Hot Desking 101: A Guide to Efficient Desk Sharing for Hybrid Work

By
Max Shepherd-Cross
·
November 9, 2021

We’ve grown accustomed to the flexibility of remote work, but there’s value in getting your employees to the office, if only a few days a week—better collaboration, impromptu chats, and a place for focused work when employees need it. But if each employee has their own desk that they use just a few days a week, you’ll end up with a lot of unused space. Enter hot desking—the perfect solution for companies shifting to hybrid work.

Hot desking seems straightforward on paper, but in practice, it’s not as easy to implement. Without a functional system to manage desk sharing, you’ll soon have a chaotic workplace and disgruntled employees.

Below, we’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of implementing hot desking, including how to accommodate employee needs, implement clear guidelines, and use desk booking software for desk management.
What Is Hot Desking? Hot desking is a system in which employees don’t have an assigned desk, but instead claim an available desk for the day. The most common example of hot desking is coworking spaces like WeWork, where workers sign up for a shift at an available desk upon arrival.

Recently, hot desking has gained popularity in private offices too, as a way to use real estate more efficiently.


Benefits of Hot Desking

Hot desking allows organizations to adopt flexible work models like hybrid work, save physical space, and reduce real estate costs.

Let’s take a closer look at the perks of hot desking:

  • Reduces operational costs: The average annualized cost of a single workstation can be as much as $18,000 USD. Hot desking requires fewer overall desks, considerably reducing the amount a company spends on office space.
  • Supports a hybrid work environment: Post-pandemic, most employees prefer hybrid work (or partial work from home), and hot desking is the best way to optimize the use of hybrid offices. Instead of keeping desks empty when employees work from home, hybrid offices can downsize office space and adopt desk sharing.
  • Facilitates cross-departmental interactions: When employees sit at different workstations each day, they have more opportunities to meet and interact with team members from other departments. These interactions may also spark innovative ideas and solutions for the company.

6 Tips to Implement Hot Desking (or Desk Sharing) While Keeping Employees Happy

While desk sharing offers many benefits to businesses, employees may not always support it due to a loss of personal workspace and anxiety around the availability of desks.

Here are six practical tips to ensure a hassle-free transition to hot desking:

1. Share hot desking plans with employees to prepare them for the switch  

Hot desking can be a significant change—employees may be anxious about personal belongings, whom they’ll sit next to, and hygiene. The more you share about how hot desking helps your business and how you plan to manage the change, the more likely you are to soothe concerns around desk sharing.

Common methods for organizational change management (like ADKAR and nudge theory) hinge on proactive communication.

For instance, the ADKAR model involves outlining the following:

  • Awareness: Inform employees about the shift to hot desking, highlighting current pain points and potential cost savings.  
  • Desire: Share benefits of hot desking like flexible schedules to get employees excited about the change.
  • Knowledge: Inform employees about rules and best practices to make desk sharing a success.
  • Ability: Introduce any tools or systems you’ll use to manage desk sharing easily.
  • Reinforcement: Share rewards and consequences for appropriate and unsuitable employee behavior when desk sharing. Sample rewards might include shout-outs in the monthly newsletter or a $50 cash reward.

2. Use advanced desk booking to avoid desk shortages

desk booking software
Advanced desk booking

Hot desking can be a logistical nightmare and a waste of time for employees trying to claim a desk on the day they check into work. Hot desking works best with a desk booking (or hoteling) system.

To make desk booking work, assign numbers or color codes to desks in your office. Another option is to divide desks into neighborhoods based on department (marketing, sales, support) or desk type (standing desk, double monitors, collaborative space). Let employees log the days they’ll be in the office and the desk type they’ll work on (based on color, number, or neighborhood). This kind of manual desk booking can also be a chore, which is why automated desk booking software like Officely is a great choice for companies using hot desking.

Here’s how it works: HR or office managers sign up their team onto a desk booking app, and employees choose the days they’ll be in the office and book an available desk or space in advance. While booking a desk, employees can also see who else is coming in to work that day and where they’ll sit. Such visibility helps employees plan whether they should focus on collaboration or deep work on a given day.

For managers, desk booking software offers automated allocation of hot desks and better visibility of employees’ work schedules.


3. Set ground rules around desk etiquette

Since employees don’t have designated desks when hot desking, they may not be as diligent about desk cleanliness and organization. Hot desking rules ensure everyone uses office space in a fair and responsible manner.

Here’s a set of rules for better use of hot desks:

  • Cleanliness: “Don’t eat at your desk. Sanitize and tidy your desk after use.”
  • Consideration: “Don’t talk loudly in a space for deep work.”
  • Maintenance: “Leave workstations as you find them. Do not unplug wires from screens, keyboards, and mice. Don’t leave personal belongings on your desk.”  
  • Choosing a desk: “Avoid reserving spaces for specific groups and report such activities.”

Take a look at Columbia University’s coworking community guidelines for more examples of hot desking rules.

