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What is a hot desk? A complete guide to the hot desking concept


4 September, 2023

If you haven’t already, then say goodbye to your potted plant, framed family picture, and regular office desk… and hello to hot desking. While it’s certainly not a new concept for freelancers and startups, the hot desking trend is now being embraced by companies of all shapes and sizes looking to infuse more efficiency, flexibility, and creativity into their employee experience. The future of the flexible office is here! See why your business needs a satellite office too.

What is hot desking?

What does hot desking mean? Hot desking, according to the hot desking definition, is a form of satellite workplace sharing where an employee books a single desk or workstation in a shared space. Empowering agile working, it’s basically the opposite of having a fixed desk in a traditional office layout. Otherwise known as flex-desking or hot seating, the usual arrangement is for employees to use a mobile app to reserve a desk or shared table for a day, or even a few hours. Having significantly evolved in our new world of remote and hybrid work, leading flex office providers such as Mindspace are extending the hot desking experience by offering on-demand meeting rooms, access to beautiful kitchens and comfy lounges, and a range of wellness amenities. This evolution is revolutionizing the office of the future, making it more dynamic and adaptable to the changing needs of employees.

Why do we call it hot desking?

The term “hot desking” is thought to have originated from the phrase “hot racking,” which was used to describe the practice of sailors sharing the same bunk at different times during their shifts. Similarly, in an office context, a desk or workstation that is frequently used by different employees becomes metaphorically “hot” due to its constant use. 

hot desking at Mindspace

How does hot desking work?

Hot desking offers a flexible and dynamic workspace environment for employees. In a hot desking setup, employees do not have assigned workstations; instead, they have the freedom to choose any available desk or workspace on a first-come, first-served basis. This approach encourages collaboration, maximizes office space utilization, and promotes a more agile work style.

When engaging in hot desking, employees have access to a variety of hot desk facilities and resources that ensure a seamless and productive work experience:

  • Access to power sockets and phones
  • Bookable meeting rooms
  • Printing facilities
  • Technology and internet
  • Common areas such as lounges, break rooms, and kitchens
  • Private spaces like private pods or phone booths 

What are the benefits of hot desking?

Improved space utilization and cost savings

The most obvious benefit of hot desking, or flex office space vs traditional leases, is the ability to provide an all-in-one creative workspace experience, without the overheads and set-up costs of a traditional office. It’s an ideal solution for a growing number of hybrid companies offering a mix of on-site and remote work arrangements. Even in the pre-Covid days, companies often experienced vast inefficiencies with empty office seats and unused meeting rooms. As demand for smaller, more efficient office spaces is now on the rise, whether in private offices or coworking spaces such as Mindspace’s coworking space Williamsburg, hot-desking provides significant bottom-line savings, which is one of the best advantages of renting a furnished office.

Improved collaboration and productivity

Hot desking is also a great solution for avoiding worker isolation. Freelancers and early-stage startups have long appreciated the networking value of hot desking and coworking spaces. Post-Covid, an increasing number of larger companies are understanding that an in-office hot desk provides plenty of much-needed social interaction for remote workers, as well as new opportunities to collaborate and share ideas with different people from other teams and companies. Moving away from the ‘same-old’ routines encourages fresh thinking and a dynamic environment conducive to creativity and productivity.

benefits of hot desking at Mindspace

Work flexibility

Hot desking solutions also give greater flexibility to employees – allowing them to rent a desk for a couple of hours and from multiple different locations.  Mindspace members enjoy access to on-demand hot desks, meeting rooms, and office amenities across 20 cities worldwide. This is useful for digital nomads, employees traveling for work, freelancers looking to break into new markets, and companies employing global talent, enabling easy access to a workplace and coworking community from different locations. With hot desking as one of the versatile office space alternative choices, professionals can enjoy the benefits of working across multiple locations and a productive workspace wherever they go.

Employee satisfaction

By providing employees with the flexibility to choose their workspace based on their tasks and preferences, hotdesking empowers individuals to take control of their work environment. This autonomy fosters a sense of ownership and agency, contributing to higher job satisfaction levels, as this customization not only enhances comfort but also acknowledges the diverse needs and work patterns of employees. 

Tidier workplace

In traditional office setups, individual workstations tend to accumulate personal belongings and documents over time, often leading to clutter and disorganization. However, with the dynamic nature of hot desking, employees are motivated to maintain a clean and organized workspace since they frequently switch locations. This regular change encourages individuals to keep only the essentials at their desk, minimizing the buildup of unnecessary items. Maintaining a clutter-free workspace through hot desking contributes to a more aesthetically pleasing and productive work atmosphere, where employees can focus on their tasks without distractions from accumulated mess.

Data-driven decision making

In a hot desking setup, utilization data can be collected and analyzed to gain insights into how spaces are being used. This information is invaluable for optimizing office layouts, determining peak usage times, and identifying underutilized areas. By harnessing this data, organizations can make informed decisions about space allocation, furniture placement, and resource distribution. This proactive approach not only ensures that the office layout aligns with employee needs but also leads to enhanced efficiency and resource management. Data-driven insights obtained from hot desking systems empower companies to adapt and evolve their workspace strategies, ultimately fostering a more productive and tailored work environment that meets the changing demands of the workforce.

how hot desking works

What are the disadvantages of hot desking?

