving in a hot desking environment. By embracing this innovative approach, companies can enhance collaboration, flexibility, and maximize space utilization in the evolving world of work.

What is Hot Desking?


Hot desking is a flexible working arrangement where employees do not have assigned desks. Instead, they have the freedom to choose an available desk or workspace when they arrive at the office. It involves sharing desks and workstations on a first-come, first-served basis. In hot desking environments, employees typically bring their belongings with them each day and may sit in a different location each time they come to work. The purpose of hot desking is to optimize workspace utilization, promote collaboration, and provide flexibility in office layouts.

Activity-Based Workplaces


Hot desking is part of a broader movement toward activity-based workplaces. As work tasks and methods become more intricate and adaptable, traditional office designs are being replaced by innovative office concepts known as “New Ways of Working,” which focuses on redesigning offices to accommodate activity-based workspaces, dedicated areas for concentrated work, meeting rooms, and an outcome-oriented approach.


NWW prioritizes freedom and trust in how employees carry out their work. Inspired by the experiences of teleworking, NWW allows employees to work independently of time, location, and organization, supported by information and communication technologies. Among the various NWW concepts, activity-based working stands out as one of the most advanced approaches.


In an activity-based setup, employees do not have assigned workstations. Instead, they have the flexibility to choose from a range of open, semi-open, and closed workstations based on their preferences and daily tasks. The number of workstations is intentionally kept lower than the total number of employees, and workspaces are booked or used temporarily to optimize their utilization. Employees are encouraged to maintain clean and unoccupied workstations when they are away for an extended period. Lockers and trolleys are provided to support the flexible use of workspaces, and these offices often embrace a paperless environment. Activity-based workplaces are frequently implemented alongside the option of working from home, allowing employees to strike a balance between office and remote work.


The example of LinkedIn’s Workplace Design Lab demonstrates the practical implementation of activity-based workplaces. The team noticed that only around 30% of their workstations were being used during regular business hours due to meetings, remote work, and travel. This led them to explore collaborative and focused workspaces. By experimenting with different concepts and solutions in their own workspace, LinkedIn’s team gained valuable firsthand knowledge on how various products and applications support different workstyles.

Benefits of Activity-Based Workplaces and Hot Desking


Companies are implementing activity-based workplaces and hot desking for several compelling reasons. Let’s further explore these motivations:


Space Optimization: Hot desking allows companies to optimize their office space by reducing the number of dedicated workstations. With employees sharing desks, companies can make more efficient use of their physical workspace, potentially saving on real estate costs. By eliminating underutilized or unused workstations, companies can create a more streamlined and productive environment.


Sustainability: Addressing the environmental impact of buildings is crucial in global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. According to the World Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for a significant portion of global carbon emissions, with 39% attributed to them. The energy required for heating, cooling, and powering these buildings accounts for 28% of their emissions. By reducing the number of dedicated workstations through hot desking, companies can downsize their office footprint, resulting in reduced energy consumption and environmental impact.


Flexibility and Agility: Hot desking offers employees the flexibility and agility to choose where they work based on their needs and preferences. It accommodates remote work, flexible schedules, and encourages a mobile workforce. Employees can work from different locations within the office or even outside the office, fostering a more dynamic and adaptable work environment. This flexibility promotes work-life balance and supports the changing needs of employees.


Collaboration and Cross-Team Communication: Hot desking removes physical barriers and encourages employees to interact in shared spaces, fostering collaboration and cross-team communication. By eliminating fixed desk assignments, employees from different departments or teams have increased opportunities to connect, exchange ideas, and work together more effectively. This promotes a sense of unity, encourages knowledge sharing, and enhances overall team collaboration.


Employee Engagement and Well-being: Hot desking can positively impact employee engagement and well-being by offering variety and choice in the workspace. Employees have the freedom to select a desk or environment that suits their work style, helping to create a more comfortable and personalized experience. This sense of autonomy and empowerment can contribute to higher levels of job satisfaction, creativity, and overall well-being.


These factors, along with others, contribute to the growing adoption of hot desking as companies strive to create more flexible, collaborative, and cost-effective work environments. By embracing activity-based workplaces and hot desking, companies can optimize space, promote sustainability, enhance flexibility, foster collaboration, and prioritize employee engagement and well-being.

