Hot desking vs. hoteling: What's the difference?

More and more companies are adopting hybrid workforce models, but as physical office spaces shrink, what are some options to support employees who do come into the office?

Hot desking and hoteling are two methods growing in popularity to let workers share physical and digital office spaces. Many believe the methods are the same, but that isn't the case. There are distinct differences between the two, among them end-user types and needs, available resources and delivered IT services.

Let's explore why hot desking and hoteling are so popular and examine hot desking vs. hoteling to determine which option might be the best fit for your organization.

Why are hot desking and hoteling so popular?

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to reconsider how employees work. Many opted for a hybrid model, where only a portion of employees work in the office, while others work remotely. As a result, these businesses now have more office space than is required. Right-sizing eliminates unnecessary physical overhead, but it also creates a situation where employees no longer have access to their own private office or cubicle. Instead, technology is used to coordinate the sharing of physical spaces and their associated IT services, such as network and internet access, business phones, and personal video conferencing and collaboration systems.

Another popular trend for smaller businesses and startups: coworking spaces. This is when the business rents office space from a third party to gain access to desk space and digital services on a temporary basis.

What is a hot desking space?

Hot desking provides workers with office and IT infrastructure services on a first-come, first-serve basis. With hot desking, employees walk into the office, find an available office space and claim it for their own for as long as they are there, accessing IT resources as needed. This model is straightforward and often works well, but it does run into issues in certain situations, such as the following:

  • Capacity. When more employees show up than office space is available.
  • Collaboration. If two or more employees need to work together yet are physically separated as no adjacent spaces are available.
  • Availability of services. When certain IT resources are required but not available at open spots.
  • Confidentiality. In situations where privacy is needed.

If one or more of these issues occurs on a regular basis, hoteling may be a better option.

What is a hoteling space?

In the enterprise, hoteling has traditionally been relegated to shared conference room spaces. For years, employees had the ability to either manually or digitally reserve a conference room for a period of time, granting them and others the ability to use the space for collaborative, in-person purposes. Today, however, hoteling is moving into single-person office spaces as well. When examining hot desking vs. hoteling, the difference lies in that, with hoteling, spaces can be reserved, typically using a digital service. This way, the employee knows the following well ahead of time:

  • a workspace is indeed available;
  • the exact location of the workspace; and
  • what physical and digital resources are available.

While hoteling eliminates many of the deficiencies found with hot desking, it does require that the business or coworking facility set up a reservation service. Additionally, if the office itself only has a limited number of popular locations, hoteling may only offer workers spaces that are less than ideal for what they need on any given day.

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