Have you heard of hot desking? Do you know what it is? Hot Desking is a trend right now that is a radical shift in the way office space is organized. There are many companies that have made the switch to a hot desking layout. And it is a trend that continues into 2017.

Why are organizations making the shift to hot desking?

Because it reduces costs and may also increase productivity.

What is Hot Desking?

An analogy:

The hot desking concept is similar to car sharing.

Most people use their car to go to and from work during the week and to run errands on the weekend. The rest of the time the car sits in the office parking lot or at home in the car port.

The average car is an asset with a 90% downtime. Car sharing companies like Car2Go, Zipcar and start-ups like Uber allow people to use vehicles ONLY when needed. Car share vehicles have a 90% up time. It is a much more efficient use of resources.

The same is true of desk space in the office environment.

Employees working full time will leave their desk empty for two days of the week. When on vacation their desk could be vacant for two or three weeks per year and some workers are on flexible working hours which leaves their desk empty even more frequently.

Work from home staff may come into the office occasionally for meetings and company events. Hot desking allows these workers to have desk space when they work in the office. Companies that offer employees flexible work schedules, work from home options and operate multiple shifts are more likely to choose hot desking as an office layout option.

Hot Desking has its advantages:

Hot desking is a way to make efficient use of office space allowing more employees to work within a fixed office area.

Hot Desking and Cost Savings

The #1 motivating factor for hot desking is cost savings. Organizations that implement hot-desking are benefiting from significant cost savings.  Areas with more expensive office lease rates will enjoy the most cost savings from hot desking. This is why Hot-Desking is more prevalent in the more expensive cities.

Cost savings isn’t the only benefit of hot desking.

Hot Desking helps with team building

Have you ever gone to a training workshop where the facilitator asks you to partner up with a group of people you don’t know? There is a good reason for this.

People tend to operate in cliques and will sit with people they already know well. By separating the cliques and having people work with different employees they are helping to create cross relationships with other workers in the company.

When office workers are constantly rotating their desk space across the office they will be forced to work with and sit beside people that they don’t know well.

Hot Desking office layouts typically offer more social and communal gathering areas which helps develop employee cohesiveness.

Hot Desking helps with employee collaboration

With a more social office layout employees are more likely to collaborate and work together. Quite often there are some departmental rivalries that can deepen because employees don’t interact with each other day to day. Accounting and Sales could finally get along ;).

What kind of employees are suitable for hot desking?

You could argue that anyone could adapt to a shared desk ecosystem but there are some roles that it is especially suited to.

Road Warriors

Outside Sales staff that are out in the field making sales calls don’t always need to sit at the same desk everyday. They could share desk space with other sales reps and keep their contracts and documents in digital format instead of filing paper copies in their desk filing cabinet. OneNote can help you keep your ‘paperwork’ organized and readily available in a paperless business environment.

Call Centre Workers

Many companies are already allowing work from home arrangements so hot desking could work for these workers who want to have a day in the office.

Inside Sales People

Inside sales people can also utilize a paperless office strategy using digital tools like OneNote and other powerful work tools. They are quite often used to sharing desk space on the floor with other inside reps anyway.

Disadvantages of Hot Desking

Resistance to change

There are some downsides to a Hot Desking environment in your office. One of them is the fact that people tend to have an aversion to change. Many employees will not like to be uprooted from their home in the office and may feel like they don’t have their own space within the office anymore.

Personal Hygiene

What happens in your cubicle stays in your cubicle? Maybe, but with desk sharing there is a real concern that some people are just not as germ conscious as others. According to a MSU Study only 5% of people properly wash their hands after using the toilet. Come on people, it is called a washroom for a reason! What are the odds that some of the people sharing your desk space will be clean… not good!

Humans are territorial creatures

It doesn’t take much observational skills to see that people are very territorial by nature. We like to have our own ‘property’ and sharing is not something that comes naturally to us.

Looking at any office you will notice that each cubicle is significantly personalized. You will see family pictures on the desk, a funny quote, some magazines or books, work documents tacked to the wall and maybe even a stapler with a name right next to the DO NOT TOUCH label. There may even be a customized chair ordered for the worker by the company ergonomist.

So taking away the ‘ownership’ of a desk in the company may cause some employees to feel less connected to the business because they don’t have a permanent place to call their own.

How to implement a Hot Desking office layout?

To help office workers move from a dedicated desk to a Hot-Desking Layout it is best to proactively address concerns such as hygene and clutter. A clean desk policy is must in this environment. The desk needs to be left clean for the next person.

Without a desk of their own, workers will need a place to keep their personal belongings. Having a locker to store your personal items like your laptop, paperwork and other devices is a good start.

Applying the right technology to the workplace environment can make the transition to hot desking easier.

Technology that can help transition to Hot Desking:

Go paperless

Going paperless doesn’t mean that you have zero paper in your daily work flow. Some people have accomplished this but it is the extreme case. Most businesses can not eliminate 100% of their paper use. Although it is possible, it really isn’t feasible.

Paperless does not mean no paper it means less paper.

If you adopt a paperless work philosophy then hot desking is easier because you don’t need access to a filing system right at your desk.

You can use tools like OneNote to digitally store all your paper in the cloud and access it from any device whenever you need it. If you don’t like OneNote,  Evernote is a close substitute.

It is easy to print or scan documents straight to OneNote or Evernote.

The Office Phone System

When choosing a hot desking office layout the flexibility of your phone system is paramount.

You will need a phone system that is:


If you have an old phone system you won’t be able to move the phone numbers around the office to each desk easily. If you are using a Cloud Based Phone system then employees can login to the phone at the beginning of their shift and all their settings, speed dials and hot keys will populate and their number will be active on the handset.

To do this using Telus Business Connect you need a polycomm phone and it is easy to do.

Once they finish their shift they can log out and it is ready for the next worker to log in.

A cloud based phone system also allows you to use your office phone number from your smart phone, PC or tablet so don’t need to have a traditional desktop phone on the desk unless you prefer it that way.

There is a lot to consider when moving your office over to a hot desking layout but with the right technology and office philosophy it can be done effectively with cost savings and productivity increases.

Has your business implemented a hot desking strategy? If so do you implemented the technology to make it an effective office layout?


Andrew McGivern
Andrew McGivern

Andrew McGivern helps businesses do things better, faster and with fewer errors using existing technology. How does he do this? http://www.andrewmcgivern.com/about