Hot Desking Challenges


Despite the clear benefits of hot desking, the concept has faced criticism in the academic literature. Negative appraisals tend to fall into one of three categories:


Ineffective Management: One common criticism is the slow and inconsistent methods of distributing desks in hot-desking systems. This can lead to misunderstandings about desk availability, resulting in confusion and frustration among employees. When employees are unsure of desk availability or encounter difficulties in finding suitable workspaces, it can disrupt their workflow and productivity.


Loss of Working Synergies: In traditional assigned desk systems, team members are intentionally placed in close proximity to facilitate collaboration and discussion. Hot-desking disrupts this arrangement by removing fixed desk assignments, making it harder for individuals working on similar projects to interact regularly. The impact on productivity and employee happiness is challenging to measure precisely, but even small variations in productivity can have significant effects on team dynamics and outcomes.


Cultural and Behavioral Barriers: Hot-desking eliminates the personalization and adaptation of desks to individual preferences and working styles. Employees often personalize their desks with sentimental items, such as photos and personal belongings, as well as practical items like working documents and customized furniture. The absence of these personalized elements may affect employee comfort and productivity, as individuals may not feel a sense of ownership or familiarity in their workspace.


These criticisms shed light on the potential challenges associated with hot-desking, particularly related to management effectiveness, working synergies, and accommodating individual preferences and needs. It is crucial for organizations to address these concerns and implement strategies that mitigate the negative impacts of hot desking, such as ensuring clear communication about desk availability, fostering alternative methods for team collaboration, and providing opportunities for personalization within shared workspaces. By proactively addressing these challenges, companies can create a more supportive and productive environment for employees in hot-desking arrangements.


Intelligent Hot Desking


The rise of “smart” technologies presents an opportunity to address many of the challenges associated with hot desking by utilizing data about the workplace, its occupants, and their preferences. Research shows that an employee’s position in the workplace, both in an absolute sense and in relation to others, significantly impacts their behavior and happiness.


Intelligent hot-desking involves determining the best desk for an employee based on a weighted algorithm using various inputs. These inputs could include factors such as noise levels in different areas of the office, the duration of an employee’s stay, the nature of their work, their environmental preferences, desk configuration, and personal preferences derived from occupant feedback.


For example, acoustic sensors could be used to measure noise levels, and individuals could indicate their work theme or project for the day. Preferences for office temperature and lighting could also be considered. Employees could even select specific office equipment they need for the day, such as multiple monitors.
With the potential to incorporate individual preferences and optimize the work environment, intelligent hot-desking holds the promise of creating a more personalized and efficient workspace for employees.



When implementing shared workstations, it’s vital to find the right balance between the number of people and work spaces. If there aren’t enough spaces available, it can result in unhappy employees and a decline in their productivity. On the other hand, having an adequate number of workstations allows for seamless team communication and the ability to produce top-notch work. Getting this ratio right is key to ensuring the success of desk sharing in the workplace.


Hoteling allows employees to secure a desk for a specific day or time period, ensuring that they have a designated workspace when they need it. In contrast to hot desking where employees just show up and choose a desk, desk hoteling, also known as hoteling or desk booking, is a flexible workspace arrangement where employees use mobile apps to reserve or book desks on an as-needed basis. Technology like VuBook enables employees to view an interactive map and reserve space that best meets their individual needs.


By embracing desk hoteling, organizations can optimize workspace utilization and empower employees to work efficiently and effectively.


In conclusion, hot desking and desk hoteling are transforming the way we approach workspace design and organization. Companies are embracing these flexible arrangements to optimize space utilization, promote collaboration, and create adaptable work environments. By implementing hot desking, companies can reduce real estate costs, enhance sustainability efforts, and provide employees with flexibility and autonomy in choosing their workspace.


The challenges associated with hot desking, such as management effectiveness and accommodating individual preferences, can be addressed through intelligent hot-desking solutions that leverage data and algorithms to create personalized and efficient workspaces.


Additionally, desk hoteling offers employees the convenience of reserving a designated workspace when needed, further optimizing workspace utilization. By adopting these innovative approaches, companies can create dynamic, collaborative, and cost-effective work environments that meet the evolving needs of the modern workforce.

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