Quick Guide to Hot-Desking

I have recently attended a seminar which tackled the latest trends happening in the workplace. One topic which caught my attention was the concept of hot-desking. Since it was such an interesting and unique discussion, I made sure to listen carefully throughout the whole talk. I even made sure to ask the speaker a couple of questions so that I can fully fathom the ins and outs of this trend.  

Some individuals may not be that familiar with the concept of hot-desking. So, what exactly is hot-desking? Hot-desking is a concept wherein workers do not have a fixed seat in the office. Instead, they take an open seat on a first come, first served basis. It comes from the term “hot racking” which refers to sailors sharing a bunk but working different shifts.

This concept has been present since the 1990s, but only a few have adapted this work style.

Digging Deeper on Hot-Desking

Companies whose employees work most of the time on the field or outside the office adopt hot-desking. Since they have flexible working hours at their hands, they do not usually need to have a specific desk assigned to them. They believe that having permanent cubicles might be inappropriate and impractical because they rarely use it. For them, it’s better to let people who are constantly in the office use these desks.

Hot-desking takes inspiration from the practice of “hot-racking” in the military. The maritime industry typically employs this system in which marine officers, particularly the low-ranking ones, share one bunk as they work different shifts. When one occupant of a bunk or a “rack” has to take the next watch, another crew member who is returning from duty may take that bed. The rack, thus, is hot from previous use as another user lies down on it. Companies apply the same principle to hot-desking.

A number of people interchange the terms hot-deskingOpens in a new tab. and hoteling. However, these are two are different terminologies. The difference between these two is that hoteling requires a reservation a day before they use the cubicle. On the other hand, workers should make a reservation for hot-desking on the same day. All reservations reset daily, which entails workers to check out of their spaces every day.

With the big buzz hot-desking is making in the business world, some individuals and groups decided to study the effectivity of implementing this concept.

One study of 1000 Australian employeesOpens in a new tab. showed that shared desks have more cons than pros. It raises many problems such as uncooperative behavior, increased levels of distraction, more negative relationships, and increased distrust. Moreover, the research also showed a decreased perception of work support from their superiors.

Another studyOpens in a new tab. also revealed that hot-desking usually leads to decreased employee engagement and organizational commitment. There were also cases of employee marginalization, loss of identity, and inattention to employee’s co-workers.

Despite this, a recent surveyOpens in a new tab. showed that out of the 400 multinational corporations, two-thirds plan to implement the hot-desking concept in their workplaces by the year 2020.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Hot-Desking

Some companies prefer hot-desking while others do not see the benefit of this. Detailed below are some of the pros and cons of using hot-desking.


Cost-Cutting – One of the biggest benefits of hot-desking is the elimination of unnecessary cost. It cuts down expenses by eliminating the payment for excess space. It is perfect for businesses which require them to travel all the time or spend most parts of the week remotely.

Social Interaction – Sitting down at different workspaces every day gives a chance for the employees to interact with different teams and departments. It will enable them to build more networks around them. This concept also breaks “cliques” inside the company.

Collaboration – If the company has a project which requires the cooperation of various departments, it is easier to collaborate: no need to book for a room and no need for expensive working lunch.

Breaking the Barrier – When everyone has no permanent space and room to work in, the workers feel that they are all equal. They do not view their superiors and bosses as unreachable. It increases their drive to work better.  Employees can work in a space where they feel the most comfortable and most productive.


Stability – Older workers are usually the ones who are against this concept since they are more used to the stability their respective working desks give them. They feel more at home and relaxed when they have designated desks. It avoids having to socialize which they may not be comfortable of doing most of the time.

Hassle – Some people think that hot-desking is a hassle. They have to constantly bring around their heavy things, which include their laptops, paperwork, and pens, from one place to another every day.

Cleanliness – Having several people work in just one workstation reeks of uncleanliness. More germs swarm the area due to the mix of people using it. Hence, it is essential for the company to at least provide antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer for them to use before setting up in the workspace.

Lack of Support – The constant separation from the team and managers from the department makes them feel unsupported. Taking them away from their “cliquesOpens in a new tab.” lowers their morale.

Technological Concerns – Since the workers do not have their permanent spaces, the company is required to think about technological concerns. Which workstations will have an installed personal computer (PC) on them? Will the other workers who do not have these PCs have to bring their laptop every day? How about the outlets? Will there be enough?

There are many things to consider about hot-desking. Hence, the companies should make sure to properly assess the status of their business to tailor-fit their decision with it.

How Companies Can Manage Hot-Desking

Some companies might want to give hot-desking a try. It may not be as easy as it sounds. Hence, here are some ways to get started with this strategy:

1. Companies should also make sure that they have enough research before they decide to push through with hot-desking. A one-size-fits-all solutionOpens in a new tab. will less likely succeed. Hence, it is essential that the company back the decision with data regarding their employee’s work style, company culture, management’s leadership approach, and the nature of the business.

2. Leaping to hot-desking is a big cultural change. Therefore, it is essential to involve all of the employees every step of the way. If there is still some resistance happening in the office, embrace it. It is natural in the business world. What is important is for the company to make them understand the rationale of this change. The company may also ask advice from them on how they can make this strategy work.

3. For the employees to feel the benefits of this transition, it is also crucial to find the best location to set this up. They should take into account the lighting, proximity to other office services, and the aura of the office environment. If the company does not have a place which checks these characteristics, better not to push through with the transition since it will most likely result in more negatives than positives.

4. The company must also embrace technology. This step is critical for the success of hot-desking. Collaboration tools such as Skype, Slack, and Trello can help the employees feel connected despite the distance. It is also essential to invest in hardware technology such as phones, personal computers, and tablets to maximize the usage of hot-desking.

5. Implement office policies which can guide the employees on the proper use of hot-desking. For example, there should be a “clean desk policy” which should require the user to clean the area upon leaving. What’s important in the implementation of these policies is that the workers should be aware of what the plans are in the first place. Hence, the company should have a proper communication strategy to inform them of these.

6. Lastly, companies should also seek feedback from their employees so that they can provide further improvements in their hot-desking policy. Team and department meetings can facilitate evaluation. If time does not allow it, sending out emails may be enough to gather suggestions and feedback.

Hot-desking has its benefits and drawbacks. The companies have to carefully assess their office culture and status to know whether this system is a hit or a miss in their office setting.

Related Questions

How can I ensure that everyone is aware which desks are available and which ones are off-limits?

To avoid confusion, companies should come up with a map feature—be it a physical one or through the use of software—to help the employees know which ones are open. Make sure to make it accessible. You can place it at the entrance of the desk area, or you can provide an application which they can download on their phones.

What are the best scheduling tools for hot-desking?

Companies should invest in scheduling tools for a more organized implementation of hot-desking. The best tools they can use include Yarooms, Cobot, Nexudus, and OfficeSpace Slack App.

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