Agilquest Blog

Hot Desking 101: Everything You Need to Know

What is hot desking and how can it benefit your organization? This flexible workplace practice might be what your company and workforce needs!

Flexible. Hybrid. Hoteling. Hot Desking. Activity-Based… Should I go on?

These words are being thrown around on a daily now that more organizations are embracing flexibility in their workplace.

And to many, the term hot desking does not pass the vibe check.

People believe hot desking negatively impacts employees. That is sends a message saying they don’t matter and it’s just another way to save the company money.

However, we believe, when done correctly, it can save money AND benefit the employee. Hold on, let us explain!

But first, what even is it?

What is hot desking?

Hot desking is a flexible workplace practice that keeps offices, conference rooms, etc., open for employees to use when it suits them best. This practice makes it easy for employees to find a desk in the spur of a moment or grab a workspace near their teammates so they can collaborate quicker and easier.

What are the benefits of hot desking?

When hot desking was introduced to the business world in the 90s, it was… well, messy.

Executives told their workforces “We are hot desking now” and employees entered the ring to fight for their spot.

You got into work 5 minutes late and you were sitting at the desk in the corner under the blasting AC next to Tom in sales who’s great at his job (energetic phone calls and presentations in your ear from 9 to 5).

So, when people hear hot desking, they run for the hills.

But like everything, with time and a better understanding of the workforce and workplace, it’s become a beautiful butterfly – manageable, beneficial, and a great addition to the flexible workplace.

people working in office

Hot Desking can help create a new atmosphere that harnesses flexibility, empowers collaboration, and produces results. Some benefits of hot desking include:

  • Boosts in creativity and innovation. With an array of workspaces available, you can pick and choose and mix it up to give yourself new views and a fresh perspective daily.
  • Improved communication and productivity. What’s on your agenda for the day? What kind of space would benefit you the most? You can choose where you work, whether you need to find a collaboration space near a teammate or a desk near your boss while you work through a new assignment.
  • Increased flexibility. Hot desking works best in flexible workplaces because it isn’t about 1:1 ratio seating anymore. It’s about using the office when it best suits you and choosing the right workspace for what you need to get done.
  • Rise in knowledge sharing. No more strict siloes by department. Go sit near coworkers you don’t see or work with often and learn more about the part they play in the company. It’s very easy to get caught up in what you and your department do. It’s helpful to see the big picture every once and a while.
  • Reduced real estate costs. And, of course, organizations can implement hot desking to SAVE! When you eliminate the 1:1 ratio seating, there’s a good chance you can eliminate/downsize your real estate, too. Or, not have to upsize as you grow your company and hire more employees.

    With a flexible, hybrid workplace, your employees can use the office when it benefits them and work remotely any other time. Now, this freed up space can be used for new hires, to rent out to organizations or freelance workers, or you can start considering a smaller office once your lease is up. And the savings can be put back into employee benefits, bonuses, new workplace assets, and more!

There are many reasons a company should add hot desking to their flexible workplace repertoire. When done correctly, it can empower your workforce and save you money!

On board so far? Then, let’s really get into it.

How do you implement, manage, & support this kind of flexible workplace program?

Before you dive headfirst into hot desking, we need to think it through from start to finish.

Implement hot desking with a plan and a workplace reservation software

It’s obvious now that hot desking does not have to be a bad word. We just covered all the reasons why it works. We know it, but your workforce might not. Plus, the fact that people typically don’t like change, you need to communicate, communicate, communicate just why hot desking provides value to them and the organization.

  • Create hot desking guidelines to share with employees so they know what to expect and who to contact with questions.
  • Start initiating the conversation before you implement any changes. Let everyone know what is coming and just how exciting it will be!
  • Research and find the best hot desking software to manage your workplace. The software should be easy to implement and deploy, provide admins a way to manage the workplace & workforce with business rules and policies as well as present analytics and insights into what’s working and what could use optimizing, plus be intuitive and user-friendly so end users adopt the new software quickly.

Manage hot desking by determining what works best for your company

Maybe you want your hot desking program to be as easy as 1, 2, 3. Every seat up for grabs. Employees can claim the space or room that works best for them wherever, whenever.

Or maybe you want a little more structure.

When you are coming up with your hot desking program plan and guidelines, you may want to consider different ways you can split up your workplace so it’s more organized and makes sense to everyone. Let’s look at two options:

  1. Neighborhoods. Let’s say Kevin from IT needs full concentration and 0 distractions but Linda and Sally from HR end up sitting next to him to plan the company’s end of the year retreat.That won’t work.Admins can add business rules around “neighborhoods” which means designating a certain area or floor to a specific department.
  2. Quiet Areas vs. Collaboration Spaces. Back in college, the campus library was set up to have the first and second floors as designated collaboration space where you could be as loud as you want (inside voices still appreciated.) As you made your way up to the third floor, you were only supposed to speak at a whisper and only if you must. Finally, the fourth floor was strictly quiet, like if you needed to sneeze you better take it somewhere else.

    So, every floor doesn’t need to have every type of workspace. You can designate floors and areas to provide quiet, heads-down space or noisy, creative, collaboration environments so employees can choose depending on their workload.

And you don’t need to pick just one way to manage your flexible workplace.

Say you have 5 floors, floors 1 & 2 can be filled with meeting rooms and collaboration spaces for employees to grab and work at when they want the energy and buzz of people around them. Then you can designate floors 3-5 as neighborhoods. Your neighborhoods might split the floor down the middle with one department on one side and one on the other. Or you could designate the whole floor to two departments that work closely with each other, like Sales and Marketing.

The bottom line is to think about your organization and workforce culture to determine the best way to manage your hot desking program.

There’s no wrong answer.

Well, there might be, but you won’t know until you try!

And once you try, you’ll have insights from your hot desking software to optimize the program and continue to have success with hot desking!

Run a successful hot desking program by supporting your workforce

Now that the technical stuff has been taken care of, the next, most important piece to focus on is your workforce!

We hinted that change isn’t easy. You’ve come up with your communication plan around hot desking but let’s talk about what you can further provide to make this better for everyone.


With free address seating, personalizing your desk/office is no more. Which can be difficult somedays when you just need a quick look at your kids’ smiling faces or your dog’s warm, inviting eyes to get through it. We’ve all been there. So, with no place to put these tokens of love, what is there to do?

TIP: We suggest encouraging employees to personalize their laptop desktops with pictures of the people they love! That way they always have something to look at when they are feeling a bit mad.

Plus, who doesn’t love an “awhhhh” when you share your screen in a meeting and everyone catches a glimpse of whatever cuteness is there.

TIP: Additionally, for other personal items, offering cubby holes and/or lockers gives employees a place to store their stuff throughout the day.

This makes it so your workforce can grab a snack when they’re hungry or a cardigan when they’re cold without having to lug it around with them all day.

Keep It Clean

Health & Safety is top priority, especially after 2020, so organization’s need to make sure it is easy for employees to clean their space before and after use. If you want hot desking to work, employees need to feel safe in their own workspace.

TIP: Have cleaning stations on every floor and create a clean desk policy that people can easily follow.

Provide The Right Equipment and Technology

Lastly, provide each workspace with the equipment and technology employees need, like monitors, docking stations, whiteboards, video conferencing, etc.

TIP: Use your hot desking software to label the workspaces accordingly so people can filter by what they need and grab the space that works best for them.

Your flexible workplace should make it easy for your employees to work from anywhere, in the office or remote.

With a plan in place and everyone on board, you’re on the right track to have a flexible, productive workplace and an empowered workforce. Continue to monitor and optimize your flexible workplace and follow hot desking best practices to ensure your program stays successful.

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