By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

Your friends drop in for a visit when they’re in town or in-laws pop in unexpectedly at the worst times. It’s easy to accommodate friends and family for a quick visit at home. But what about remote or telecommuting employees who come to the office for a short time? That’s where drop-in desks come in handy.

A drop-in desk is a workspace meant to accommodate unscheduled visits by employees who don’t have a permanent desk, but still need a place to call their own for the day. These spaces aren’t consistently occupied, but they’re important for workplace flexibility when you’re not sure who’s going to drop-in for the day.

Drop-in desk characteristics

A drop-in desk—also called a dropdesk—is generally utilitarian. They don’t have to be fancy, since they’re as likely to remain unoccupied as occupied. When setting up a dropdesk, don’t think about building an everyday workstation. It’s the equivalent to a rental car or airport hotel room—it needs to be available and usable.

Utilitarian design aside, a drop-in desk requires a few baseline characteristics. For starters, make sure it’s comfortable. Comfort is often the biggest impediment to working in an unfamiliar place. Putting a focus here helps temporary occupants stay on-task and work efficiently.

Pay mind to distractions, too. This isn’t to say the desk should face a blank white wall in a soundproof room. Employees need a space in which to work independently before they get back to their normal routine. Err on the side of an isolated workspace as opposed to a collaborative one.

Dropdesks also should be conveniently positioned. Employees shouldn’t have to navigate to the depths of your facilities to find seating. Drop-in desks should be easy to find.

Aren’t dropdesks just hot desks or coworking spaces?

Drop-in desks are temporary spaces used by people for a finite amount of time. So, what’s the difference between them and hot desks or coworking spaces? Think of these flexible desking arrangements as close cousins of drop-in desking. They’re all examples of on-demand workspaces, but the way they’re used is what sets them apart.

Note: Terminology gets a muddled here—particularly between hot desks and dropdesks. Most companies see them as the same and use the terms interchangeably. 

A coworking space is typically open to the public; dropdesks are exclusive to a single company. Drop-in desks aren’t subject to a reservation system like hotel desks. Dropdesks are true as-needed spaces meant to house employees on an unexpected visit. In some cases, they’re the epitome of flexible desking—a dropdesk may move locations based on the influx or exodus of in-house staff.

The role of drop-in desks also differs from that of coworking spaces. Coworking facilities want to fill as many workstations as possible since every occupied desk is a revenue stream. Dropdesks accommodate excess staff, which means it’s in a company’s best interest to not see their drop-in desks at full capacity.

Making drop-in desking work

Drop-in desks need a high degree of flexibility. The best approach to making drop-in desks work is to collect and analyze data.

  • How often do remote employees work in-house?
  • What percentage of your staff works remotely part-time vs. full-time?
  • Which departments have what proportion of staff working remotely?
  • How many existing workstations are occupied vs. unoccupied?

The key variables to figure out are:

  • Demand
  • Availability
  • Workstation locations

Education is also key. In-house employees looking for a temporary change of space should use hot desks. Dropdesks should be set aside for visiting workers only.

Support your agile workforce

In a perfect world, every person has a desk and the forethought to reserve a hotel desk or grab a hot desk if they don’t. But the workplace isn’t perfect and unexpected employee visits are a reality. These workers need somewhere to work and drop-in desks are a great solution. Done right, they’re one of the simplest ways to support your most agile employees.

Keep reading: What is an Agile Work Environment?