What is Hot Desking? 7 Reasons Hot Desking is On Fire

May 16, 2023
Hybrid Work
What is Hot Desking? 7 Reasons Hot Desking is On Fire

TL;DR Article Summary

Hot desking is a flexible workspace arrangement where employees do not have assigned desks but instead share desks and choose from available workspaces in the office, catering to the needs of a hybrid work model.

  • Supported by surveys from McKinsey and others, hot desking enhances work-life balance, employee satisfaction, and organizational cost savings.
  • Key advantages include flexible schedules, increased collaboration, optimized resources, data-driven workspace management, and support for a diverse and inclusive work culture.
  • The concept, originating from the U.S. Navy's "hot racking" practice, differs from desk hoteling in terms of reservation duration and flexibility.
  • As the future of work leans towards hybrid models, hot desking becomes a crucial strategy for effective space utilization and adapting to evolving workplace dynamics.

In recent years, hot desking has gained popularity in many workplaces as the demand for flexible work increases. 

According to McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey, 87% of employees state they will choose flexible work when given the opportunity. Not only do more people want hybrid work, but the ability to decide when and where they work also leads to happier employees, which is associated with higher engagement and retention. 

According to McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey, 87% of employees state they will choose flexible work when given the opportunity.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) found in its ‘Work-Life Balance Around the World’ report that hybrid models led to greater work-life balance and that workers with hybrid working arrangements were most satisfied, according to ADP Research Institute. 

With all the benefits of flexible work, companies aiming to be future forward are increasingly turning to hybrid work models and looking to leverage tools that make implementation easier. Accenture’s Future of Work 2022 research found that 68% of high-growth companies have implemented hybrid work models, up from 63% in 2021. 

With some employees working in-office and some remotely, organizations no longer need office spaces to accommodate the entire workforce at all times. Hot desking—also known as desk sharing, agile working, or hoteling—has skyrocketed as the flexible approach to managing office space that aims to maximize efficiency and collaboration while reducing costs for the organization. 

Let’s dive into more details about what hot desking really is and the role it plays in the future of work.

What Is Hot Desking?

Hot desking is a concept in which employees share desks at the office instead of each employee having their own assigned desk. It is a flexible and agile way of working. Employees are not confined to one area but can choose from available workspaces throughout the office. At a time when many employees work and prefer to work virtually, either full-time or a few days a week, hot desking provides this flexibility and a more efficient way of utilizing desks and workspaces.

What Is the Purpose of Hot Desking?

While many people still desire remote work, 86% of executives believe employees should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain company culture, according to a recent PwC research. Implementing hot desking satisfies all parties and makes it easier to set up a hybrid work strategy.

Being in the office allows employees to socialize with their colleagues and collaborate with their teams, leading to higher engagement and productivity. And being able to work from home some days helps employees achieve a better work-life balance by giving them flexibility in arranging their professional and personal commitments. Employers can also minimize their real estate footprint and save on costs. 

Why Is Hot Desking Popular?

Hot desking enables a streamlined hybrid work setup and offers many benefits. As more companies downsize their spaces, while also asking their employees to return to the office for several days, hot desking offers employees flexibility without compromising company performance. 

Here are seven reasons hot desking is on fire:

1. Increased work schedule flexibility.

Employees care a lot about their work autonomy – being free to choose when and where they work. McKinsey's survey showed that when people have the chance to work flexibly, 87 percent of them take it. Hot desking arrangements support employees’ desire for flexible work culture and satisfy employers’ desire to maintain in-person interactions. Hot desks can be available on short notice, allowing individuals or teams to be agile in working and collaborating. This flexibility enhances employee satisfaction and productivity.

2. Increased collaboration and productivity. 

Hot desking makes it easier to have a hybrid work setup, which improves employee collaboration and productivity. According to Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), hybrid workers produce just over 9.5 extra days of work a year. With such positive output numbers, the future of workplace arrangements is trending toward hybrid work, with employees generally going into the office two to three days a week.