Also, if you want everyone to follow and respect the rules, make sure the rules are the same for all hot deskers, whether it’s your director of operations or a junior copywriter.  

4. Design workstations to meet health and equipment needs

double monitor hot desking
Equipment hot desking

Design all workstations to address common health issues like back pain and eye strain. Also, furnish some workstations with special equipment like two monitors for employees who need them.  

Some laws like the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 in the UK require employers to assess workstation safety for employees and ensure they don’t cause issues like eye strain, pain in the back, hands, and wrists, and headaches. To prevent common health issues like these, equip all workstations with adjustable chairs with lumbar support and adjustable desks. Offer a limited number of standing desks too, if some employees prefer these.

As for special equipment, you can add external mice and keyboards, headsets, and extra monitors to a limited number of desks. Also, if employees use desk phones for calls, consider using hot desking phone connections. Hot desking phones allow employees to log into a phone system using their extension and PIN, so they can make and receive calls on their phone  number while switching desks.


5. Keep designated spaces for collaboration and deep work

Collaboration while hot desking
Alternate spaces hot desking

Most standard offices have facilities like conference rooms, kitchens, and a lounge, along with rows of open-plan desks. With hot desking, though, you’ll need fewer desks and more spaces to collaborate, do deep work, and take important calls, as employees mainly come to the office for such tasks.

Consider adding these spaces to your office, so employees can choose a space depending on what their workday looks like:

  • Standard workstations for individual work
  • Bookable meeting room/conference rooms for in-office or hybrid meetings
  • Bookable rooms for phone calls and meetings with clients or others
  • Casual, coffee-shop style seating for teams to brainstorm ideas
  • Breakout areas for spontaneous chats and meetings
  • Quiet areas for individual deep work (i.e., desks away from cafés, kitchens, and breakout areas)
  • Kitchen, lounge, or café

Depending on the size of your team and the resources you have, you might not need or be able to build all of these spaces. Use this list as a starting point to think about how to change your office design while desk sharing.

6. Provide lockers to store equipment and belongings

One of many employees’ pet peeves with hot desking is the lack of personalization—hot desks just don’t feel like your own desk without your family photo or special devices you’re accustomed to. Carrying these items to work every other day isn’t ideal either. A simple workaround is to provide lockers to employees to store personal belongings and equipment, so they don’t have to lug them around.

Employees might use lockers to store personal items like mugs, hand-written labels, family photos, sticky notes, and stationery. Some employees may also store personal equipment like headsets and their preferred keyboard or mouse in their locker.


Before You Go All-In, Run a Hot Desking Pilot First  

Before you launch hot desking company-wide, run a pilot first with one department or one floor of your office. A pilot will show you if a hot desking environment is right for your office and surface issues you need to iron out before you launch it to everyone.

As you run the hot desking pilot, take notes about common issues, ask employees for feedback, and watch out for areas of improvement.

For a simple way to manage desk booking while hot desking, check out Officely.

State
Mandate or Prohibition Information
For More State-by-State COVID-19 Information
Alabama

State and local governments in Alabama are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Private employers may require a vaccine as a condition for employment, as long as they provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are unable to get the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

Alaska

State and local governments in Alaska are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Private employers may require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

Arizona

State and local governments in Arizona are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Private employers may require a vaccine as a condition for employment, as long as they provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are unable to get the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

Arkansas

State and local governments in Arkansas are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Private employers may require a vaccine as a condition for employment, as long as they provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are unable to get the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

California

Vaccine mandates in California currently allow employers to require employees to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, California employers can dictate whether masks are required by employees or not.

Colorado

Colorado vaccine mandates allow private employers to require their employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to go to work. Colorado has a mask mandate for state-owned institutions, but private employees are not required to wear one.

Connecticut

Private employers in Connecticut can decide whether they will require proof of vaccination as a condition for employment. Vaccinated individuals are exempt from wearing a mask.

Delaware

Private employers in Delaware can decide whether they will require proof of vaccination as a condition for employment. Masks are not required by employers, but unvaccinated individuals are encouraged to wear them.

District of Columbia

Private employers in the District of Columbia can decide whether they want to mandate vaccines among their employees. Masks are required unless you are in a private office where the public cannot enter.

Florida

State and local governments in Florida are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Additionally, private businesses cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required.

Georgia

State and local governments in Georgia are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Additionally, private businesses cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

Hawaii

Private employers in Hawaii can make an independent decision about requiring proof of vaccination or weekly testing as a condition for employment. Hawaii encourages all employees to wear masks whenever they are in a common area with other employees.

Idaho

State and local governments in Idaho are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Additionally, private businesses cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required.

Illinois

Private employers in Illinois can make an independent decision about requiring proof of vaccination or weekly testing as a condition for employment. All employees must wear a mask while indoors.

Indiana

Private employers in Indiana can mandate employee COVID-19 vaccines, with the exception of the state government and some local entities. Employees are not required to wear a mask.

