The ultimate guide to hot desking

Nov 22, 2022
Want to know the proper way to do hot desking? Look no further. Here’s an ultimate guide that gives you all you need to know.
Amy Kirkham
Senior Content Marketing Manager Alumni

Hot desking is a staple of modern, flexible office design. It is a workspace system that allows employees to choose where they sit onsite, and for how long. In today’s world of smart workplaces, hot desking unlocks the potential of your physical space and represents a more dynamic way of working. By replacing permanently assigned desks with hot desks, you can think about things like space optimization, coworker collaboration, and flexibility in a more agile way.

Hot desking has been around for a while. But how has it changed and improved over time? Pre-pandemic, hot desking had a reputation for being a stressful start to someone’s day as they raced to find a seat. Nowadays, hot desking is widely accepted as the seating system of choice. Technology gives folks more options to choose where they can do their best work. Need a dual monitor for today? Book a desk with the amenities you need. Want to sit at your favorite desk next to coworkers? Got it! Need a desk just for a few hours? No problem.

Businesses that offer hot desks for their employees are stepping in the right direction by future-proofing their workplace. But that doesn’t mean that hot desking is right for every company and every industry. In this post, we’ll explore all things hot desking, including how to make it work for you, best practices, and the common benefits and challenges. This post will cover:

  • What is hot desking? And how does it work?
  • How does hot desking differ from hoteling?
  • The benefits of hot desking
  • The challenges of hot desking
  • Is hot desking right for you?
  • 7 best practices to make hot desking work for you 

What is hot desking? And how does it work?

Hot desking is a flexible seating arrangement that allows employees and visitors to book and use a desk for anytime during the day. Hot desking is often short-term and on-demand, meaning that people who book hot desks often do so on an ad hoc basis. The goal of hot desking is to optimize your available workspace as much as possible, while also offering people flexibility in how they work, where they work, and who they work with onsite.

The way hot desking works is pretty simple. In the past, hot desking operated in a snooze-you-lose capacity. Think racing to your office only to find all the best desks are taken. Nowadays, things are thankfully very different–especially with the help of hot desking technology.  With hot desking technology, employees can book an available desk that offers the amenities they need–either via a mobile app or in-person when they arrive. People then work from their reserved desk for the day. They can then choose to rebook or switch it up for any other days they plan to be onsite.

How does hot desking differ from hoteling?

Although very similar concepts, hot desking and hoteling are not the same. Hot desking is a desk sharing arrangement where employees can reserve a desk for the day or hour, either in advance or onsite. Office hoteling is another flexible seating arrangement where employees reserve a desk for a set period of time. These are often longer-term reservations, for days, weeks, or months.

The benefits of hot desking

Hot desking is a flexible, cost effective solution that allows organizations to optimize their space more efficiently. Today’s modern office sees fewer folks onsite each day, which means workplace leaders have had to get smart about their space to make sure it doesn’t go unused or wasted. Hot desks have become a big part of this solution, especially as more people return to work. Here are some benefits hot desking can bring to your employees and your business.

  1. Flexibility. Hot desking gives people the freedom to work where they are most comfortable and productive onsite. Depending on whether you are 100% onsite or hybrid, implementing a hot desking policy gives people autonomy over what their daily work environment looks and feels like.
  2. Collaboration and productivity. A hot desking policy can have a positive impact on productivity and collaboration. It encourages employees to change up where they sit–whether that’s with different coworkers, different departments, or even different floors. This helps folks have more cross-functional interactions and contributes to a better company culture overall.
  3. Cost savings. Permanent desk assignments are more expensive because they require more space. Employees working from home even just one day a week would mean that there are empty desks in the office. Hot desking cuts down on this wasted space by making better use of existing space and allowing you to cut down on real estate costs if you choose to downsize your office.
  4. Data-driven decision-making. Hot desking gives you insights into how your space is being used. You can then spot trends and make better use of your space. Plus, you get data to help make smart, informed decisions as your plan for future real estate needs.
  5. Tidier workspace. Hot desks make for a tidier workspace. With fewer personal items or stacks of paper cluttering desk space, you get a cleaner, more organized office.

