Are There Downsides to Hot Desking?

Sophia Lee
May 31, 2022
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Hot desking used to mean something primarily to people who worked from coworking spaces. It wasn't broadly used in everyday office settings.

But now, between the rise of hybrid work and the increasing demand for flexibility, it’s become a common seating strategy for many companies.

While there are benefits to hot desking, it’s also important to acknowledge that there are downsides as well. We’ll explore the pros and cons of hot desking in this article, and discuss some of the ways to manage potential issues.

Related content: How Flexible Seating Arrangements Can Improve Your Hybrid Office

What is hot desking? 

Hot desking refers to an office seating arrangement where there are no dedicated, assigned desks. Rather, everyone can use whatever desk they feel like working from on a given day.

We've gone over the details in more depth in our article What’s the Difference Between Desk Booking, Hot Desking, and Hoteling Software? So, check that one out next if you'd like a deeper dive into the topic.

The upsides of hot desking  

There’s a reason why many employers are transitioning from the traditional office setup to a hot desking arrangement.

Here are some of the advantages of this approach: 

1. Flexibility

Flexibility is king in today’s workplaces—so much so that 59% of employees say flexibility is more important to them than salary or other benefits.

Hot desking is another way for employers to give their people a choice when it comes to how, when, and where they work. 

2. Improved collaboration

Compared to an assigned seating arrangement, hot desking can make it easier for employees to collaborate with each other. This is especially true for people who work across different departments, who historically might not have enjoyed much face time together under an assigned desk model.

Related content: How Desk Hoteling Can Improve Employee Happiness

3. Hybrid-compatible

Last year, we conducted a survey and found that 62% of employees prefer a hybrid workplace. If this is the case for your organization, hot desking is the perfect complement for a hybrid setup.

With an effective desk reservation process, you can maximize usage of your space while also ensuring everyone has a place to work when they come into the office.

4. Cost-effective

Depending on how you approach your hot desking setup, you can potentially save on real estate costs. 

For instance, if your workplace is hybrid, you may only have a percentage of your company working in the office on any given day. So, you won’t need dedicated desks for every employee to use daily. By leasing a smaller space that has fewer desks overall, you’ll spend less on office-related expenses. 

The downsides of hot desking  

While there are many upsides to hot desking, there are also challenges. It’s important to be aware of them so you can decide whether or not to adopt this seating arrangement for your company, and deal with any potential problems before they arise.

Here are some of the disadvantages of hot desking:

1. Feels impersonal

While some people may enjoy the flexibility of hot desking, others may not.

These employees may miss being able to “personalize” their desk—whether that’s setting up their desk with specific technology or office equipment, or by decorating their space with photos of friends and family. 

Some of these concerns (like having personal items at desks) are truly hard to mitigate with a hot desking model. But others, like needing access to specific technology or office equipment (like a second monitor, or a particular type of desk chair) can be easily solved. For example, by combining hot desking with a desk booking tool, like Eden Workplace's Desk Booking, employees can choose desks based on their listed amenities, like secondary monitors and more. 

2. Lack of stability

Another downside of hot desking is the lack of stability. It can be stressful for some employees to not to know exactly where they’ll be sitting when they come into the office.

Using a desk booking tool can help with this concern as well—some desk booking tools, like Eden Workplace, address this issue by allowing employees to make recurring reservations. This creates peace of mind, and helps employees establish a set schedule for a particular desk, which can help create more of a routine around coming into the office.

Related content: How Recurring Reservations Improve the Desk Hoteling Experience

3. More logistics

Even though hot desking can be great for collaboration, it requires advanced planning.

Your employees have to know when each of their teammates will be in the office. And it may be challenging for everyone to align their schedules accordingly.

There are plenty of workarounds here—think adopting a hybrid schedule where employees have set days they'll work in the office, using a desk booking tool as we've recommended previously, and so on. But, it is worth noting that the logistical overhead is simply higher when desks aren't assigned, and pre-planning is necessary to make it work well.

4. Increased distractions

Finally, working at a different desk every week can introduce distractions.

For example, there may be days when an employee has to work next to a group of people who are having a brainstorm or ongoing discussions about a project. This level of chatter can make it difficult to focus. 

Using a desk booking tool is also helpful here, since employees can choose in advance where they want to work in the office. Room scheduling software can also be a helpful tool to have alongside hot desking—it allows groups to reserve a conference room or individuals to book a private booth to ensure everyone has a workspace that meets their needs. 

Is hot desking the right arrangement for your company? 

The reality is that while hot desking has plenty of upsides, it won’t work for every single organization. 

And, that’s okay—there are plenty of ways to approach your office setup, and keeping the classic dedicated desk model might work better for your team. 

However, with proper planning, communication, and the right tools, you can easily mitigate the downsides of hot desking, and create a modern, flexible office setup that increases office productivity and builds a strong, connected office culture.

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