Smartway2 Desk Hoteling To Manage Hybrid Workforce

Forget hot desking — Why desk hotelling is the best way to manage a hybrid workforce

With so many people working between their homes and offices, businesses are stripping back their main headquarters in favour of desk hoteling models. Workers simply arrive at the office, go to an available desk, log in, and begin working. 

Hot desking sounds straightforward in theory, but implementing it can be challenging. The concept of no assigned seating seems great in theory until it turns into chaos. When someone shows up to the office only to find no desks left with the equipment they need or no desks available at all, hot desking can turn into a game of musical chairs where everybody loses. 

The best way to bring order to the chaos is to shift from pure hot desking to desk hoteling. Desk hoteling, a reservation-based system that keeps all of the benefits of hot desking and none of the drawbacks. 

10 steps to turn hot desking hell into desk hoteling heaven


1. Create a desk-hoteling vision

Too often, businesses rush into hot desking for more immediate benefits like saving costs and increased flexibility. But failing to step back and look at the bigger picture can cause problems further down the line. 

As you envision your future office setup, think about: 

  • How many employees need occasional computer access?
  • Do employees want unassigned seating?
  • Are employees happy working from home sometimes?  
  • Will your main office be the desk hoteling hub, or will you rent a space from a provider?
  • Will you implement desk hotelling with workplace management software

When you create a vision for your desk hoteling model, bring employees into discussions and make sure they’re satisfied with the changes. 

2. Establish a task force of pioneers

Forming a group of passionate desk hoteling champions will ensure your transition goes as smoothly as possible.

If employees need help or things go wrong with bookings, a task force team member can swiftly resolve the issue and get things back on track. Your task force should consist of managers and leaders from Facilities, IT, and HR departments who understand your desk hoteling system and how the business needs to operate for success. 

Having a team of leaders to direct and manage your desk hoteling setup will help employees adapt to the changes while maintaining overall productivity. 

3. Understand the problem you’re trying to solve

Hot desking is on trend, but don’t just start doing it because everyone else is. You need to understand the business problem you’re trying to solve and why desk hoteling is the solution.

For example, is your primary objective to cut the costs of running a permanent office? Or perhaps you want to provide employees with greater flexibility and better working conditions? Whatever your needs are, desk hoteling could be the answer, but you’ll need to understand them first. 

4. Plan for any exceptions

While desk hoteling offers practicality and flexibility for most, there might be some exceptions you’ll need to plan for. 

For example, reception staff or IT support teams may need a permanent desk with the same computer and other equipment for their role. It won’t help to shuttle them around each day and hope that they’ll have what they need. Instead, giving them some stability with a permanent setup is better.

The point is that desk hoteling won’t work for everyone in your team, so you’ll need to plan for any exceptions and provide alternatives for staff who need full-time desks. 

5. Analyze any space utilization data you have

The wonders of technology mean we can now log on to a computer, open up a tool like Smartway2’s desk booking system, and look at real-time space availability for any given day. 

With access to this data, managers and employees can check the current and future schedules and book in advance to ensure they’ll have desk access when needed. Using space utilization data helps optimize efficiency and reduce errors like double bookings, mix-ups, and clashes.

You may already have your own system for booking and scheduling desks, so make sure you’re analyzing any space utilization data you have to keep things operating hiccup-free. 

6. Know the challenges of desk hoteling and be prepared

Just like everything else, desk hoteling can come with challenges and common pitfalls to avoid. Common problems include: 

  • Employees are struggling to find an available desk. 
  • Employees find it hard to settle and work productively. 
  • Hot desks can’t be personalized by employees as permanent desks can. 
  • Hygiene can be an issue. 

Some signs employees are struggling include: 

  • Morale is low, and employees are complaining about moving around. 
  • Absences increase. 
  • Illnesses from exposure to germs on dirty equipment.  
  • People aren’t practicing proper desk sharing etiquette.
  • Business productivity decreases as employees struggle. 

Preparing for common challenges will help you tackle any desk hoteling problems you might run into.

7. Choose a desk booking tool that simplifies the process for employees

Choosing a desk booking tool that simplifies the process is important for avoiding issues and keeping employees happy

You’ll want to find a workplace scheduling software that offers self-service bookings, real-time information, and integrations with other software.

8. Start with a pilot

While the concept is simple, implementing a desk hoteling model doesn’t always go smoothly. So, starting with a pilot is a good way to test the waters before scaling to all your offices. 

You could pilot your hot desk program in one building, on one floor, or with certain departments at a time. This will help you identify any issues before implementing your hot desk model across the business. 

9. Review the pilot results and create a rollout plan

If your pilot went to plan, it’s good news, and you can prepare for a company-wide rollout. 

Take the learnings and insights gathered during your pilot to create a master plan. Go back to your vision — is it still true, or do you need to make some tweaks? Which tools did you find most useful during the pilot and what do you need to invest in now to fill in the gaps? You can — and should — optimize your approach as the weeks and months go on, so treat this ‘master’ roll-out plan as a constant work in progress.

If the pilot didn’t go to plan, go back to the drawing board and work out why. Speak to employees to gather feedback. They might add valuable insight into what’s going wrong at ground level. 

10. Gather data and change your approach if needed

It’s important to gather data to determine whether your desk hoteling approach is helping you reach your goals.

Use your room and desk booking software to gather usage data and gain deeper insights into your desk hoteling plan. You need real-time information and usage trends to understand how your rooms and desks are being used. This kind of data will also help you spot under-utilized spaces that are wasting valuable real estate and take action when supply isn’t meeting demand.

Smartway2: the ideal desk hoteling tool

Smartway2 Logo 2021

Smartway2’s workplace scheduling software is the only thing you’ll need to optimize and simplify your desk hoteling setup. 

Smartway2 takes an automated, data-driven approach to hybrid scheduling, letting businesses and employees arrange anything from single desk bookings to whole office spaces. With Smartway2, you’ll say goodbye to desk and meeting room booking mix-ups and hello to reliability and simplicity.


Hannah Cresswell

Last updated September 27, 2022