The challenges of hot desking

If you’re a company that has had permanent desks for decades, then you might be tempted to focus on the challenges of hot desking for your business. And while there aren’t many, it’s important to recognize that, when implemented incorrectly, hot desking can in fact pose a few challenges. And those challenges might look different for each company. Here are a few challenges that can come with implementing hot desking in your office.

  • Hot desking requires desk booking software to support it. If there is one thing to be certain of, it’s that hot desking will not work without the right technology to support it. Don’t let your hot desking system become a manic game of musical chairs. Invest in the right hot desk booking software that helps people be in control of booking their desks.
  • People can be resistant to change. Humans are often creatures of habit, and that plays out when it comes to hot desks. You may find that a key challenge to implementing hot desks is that your employees are resistant to change–especially when they no longer have a workplace-homebase that they are familiar with. However, as folks continue to operate in a hybrid world, fewer people will be onsite at any given time. Communicating the need for change is the first step to acceptance!
  • Employees want a dedicated “spot”. With a permanent desk, folks can leave items overnight ready for when they come onsite next. This might be notebooks, photos, gym clothes, or even shoes (afterwork drink, anyone?). The nature of hot desking means people must clear their desks at the end of each day to make room for the next person. While this can be a challenge, there are workarounds. If folks have booked the same desk for the following day, they can leave smaller items overnight. Alternatively, plug lockers like Luxer One allow people to keep their belongings safely stored in the office instead of taking it back home.
  • No control over who sits next to you. Hot desking means you can choose where you want to sit in the office, but it doesn’t mean you can fully control who sits next to you. This can be a challenge if some coworkers are particularly chatty, while others want to concentrate. In fact, according to Envoy’s recent At Work report, 33% of employees think chatty coworkers are a dealbreaker when it comes to returning to the office. To get around this, encourage folks to make use of other areas of the office. For example, some folks could book quiet spaces or pods to get in the zone. Others could book couches or social areas to chat and collaborate.

Is hot desking right for you?

Everything in life comes with pros and cons, simply because no one thing can work for everyone. Despite the odd challenge here and there, hot desking still outweighs all the rest when it comes to the benefits it offers hybrid workplaces. What’s more, hot desking also works well in other workplace types too. That includes companies who are fully in-office or sharing a coworking space with others. One of the best ways to know if hot desking is right for your business is to consider your company culture. If your office focuses on efficiency, flexibility, mobility, and safety then you’ll likely reap the benefits of hot desking. So how do you make hot desking work with different flexible work models?

Hot desking if you are hybrid first

If your organization has a hybrid working policy, hot desking can support people who come and go from the office on different schedules. For example, if you are operating a hybrid work policy that requires people to come in 3 days a week, hot desking can help ensure you have enough workstations on any given day for people to use.

Hot desking if you are office first

If your organization has a 100% onsite policy, hot desking can help support cross-functional interactions within your organization. Permanent desk assignments allocate coworkers together,  reducing the chance to have conversations with folks outside of their immediate vicinity. Hot desking, on the other hand, can help people move about the office, talk to other coworkers, and improve people’s sense of belonging.

Hot desking if you are remote first or have a distributed workforce

If your organization has a remote working policy or a distributed workforce, hot desking helps employees book a desk when they need to, either in an office or coworking location. This might be in a shared workspace or one of your organization’s office locations. Either way, hot desks can be a major benefit to folks who want to change up their routine without committing to an office location full or part of the time.

