By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist
SpaceIQ

Office hot desking is a divisive topic in the world of workplace design. Many companies tout the benefits of this flexible desking solution, while others just can’t seem to make it work. The difference in opinion often stems from a lack of understanding. Hot desks aren’t a panacea for office congestion or a set-it and forget-it desking solution. They demand planning and active management.

When considering hot desks as a viable option for office design, make sure you see the full picture. Knowing what hot desks are and how to properly deploy/manage them will help you reap the benefits they offer.

Hot desking

What is hot desking? Hot desks are a type of flexible workspace. Where a traditional desking arrangement accounts for one person per desk (1:1), hot desking accommodates multiple people per desk at different times (1:X).

Hot desk flexibility is scalable. Several people may use the desk each day or across the span of a week. In fast-moving environments, desks may only be occupied for a couple of hours at a time before they change occupants. What makes the hot desk useful is its ability to serve as a home base for more than just one person.

Beyond accommodating a higher desk-to-person ratio, hot desks also conform to the concept of a dynamic workplace. Employees may not need the same type of workspace throughout the day. As they move from place to place, hot desks “reset” to seamlessly accept the next occupant .

How many hot desks?

Hot desks aren’t meant to replace every seat in your workplace. Instead, they add flexibility to individual workstations to stretch capacity and improve utilization.

When discerning how many hot desks your workplace needs, consider current capacity and available space. If you have (or are adding) more employees than desks, hot desks come into play. Likewise, if you’re reducing the number of individual workstations to accommodate collaborative workspaces, hot desks are an option.

Subtract available seats from total personnel to get the “deskless” figure, then determine the desk-to-person ratio that best fits your workplace. Create as many hot desks based on that ratio vs. deskless employees. If converting existing desks into hot desks, account for displaced employees.

Example: 20 employees – 16 seats = 4 deskless. A hot desk ratio of 1:2 means two people per hot desk, requiring two hot desks in this example. 

Hot desk arrangements

Hot desking office space needs to be arranged in a way that preserves the individual nature of the workstation, yet doesn’t isolate it. Consider the core philosophy of the office. Is it an open-air concept? Traditional cubicle arrangement? Workplace design dictates where hot desks fit in.

In an open-air concept, hot desks may occupy the perimeter of the larger office—close to the group, yet distinguished as an individual workspace. Traditional offices may have hot desks clustered in offices, deemed quiet work spaces. The beauty of hot desks is that they’re as flexible in design as they are in execution. For example, some companies even use mobile standing hot desks to accommodate roaming employees.

Arrange hot desks so they’re accessible, yet clearly separate from the established desking concept. More importantly, position them as temporary workspaces to prevent territorialism.

Assign and govern

Without a system to assign and manage occupancy, hot desks will fail. Open-office hot desking, in particular, demands a system of order. Thankfully, this system is easy with a central software platform like an Integrated Workplace Management System (read more on what is IWMS software) or a Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) program (read more on what is CAFM).

First, create a point of check-in or reservation. This is instrumental in tracking real-time occupancy and utilization over time. That keeps employees from simply sitting down and occupying a workspace for an indeterminate amount of time.

The key is to make it possible for employees to find and identify open hot desks near them. This should also include a schedule of when certain desks will be available again. Just like a facility manager needs a clear picture of occupancy, employees need the ability to plan ahead for desk usage.

Finally, set up a system for pinpointing who’s at each workstation. Then, dynamically link to the employee directory. Hot desks turn employees into nomads, so it’s best to create some way of finding a person no matter where they may be working at any given time.

Hot desk etiquette

Friction and tension can mount when there’s a lack of clear-cut rules governing hot desks. This includes etiquette. Remember, employees give up static personal space under a hot desking arrangement. The way they use a workstation may differ from their peers.

Outline the tenets of good hot desk use. These include cleanliness, respectfulness, due process, and common courtesy. Keeping friction low or nonexistent is crucial to hot desking success. Just as important, have consequences for employees who fail to follow the rules.

Are hot desks right for your business?

Getting hot desks to work effectively in your workplace is about setting the right expectations and taking the time to deploy and manage them correctly. Hot desks offer numerous benefits to businesses, but it’ll take some effort to reap them. Keep these tenets in mind and be diligent in addressing problems as they arise.

Keep reading: The pros and cons of hot desking.