Forced spontaneity

When you hot desk, you reserve a desk space on a first-come, first-served basis – which can sometimes be a spontaneity killer. With flex work spaces in demand, it’s wise to think ahead and plan your day in order to book the right workspace for your needs.

No dedicated spot

In a traditional office setup, or when renting a dedicated desk in a coworking space, having a personal desk allows employees to personalize their surroundings, keep essential documents within arm’s reach, and establish a sense of ownership. However, in a hot desk office space, individuals do not have a fixed spot to call their own. This lack of continuity can lead to a loss of familiarity and comfort, potentially affecting an employee’s sense of belonging within the workspace. Moreover, constantly changing workstations can make it challenging to establish a consistent routine and organize personal belongings effectively.

Lack of privacy

While proven to boost productivity and creativity, some argue that open-plan offices are noisy and distracting, making it harder to focus. At Mindspace we try to mitigate this by offering private “phone booths” for conversations and phone calls, offering a reasonable balance between collaboration and privacy. However, for employees working with highly confidential information or for teams requiring a consistent seating structure or ongoing collaboration, hot desking might not be a compatible work arrangement.

Relationships and identity

Ironically, although a hot desk coworking space provides plenty of social interaction for workers, a constantly changing work environment could potentially hinder people forming long-term work relationships and establishing a personal identity at work.

No control over who sits next to you

A significant downside of a hot desk space is the lack of control over who occupies neighboring workspaces.Employees might find themselves seated next to different coworkers each day, leading to inconsistent communication and potential disruptions. This lack of predictability can be especially challenging for tasks requiring close collaboration or sensitive discussions. The absence of control over seating arrangements can diminish the sense of cohesion within teams and make it harder to establish a comfortable and productive working atmosphere, ultimately impacting collaboration and employee engagement.

For more advantages and disadvantages of flexible working spaces, here’s another article. One thing’s for sure: flexible work spaces are the future of work.

hot desking vs coworking at Mindspace

What is the difference between hot desking and coworking?

Hot desking refers to reserving a work spot on an on-demand and ad-hoc basis – meaning there are no designated desks. Workers can choose to share a table with random people, reserve a private cubicle or standing desk, snuggle up with their laptop on the lounge sofa or opt for any kind of unconventional seating arrangement that suits them that day.

Coworking is where different companies share a flexible office workspace or building, where most employees, with the exception of freelancers, have their own dedicated desk. At Mindspace we provide multiple coworking options, from customized furnished offices and fully branded floors with meeting rooms, to open spaces shared by different companies.

The idea of coworking is to provide companies with flexible office space such as Mindspace Old Street office space to suit their needs, plus access to additional rooms and amenities shared between the other companies and professionals in the community. Hot desking is synonymous with coworking facilities, as there is often an open space with on-demand seating accompanying adjacent private offices.

What is the difference between hot desking and hotelling?

While both hot desking and hotelling offer flexibility in workspace arrangements, the key difference lies in the approach to workspace selection. A hot desk workspace involves first-come, first-served access to available workspaces without reservations, while hotelling involves pre-booking workspaces based on employee needs and schedules. The choice between the two strategies depends on the organization’s goals, employee preferences, and the desired level of control over workspace assignments.

What is the difference between hot desking and free addressing?

Both hot desking and free addressing aim to create dynamic office environments, but they differ in approach. Hot desking involves unassigned workspaces without reservations, fostering spontaneity and cross-team interaction. Free addressing offers a range of workspaces tailored to different tasks, allowing employees to select the best-fit area. The choice between the two depends on the organization’s goals and the desired balance between unassigned flexibility and task-specific adaptability.

working at a hot desk at MindspaceIs hot desking right for you?

There are a few questions you need to ask before understanding if hot desking is right for you and your organization.

Hot-desking for self-employed workers

For self-employed professionals, the world of hot desking opens up exciting possibilities. With its inherent flexibility, hot desking accommodates your ever-changing schedule, allowing you to work when and where it suits you best. This agility is crucial for independent workers who juggle diverse tasks and clients. Beyond flexibility, hot desking introduces you to a diverse network of individuals, offering valuable opportunities to connect, collaborate, and expand your business horizons.

 The cost-efficient nature of hot desking also aligns perfectly with the financial considerations of self-employment. By adopting hot desking, you gain access to a professional workspace without the heavy burden of traditional office expenses. In the world of self-employment, where adaptability and resource optimization are key, hot desking emerges as a compelling solution that enhances productivity, fosters collaboration, and supports your professional growth journey.

 Hot-desking for enterprise companies

Take a good look around the office and ascertain if you often have empty desks and unused spaces. If you do, then hot desking can offer you a way to downsize and operate in a more efficient way, cutting back expensive fixed and long-term rental costs.

With cyclical change we are often faced with economic uncertainty and market volatility, so consider the savings you can make from moving away from a traditional office set-up towards a more flexible office arrangement with hot desking. This will assist the transition to a hybrid working model (if you haven’t done that already) and provide much-needed social interaction for remote workers.