7 best practices to set up hot desking

Creating an office seating arrangement that your employees will love takes time and planning. As a first step, you’ll want to look for desk booking software that works seamlessly with your tech stack, as well as keeps your workspace flexible and employees happy. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices for setting up a successful hot desking policy:

1. Invest in a desk booking solution

Before you implement a hot desking policy, ensure you have a desk booking solution set up and running. You don’t want your people to feel stressed by the new change and wondering why they can’t sit at a designated desk anymore. By having an easy-to-use desk reservation system, your employees will be able to book their desk ahead of time, get visibility into where their coworkers are sitting, and know exactly where to go when they arrive in the office each day.

2. Consider the right desk features for your office

When you invest in a desk booking solution, you should also think about the features that would benefit your organization and people the most. For example, if you are a company that has implemented a hybrid split-week policy that requires teams to come in on specific days, then neighborhoods might be a great feature for you to explore. This will help coworkers, teams, and functions sit together on their onsite days. Here are a few great features to consider when looking at a hot desking policy for your business:

  • Team neighborhoods. Highlight specific areas where coworkers can sit together to work and collaborate.
  • Desk booking by the hour. Offer an option for folks to book their desks by the hour as opposed to the whole day, helping them to work flexibly.
  • Workspace maps. Display an interactive map of your space so folks can easily locate and book their desk for the day.
  • Desk amenities. Empower your people to filter and book the perfect desk, equipped with everything they need for the day.
  • Desk analytics. Get insight into space use so you can optimize your office layout and lower your costs.

3. Set up your floor plan

As well as providing different desk features, it’s also a good idea to show the different workspace options available to employees. This includes quiet areas, collaboration spaces, and desk booths that folks can choose from.You can then use a space planning tool to figure out your floor plan. For example, you might want some desks to be reservable for everyone while others assigned to a particular department. Using your office hoteling software, you can add markers for each available desk and specify which ones are permanently assigned. This way employees can book an available desk and find each other with ease.

4. Get employees excited about it

As more organizations opt for a hybrid work approach, people’s routines are shifting once again. If you’re not careful, this change can encourage apprehension rather than excitement to get back into the office. To help manage this, communicate clearly and regularly with your people before you implement your new hot desking policy. You can generate excitement through your messaging and ensure folks understand why you have made the decision to change something. When people understand the benefits it can bring and have a chance to ask any questions, they’ll be far likelier to get excited about hot desking in the workplace.

5. Create a best practice guide for employees

Ensure everyone understands how to use the new hot desking system by creating a best practice guide or tip sheet. You can create this however you like, but be sure to make it accessible and circulate it amongst everyone in your organization, including new hires. When your employees have set rules and expectations on how to share desks, it becomes fairer for everyone. The more people respect one another in the office, the better the environment and overall experience will be for everyone.

6. Clean spaces regularly

While we can never fully get rid of germs, we can do our best to prevent them from spreading. Embed a cleaning schedule into your hot desk policy. For example, if you are 100% onsite and using hot desking, then you should have a daily cleaning schedule. If you are mainly remote, with a few folks booking hot desks once or twice a week, then you may choose a cleaning schedule that aligns only with those days.

7. Collect data and feedback

Finally, when your hot desking solution is in full flight, don’t consider the job done. Collect regular feedback to ensure long-term success and improve employee happiness and productivity. You can do this in a variety of ways, such as monthly surveys or a suggestion box. Combine this with data you’re seeing from desk analytics to understand how desks are being used, including how often and who’s booking them. Gaining better insight on your hot desk policy will help you understand areas to improve, as well as celebrate the things your people love about hot desking.


Hot desking is not a new concept, but it has gone through a major transformation. With better technology and smarter workplaces, hot desking is now far from the stressful and unorganized experience it once was.

Still curious about hot desking? Take a look at Envoy Desks to learn more and start a free trial to try it your in your workplace today.


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Senior Content Marketing Manager Alumni

Amy is a content creator and storyteller at Envoy, where she helps workplace leaders build a workplace their people will love. Outside of work, you can usually find Amy exploring new places, planning her next trip, or enjoying a coffee and croissant in her favorite cafe.

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