Iowa

A private employer in Iowa may require an employee to undergo testing or prove receipt of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. However, employees in Iowa have medical exemptions beyond the federal and state requirements. Masks are not required for employees.

Kansas

Private employers in Kansas may require an employee to undergo testing or prove receipt of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment, but exemption requests must be reviewed and considered. Masks are not required.

Kentucky

Private employers in Kentucky can decide whether to require an employee to undergo testing or prove receipt of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

Louisiana

Private employers in Louisiana can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Private employers also have the discretion to require masks.

Maine

Private employers in Maine can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

Maryland

Private employers in Maryland may require a COVID-19 vaccination with some conditions; mandates are dependent on internal policies, procedures, and the status of each person's employment. Private employers are able to mandate wearing masks.

Massachusetts

Private employers in Massachusetts can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

Michigan

Private employers in Michigan can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as employers consider accommodations for employees who are medically or religiously exempt from getting the vaccine. Masks are not required.

Minnesota

Private employers in Minnesota can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Private employers are able to mandate wearing masks.

Mississippi

Currently, private employers can mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees at their own discretion. However, a recently filed bill would prohibit this if it gets passed. Masks are not required.

Missouri

Private employers in Missouri can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as employers allow exemptions for employees who are medically or religiously unable to get the vaccine. Masks are not required.

Montana

State and local governments are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Additionally, private businesses cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required.

Nebraska

Private employers in Nebraska can decide whether to require an employee to undergo testing or prove receipt of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

Nevada

Private employers in Nevada can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Mask mandates are currently in place by county.

New Hampshire

State and local governments in New Hampshire are prohibited from mandating vaccines. Private employers can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as the mandate is job-related and employers allow exemptions for employees who are medically or religiously unable to get the vaccine. Masks are not required.

New Jersey

Private employers in New Jersey can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

New Mexico

Private employers in New Mexico can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are required in New Mexico for individuals in any public, indoor setting.

New York

Private employers in New York can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. NYC vaccine mandates specifically state that an employer can require a vaccine for employees who regularly work face-to-face with other employees or those who work with the public. If your office does not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, every employee must wear masks at all times.

North Carolina

Private employers in North Carolina can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

North Dakota

Private employers in North Dakota can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as employers allow exemptions for employees who are medically or religiously unable to get the vaccine. Masks are not required.

Ohio

Vaccine mandates in Ohio state that private employers can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as employers allow exemptions for employees who are medically or religiously unable to get the vaccine. Masks are not required.

Oklahoma

Private employers in Oklahoma can make COVID-19 vaccines a condition of employment provided the employer offers reasonable accommodations for employees. Masks are not required.

Oregon

Private employers in Oregon can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are required in all indoor settings.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania vaccine mandates state that a private employer may require employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to go to work. Masks are not required.

Rhode Island

Private employers in Rhode Island can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Rhode Island also states that masking is required of all employees who are not vaccinated.

COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Australia

The Australian Government’s vaccination policy says, in general, receiving a vaccination is free and voluntary, though it aims to have as many Australians vaccinated as possible. Furthermore, each Australian state and territory can implement its own vaccine and mask mandates. Currently, both Victoria and New South Wales require employees to be vaccinated before entering an office.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Germany

In Germany, employees can only reenter the workforce if they show their “3G certification” that says they are vaccinated against COVID-19, have recently tested negative for COVID-19, or have recovered from the virus. Unvaccinated employees must take a test every workday and provide proof of a negative result for each test they take.

Additionally, employers must offer a work-from-home option for all employees, as long as the nature of the employee’s work allows for it. German employers may require employees to wear masks.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Italy

Vaccines are not mandatory in Italy, and employers cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. However, they can require employees to wear masks while on the job.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Spain

Employers in Spain cannot require employees to submit to a COVID-19 vaccination. There are currently no indoor mask mandates.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Switzerland

Employers in Switzerland cannot require employees to submit to a COVID-19 vaccination, but it is encouraged. Encouragement includes resources on where to get the vaccine, how to protect yourself against COVID-19, and where you can get tested. Mask mandates in Switzerland state that you must wear a mask while indoors.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Russia

Vaccine mandates are not legal in Russia, but employers can encourage vaccination with information like locations for vaccines and COVID-19 testing. Russia does require masks to be worn in crowded public spaces.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in the UK

Currently, only employees of health care facilities are required to show proof of vaccination as a condition for employment in the United Kingdom, which encompasses England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

There are no prohibitions for private employers, which allows them to each make their own decision about whether to mandate vaccines and masks for employees.


Help Your Employees Stay Informed on the Latest COVID-19 Regulations

With so many different regulations and mandates, the best thing you can do for your employees is to help them stay informed about COVID-19. Use the CDC’s distancing and masking guidelines, encourage people to stay home when they’re sick, and provide them with helpful COVID-19 related resources. Consider offering your employees the option to work from home or on a hybrid schedule if their job allows for it.

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Max Shepherd-Cross
Max is one of the cofounders and CEO of Officely.

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