If you deal with highly sensitive information, hot desking office space probably isn’t the right option for you. However flexible private offices in a coworking space may provide you with similar social benefits and the same on-demand wellness amenities that come with hot desking. By understanding the pros of coworking spaces, you can strike a balance that aligns with your business requirements, combining social interaction with the privacy you need.

Do you want to be able to tap into a global pool of talent and still offer the perks of a stylish and comfortable office from multiple locations? At Mindspace we offer daily, monthly and annual membership passes, and your employees can work out of any of our global locations – from hybrid offices in London to coworking spaces in Miami.

How does your team operate on a daily basis?

Hybrid first

Do they communicate exclusively via email, slack and other digital channels? If that’s the case, your employees may greatly benefit from the face-to-face communication and sense of community that hot desking offers. If you’re worried about office chit-chat and other distractions, know that you can take advantage of private cubicles to ‘get into the zone’ and find focus. However, if your team needs to sit together and collaborate in person on an ongoing basis – then hot desking probably isn’t the right move for you.

Office first

Do you want to provide a dynamic work environment that encourages people to be creative, interact with diverse groups of people and feel inspired by having different surroundings? If yes, then hot desking is the perfect way to shake up the office environment and tap into new creative sources. Have you already decided going flex in your office choice? We offer this in most of our locations, such as our Brooklyn coworking spaces, Mindspace coworking Wynwood and our flexible offices to rent in London – check out our Shoreditch office space or our Hammersmith workspace.

Remote first

If your workforce is dispersed globally, the hot desking model might be a game-changer. Hot desking bridges physical gaps, allowing your team to collaborate in person occasionally. Strengthen team cohesion, optimize resource usage, and offer flexibility without tying your team to a fixed location. Before adopting hot desking, consider your team’s preferences and the benefits of occasional in-person interactions. By embracing hot desking, your global distributed workforce can unite, innovate, and collaborate across borders like never before.

how does hot desking work

How can employers improve hot desking?

Hot desking is a dynamic office solution that offers flexibility and collaboration, but it requires thoughtful management to ensure its success. Employers play a crucial role in enhancing the hot desking experience for their employees. Let’s explore some strategies to optimize this workspace arrangement and create a positive environment that benefits both the organization and its workforce.

Desk booking solution

Implementing a reliable desk booking solution is a fundamental step in improving hot desking. This technology empowers employees to reserve workspaces in advance, minimizing confusion and ensuring availability. A user-friendly booking platform simplifies the process and provides visibility into available desks, making it easier for employees to plan their workday.

The right desk features

Choosing the right desk features can greatly impact employee satisfaction. Consider ergonomic furniture that supports comfort during prolonged work hours. Adjustable chairs, monitor stands, and keyboard trays promote a healthy posture. Additionally, provide ample power outlets and connectivity options to cater to various devices, keeping employees productive and powered up throughout the day. One of the advantages of renting a furnished office is that all these are included in the price!

Best practice guide for employees

Offering a comprehensive best practice guide for employees using hot desking can streamline the process. This guide should cover topics such as etiquettes for shared spaces, how to reserve desks, and tips for personalizing workstations temporarily. Clear guidelines ensure a smooth experience and promote a sense of respect for shared workspaces.

Collecting data and feedback

Regularly collecting data and feedback from employees can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of the hot desk offices. Surveys, suggestion boxes, and informal conversations can help identify pain points and areas for improvement. Employers can then make informed decisions based on employee experiences, enhancing the overall hot desking environment.

what is a hot desk

How to measure the success of hot desking?

Measuring the success of hot desking involves evaluating workspace usage, employee satisfaction, productivity, cost savings, and collaboration. Utilization rates and peak usage times indicate efficient space use, while surveys and feedback measure employee contentment. To refine your hot desking strategy, regularly gather employee feedback through various channels.

How to know if hot desking isn’t right for you?

If your work involves sensitive information or requires deep focus, if your team relies heavily on consistent collaboration and bonding, or if employee preferences lean towards personalized workspaces, hot desking might not align well. Similarly, if your organization needs stable setups for specialized equipment, lacks the necessary infrastructure, faces resistance to change, or receives negative employee feedback, it could indicate that the hot desk concept isn’t the right fit. Evaluating these factors will help you make an informed decision about whether to pursue hot desking or explore alternative workspace strategies.

More flexible solutions

In the dynamic realm of modern workspaces, a range of flexible office solutions complements hot desking. Private offices provide dedicated spaces for focused work, while customized areas tailor environments to specific needs. The hybrid office combines remote and on-site work, fostering balance. Team suites offer collaborative private spaces for entire teams, and there are also virtual offices that provide an exclusive business address with a range of professional services (virtual office services explained here). These alternatives empower organizations to optimize productivity while catering to diverse work styles.

If you’re interested in exploring the optimal solution for your company please feel free to contact us and one of our friendly advisors will assist you.

About the author

Mindspace is a boutique flex space provider, presenting a global mindset with a local flavor. We serve companies in 45 prime locations across Europe, Israel and the US.

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