3. Resource optimization and cost savings. 

Setting up a full-scale office and signing a long-term lease can be very costly. Hot desking optimizes office space utilization and reduces the chances of empty or overcrowded desks. By reducing their real estate and the resources that go into supporting that, organizations can reduce their environmental footprint and achieve cost savings. Organizations can find themselves with significant long-term savings by leveraging a hot desk arrangement that utilizes space more efficiently. 

4. Data-driven decision-making. 

Employers can use data gathered from desk booking software to observe how individuals and teams work in the office. Before the rise of coworking space software, employees were usually assigned to a desk for the longevity of their careers in that company. Where and how often teams met was up to guesswork as no one was tracking these patterns. Now with software, organizations can analyze where and how often individuals book a desk or workspace, and then utilize data to make business decisions. Employers can become more efficient at allocating workspaces, implementing more of what’s effective, and improving or taking away spaces that aren’t being used.

5. Organization and focus.

Since hot desking is a shared space, it prevents individuals from accumulating personal belongings or clutter in the work area. The nature of hot desking lends itself to a cleaner and more organized workspace, which studies have shown can lead to better productivity. Scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute have shown that disorganization can actually reduce our ability to focus, and that when the area was tidier, participants were better able to focus and process information. 

6. Attracts future talent. 

The next generation of workers highly favors a hybrid-friendly work environment. A report by ZipRecruiter found that 44% of graduates want a hybrid work arrangement, and that a flexible working arrangement is a top three motivator for employees to find a new job, according to McKinsey. Leveraging hot desking to create a flexible work environment where employees can choose where they work best for their job responsibilities can help attract more talent and retain current ones.

7. Creates a work culture that values DEI. 

Hot desking supports flexible work arrangements that are more inclusive of employees who need some freedom to adjust their schedules, like parents or those caring for elderly family members. In the office, hot desking allows for a more fluid interchanging of ideas. When employees aren’t fixed to a desk, they’re better able to mingle and interact across diverse groups, such as different levels of seniority, departments, or backgrounds, breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration. Hot desking can also help reduce the barriers created by hierarchical seating arrangements that stem from traditional desk assignments, fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace where employees have equal opportunities to connect and collaborate with others. 

Read More: Have More People than Desks? Don’t Get Burned by 6 Hot Desking Pitfalls

Why Is It Called Hot Desking?

The term ‘hot desking’ comes from an idiom used by the U.S. Navy called ‘hot racking,’ which described how the rack-mounted bunks aboard a ship—where sailors slept in rotation—would remain hot from the person who last used it. Hot desking has grown in popularity recently, but the concept is not new. Hotel business models—in which guests “share” available rooms—may have inspired the idea, and that’s why hot desking is also referred to as desk hoteling or office hoteling. 

A 1994 New York Times article also mentioned the concept of ‘hot desking’ as we know it today. The report was about Jay Chiat, the advertising executive of Chiat/Day, instituting the ‘hot desking’ concept in his offices. Workers kept personal possessions in assigned lockers, picked up necessary equipment from a concierge window, and were free to move around the office space to work. The implementation was fraught with problems, such as conflicts over coveted areas and equipment shortage, and the idea was quickly nixed by the next person in charge.

What Is the Difference Between Desk Hoteling and Hot Desking?

With hot desking, employees gain access to desks or workspaces on short notice. Often, these arrangements can change periodically throughout the workday or the workweek as people come and go. Hot desking is great for implementing a hybrid work strategy as it allows employees and teams to be flexible as to when they come to the office. With office hoteling, workspaces are typically reserved for longer durations, from several days to a month. Hoteling may be the preferred choice for teams needing a particular collaborative space (e.g., for more privacy like a legal team) or equipment requirements to do their work. 

Hot Desking for the Future of Work

Employees are increasingly demanding flexible work, and more companies are following suit. Zippia found that 74% of U.S. companies are using or planning to implement a permanent hybrid work model. With the growing prevalence of hybrid models, workplace flexibility should be accompanied by hot desking for optimal space usage and cost savings. The future of work will be where employees share time between the office and remotely, and organizations must adapt their workplaces to accommodate these changes.

Looking to implement hot desking for your business? Check out these nine best practices to help you transition to hot desking. If you’re ready to start scheduling and booking desks and rooms, create your free Skedda account today.

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