What Is Hot Desking and Is It Right for Your Business?

what is hot desking

Trying to streamline a small business can be tough. From balancing employee schedules to fielding the costs of a brick-and-mortar store, keeping a company running efficiently is no simple task.

Luckily, a rapidly growing trend called hot desking is taking over as the latest and greatest way to organize offices. Keep reading to learn more about hot desking and how it works.

What Is Hot Desking?

Hot desking is an office trend where employees use desks that are available that day, rather than being assigned to a permanent desk or seat. As its name suggests, hot desking is a hot topic for businesses of all sizes. In fact, nearly two-thirds of companies intend to implement shared desks in 2020.[1]

Some companies may have started hot desking in an effort to cut the cost of leasing an office space. Instead of spending money on a larger office floor plan to accommodate every employee all the time, hot desking capitalizes on employees who may not spend every day in the office to create a more efficient work space.

How Does Hot Desking Work?

Hot desking works by using varying employee schedules to create an office space where desks can be shared by anyone. It’s all about availability: if Employee A works from home on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and Employee B works from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, both can use the same desk in the office because they won’t be in the office at the same time.

Some companies take advantage of technology to manage a hot desking environment. Using software to “check in” to a desk or reserve a workspace for the day is an easy way to streamline the sharing system and prevent employee overlap.

Hot desking often works best when paired with a more traditional system of desk usage. Many companies use a mix of hot desks and owned desks to accommodate for employee preferences or use variations of the sharing system like “zoning” and “hoteling.”

“Hoteling,” as the name implies, lets employees reserve a desk in advance. This method is perfect for companies who are introducing hot desking or are looking to streamline an office layout without creating pressure to stampede for seats.

“Zoning” creates designated team spaces for employees who regularly work together. With offices that have several types of employees (graphic designers, marketers, accountants, etc.), this variation is a way to create a strong team bond while offering the flexibility of a shared desk system. Instead of sitting next to team members with job descriptions that match your own every day, hot desking may create the opportunity to work near colleagues who may not even be in your department.

Advantages of Hot Desking

Minimizes wasted space. With office space being the second-biggest cost for most businesses, hot desking helps to minimize wasted space and cost by eliminating the need for every employee to own a desk.[2] Even when employees are traveling, working from home or out sick, hot desks won’t go unused.

Encourages teamwork. Collaboration boosts productivity by up to 25%, meaning an open floor plan with hot desks will help employees work together in teams more often.[3] Couches, bean bags, and picnic benches are great seating options for collaboration space.

Satisfies employees. Employees value flexibility in the workplace. In one study, 87% of employees said flexible work schedules are beneficial to productivity.[4] Offering weekly work-from-home days, remote work options, and other flexible work arrangements will make employees more productive and fulfilled.

Tidier workspaces. Because employees won’t have a desk to call their own, they’ll have no choice but to clean up their desks at the end of each day. This can cut down on mess and clutter which can make sanitizing workspaces easier and can be more aesthetically appealing.

Adaptability. Hot desking allows employees to mix things up and stop their work life from becoming stale. On days they need to collaborate with certain coworkers they can choose to sit near each other. If they want to get to know more about a different team, they can shift to sitting by that team instead of with their own. Being able to move around can help a new employee integrate into a company easier. Overall, hot desking encourages flexibility and adaptability in the workplace.

Disadvantages of Hot Desking

Damaged relationships. One study found that sharing a desk and workspace with coworkers negatively impacts coworker relationships.[5] Employees who work in a hot desking or activity-based office report diminished friendships and increased levels of distrust in colleagues.[6]

Increased sick days. All that sharing really adds up when it comes to office hygiene and can increase employee sick days. New research has found that the typical office desk used by just one person contains 400 times more germs than a public toilet seat—imagine adding multiple users to that desk![7] The same study also concluded that two in three employees are at risk of illness due to dirty desks.

Decreased focus. The clamor of an open office can cause unwanted noise and commotion during the day. One study concluded that noise pollution drastically impacts employees’ ability to focus, leading some to feel less valued and stressed.

Communication disconnect. If you have a large office space with many employees, not having a formal seating plan can make it more difficult for coworkers to find one another. This can be a problem when IT needs to stop by to look at a specific laptop or when a manager wants to check in on their employees. Not knowing where anyone is sitting that day can make it even harder to remember who is working in the office that day and who is working from home.

Is Hot Desking Right for Your Business?

Think your small business could really benefit from a hot desking system? There are some important things you should keep in mind before you decide to set up a hot desking environment. Ask yourself the following questions before making such an important decision.

Do you want to set rigid schedules? Hot desking relies on structured schedules to work. If you don’t already, consider offering weekly work-from-home days or the option to telecommute. This will free up desk availability and give your employees the flexibility they crave.

Do your employees like the idea? Hot desking is a big change and may be a concept that many of your employees have not even heard of. Send around a quick survey to see what your staff thinks of the idea and if they love it or if they raise some valid concerns.

Are you looking to innovate? Hot desking is a great way to help your small business grow—it can boost productivity, employee satisfaction, and efficiency. Remember: keeping your employees’ schedules in mind is one of the most important things to remember if you want to help your team succeed with hot desking!

Infographic Sources:

Acuity Mag | BBC | Brandon Gaille | CBRE | ComfyApp | Emerald Insight | Inc. | JellOfficeSpace Software | Robin Powered | Science Direct | The Conversation

Article Sources:

  1. CBRE.com. “Global Occupier Survey 2017
  2. ScienceDirect.com. “Desk Ownership in the Workplace: The Effect of Non-Territorial Working on Employee Workplace Satisfaction, Perceived Productivity and Health
  3. i4cp.com. “The Essential Components of Collaborative Culture
  4. Hiring.Monster.com. “Flexibility in the Workplace and Why it Matters
  5. ScienceDirect.com. “The Demands and Resources Arising from Shared Office Spaces
  6. Emerald.com. “Settlers, Vagrants and Mutual Indifference: Unintended Consequences of Hot-Desking
  7. Printerland.co.uk. “Germs in Your Firm
Founding Editor and VP at Fundera at Fundera

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. 

Meredith launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014. She has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending and financial management.

Read Full Author Bio