With the concept of hot desking, the idea of having unassigned desks at work got off to a rocky start more than 20 years ago. However, workplaces quickly learned that this business equivalent of musical chairs has its drawbacks.
The concept of desk hoteling emerged to address these problems. Here's a closer look at these two agile workplace strategies and how they differ.
As a counterpoint to morale-dampening cubicle “farms,” some enterprise businesses decided to shake up the status quo by getting rid of dedicated office space for their workers in the mid-90s. The idea was to increase interdepartmental collaboration and give employees a greater sense of spatial equality while trimming the unused square footage reserved for team members who traveled frequently. Upon arriving at the office, employees would simply locate and claim an available workspace for the day.
As you can imagine, spending the first 10-20 minutes of each day finding a place to sit wasn’t terribly efficient, and people weren’t keen on giving up their spacious offices to sit at an anonymous desk.
But many of the core benefits behind hot desking are as sound today as they were then. More so, in fact, given the shrinking amount of space each worker can claim in the office today, and the rise of flexwork and telecommuting.
Innovative businesses are giving hot desking another shot with a different twist, using a desk reservation system.
Desk hoteling lets an employee reserve a specific workspace for a set amount of time on an as-needed basis. It works because of today’s improved technology, including desk booking software and desk booking apps that make it easy to secure a space.
A desk reservation system eliminates the downsides of hot desking, making it easy for employees to enjoy flexible seating arrangements and for organizations to make the most of every space.
Given that real estate costs are the second-biggest overhead expense for companies, businesses are constantly looking to maximize every square foot of office space.
Most organizations have average space utilization rates between 40-60%, according to a 2020 JLL benchmarking report. To get a sense of just how much this waste actually costs, consider that in New York and London, the average annual price of providing a desk is $18,000.
This doesn't mean that the average company should immediately plan to move half of its desks to an unassigned arrangement. The ideal proportion of assigned to unassigned desks depends on the type of organization, employee roles and business needs. For some, having only 20% of desks unassigned is the right number; for others, it could be as high as 80%.
Businesses with employees who travel or telecommute are some of the most likely to implement desk hoteling. For example, at accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young, many employees worked at their clients’ offices for 80-90% of the time. So when the company moved into its location in downtown Cleveland, it placed more than 60% of its employees into a desk hoteling pool.
That change, along with other workspace design improvements, allowed the company to cut its office footprint from 240,000 to 140,000 square feet, while keeping the same staff of 1,100 people and having enough space to add 200 more.
Real estate savings from cutting back on unused desk space aren’t the only benefit to desk hoteling. The ability to reserve a certain space for a particular timeframe also gives employees more flexibility around where and how they work.
If someone needs to focus on a heads-down project, they can reserve a desk in a quiet location. Or, if an interdepartmental team needs to crank through a group project, team members can sit next to each other for the duration. Maybe it’s even as simple as choosing between a standing and regular desk for a particular day or afternoon.
Desk hoteling empowers employees to choose what works best for them, even if they don’t travel often or work remotely. And that choice improves the employee experience.
Hoteling also breaks down structural hierarchy and helps combats a silo mentality. People of every level and in every department can work together, making it easier for them to share ideas and information.
Desk hoteling keeps employees from collecting piles of personal belongings at individual workspaces. This reduces the appearance of clutter and also makes it easier to clean and sanitize surfaces.
At a time when employees have well-founded concerns about staying healthy in the workplace, this is a high priority. While employees may have concerns about sharing desks through an informal system like hot desking, having a desk reservation system makes it easy for them to see when a space was last reserved so they can ensure it has been sanitized.
Desk hoteling can help break up the monotony of days and weeks in the office. Though it's hard to quantify this, in many cases, simply changing up the “scenery” can boost productivity and creativity.
In a survey of more than 9,000 employees located throughout the world’s eight largest economies, flexibility was the top job feature. A lack of flexibility was also one of the top reasons they’d quit.
Whether half your employees are on the road most weeks, or whether you’re trying to improve collaboration and break down interdepartmental barriers, you should consider a more flexible workplace that includes desk hoteling. When people can choose how and where they work, you’ll have a more effective workforce.
If you're considering desk hoteling in your workplace, Teem can help.
Our user-friendly desk booking software makes it easy for employees to reserve workspaces when, and where they need them. You can use Teem Maps, calendar plugins, and the Teem desk booking app to reserve spaces in advance or on-demand. Plus, Teem area displays can provide desk availability status at-a-glance. In other words, you can have the flexibility of hot desking without the hassles.