What’s the Difference Between Desk Booking, Hot Desking, and Hoteling Software?

Catherine Tansey
December 14, 2021
hot desking, desk hoteling, desk booking, what is hot desking

The concepts of hot desking, desk booking, and desk hoteling have been increasing in popularity as a result of more and more workplaces going hybrid.

In fact, Deloitte’s 2021 Return to Workplace survey found 68% of executives were planning to adopt a hybrid model for their companies moving forward.

While there is overlap between these three terms, they mean different things. In this article, we’ll clear up the differences between them. 

What is hot desking? 

Hot desking involves an office setup in which employees do not have assigned desks, but instead work from any open workstation or available desk. 

The term comes from the naval term “hot bunking” where sailors working different shifts would share the same bunk due to bunk shortages. In a hot desking work environment, employees select their workspace for the day when they arrive at the office.

Hot desking is not new for freelancers, independent contractors, consultants, or those who have worked in co-working spaces. But, it may be a new concept to full-time employees who are used to working from a dedicated desk in an office. Co-working spaces were early adopters of hot desking, noting that it promoted collaboration, was built on flexibility, and offered big cost savings on real estate.

Hot desking is also perfect for teams that hinge on cross-functional collaboration. It supports teamwork across departments and allows stakeholders to join and leave projects as projects ramp up and down, depending on the business’ needs. 

Jon Fredrik Baksaas, CEO of the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor, adopted a hot-desking workplace arrangement for his company in 2003, long before it was popular. As reported in Harvard Business Review, Baksaas said the workplace model was instrumental in the growth and scaling of his company from state provider to multinational corporation because hot desking “improved communication, accelerated decision making, and even created what he calls an ‘attacking mind-set.’” 

What is desk booking?

Desk booking involves pre-booking an open desk or workspace at your office, often ahead of time. Employees can view open spaces and reserve their workstation for the day easily, from anywhere and with any device. 

You can think of desk booking as a means of using hot desking and making it easier for employees to work flexibly. Desk booking isn’t inherently tied to a hot desking model, but the two work well together—it’s a lot easier to have flexible seating arrangements when your employees know they can secure a desk in advance. 

Being able to pre-book desks eliminates any potential stressors employees may feel about securing a desk for the day. Rather than scrambling to find their workstation when they arrive, employees can reserve ahead of time and get right to work once they’re in the office. 

Desk booking is especially valuable when it comes to collaboration. Employees who are working on projects together can easily reserve desks or workstations near each other to make sharing ideas, resources, and brainstorming easier. 

The right desk booking tool should include the ability to prebook remotely, see who is working in the office and where, see which desks have which amenities and other nearby accessibility features

What is desk hoteling?

Desk hoteling draws on the idea of “checking-in” and “checking-out” of a workstation, but it’s essentially another term for desk booking. 

Like desk booking software, desk hoteling software allows team members to temporarily reserve a desk space. As employees arrive at the desk, they can “check-in” to confirm the workstation as theirs for the time being. 

Similar to hot desking, the idea of desk hoteling works well for hybrid teams, where dedicated desks for each employee aren't required. Having some means of tracking who has reserved which desk can streamline the experience for your team, so no matter what you call it, it's smart to use a desk booking or hoteling tool.

Getting hot desking right

Today, as most companies adopt a hybrid workplace model, hot desking is a workspace option that suits the changing needs of the workforce and company. It’s flexible and cost-effective, as it cuts down on unnecessary real estate costs. Since not all employees will be in the office all the time, a dedicated desk for each worker isn’t necessary. 

With a hot desking arrangement, companies can meet the needs of the employees in the office that day. But hot desking can be even more efficient with the addition of a desk booking tool. 

Many employees prefer the ability to reserve a spot ahead of time. Maybe they like to be close to a window or want to reserve two workspaces next to one another to collaborate more easily with a colleague. 

Desk booking and desk hoteling software share more similarities than differences. They both serve as a means of temporarily reserving a workspace and meet the needs of the hybrid office. Desk booking and desk hoteling softwares are a smart way to take advantage of the perks of hot desking—improved flexibility, lower costs, promotion of teamwork—without the potential frustration or territorialism that can accompany hot desking. 

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