laptop on desk in office

Reverse Hoteling: What Is It & How to Implement It?

Reverse Hoteling has been designed to fully maximize space utilization in the office while offering complete flexibility and ease of use. Employees that have assigned desks are able to offer up their deskspace to a flexible working pool for other employees to book. 

Desk management is a critical component of ensuring a safe return to work amidst COVID-19. To learn more check out our recent webinars.

What is Reverse Hoteling? 

Businesses across the globe are now implementing popularized workplace strategy concepts such as hoteling, hot-desking and hybrid working. But continuous innovation creates more cost-effective practices to optimize workplace performance, one of which is reverse hoteling. 

Reverse hoteling allows businesses the freedom of managing desk space to achieve the maximum return on real estate budget. By using reverse hoteling, you can now re-allocate normal desks to your desking pool on an ad-hoc basis. This concept means that those with dedicated desk spaces will share their space with a guest or hybrid worker when they are not using it. 

For example, when an employee is out of the office on vacation or due to work commitments, the work surface is signalled as being ‘hot’ and can be used by an approved member of staff. The benefit of using reverse hoteling is that the worker takes advantage of a private workspace near other employees, rather than working from home or in another space. 

However, there are some important things to consider with this concept. When implementing a reverse hoteling model, this requires a managing policy and infrastructure to be put in place to ensure any confidential materials are cleared by the owner before letting out their desk for others to use. Scheduling the desks appropriately will also require a workplace desk scheduling application, such as SmartWay2, to allow employees to view open desks and book a slot accordingly. 

Reverse Hoteling in the Modern Workplace: Who Will Benefit? 

Before implementing reverse hoteling in your office, you want to take into consideration whom exactly will benefit from it. Your employees will work in many different ways, meaning some may spend more time at their desks than others during a typical working day. 

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to reverse hoteling, if you have a mix of employees with assigned and unassigned desks, this strategy will work for you. Let’s consider the different types of employees who will be using reverse hoteling: 

Resident Employees with Assigned Desks

Those employees that spend more than 5 out of the 8 hours at their desk every workday are likely to have an assigned desk. These are the employees who will offer their desk to the desking pool when they are expecting to be out of the office for a day or more. 

Remote Workers

Remote workers are likely to not have an assigned seat in the office because, due to the nature of their job, they may be out on the road making client visits, travelling for different aspects of work or simply working from home. Since they don’t have their own desk, many of these employees will opt for hot-desking to take advantage and reap the benefits of some office time with their fellow colleagues. 

How to Correctly Implement Reverse Hoteling in Your Workplace

Focus on Employee Success

If you’re hoping to implement reverse hoteling in the workplace you may find some employees will be reluctant to do so, while others may not see it as a problem. If this is going to be the case, you should try and reward the generosity of your employees as this might be enough to get more participation for those who aren’t as keen to share their space. 

Employees are likely to be more productive when they have choices and rewards and it is up to you to demonstrate why this change will build and strengthen not only the company but the individuals who make up the company. 

Implement a Clean Desk Policy

One of the many problems that come with reverse hoteling or hot-desking, is when the guest or desk owner is greeted with an untidy workspace. When implementing a reverse hoteling strategy, it must be linked with a clean desk policy to qualify for any incentives you’re setting out. 

As we mentioned, employees must remove all confidential materials or personal belongings to create an appropriate workspace for the guest and as for the guest, they must leave the desk in the same condition it was found. 

Cloud Storage for Documents

If your business is using cloud document storage, desk hoteling will be effective. This is because employees can work anywhere they have an internet connection, whether it’s at their desk at home or by going through the reverse desk hoteling process and getting a seat in the office for a period of time.

The flexibility of using cloud storage also mitigates the loss of data and ensures everyone has the most up-to-date version of any important documents, like proposals or training materials, required to carry out their day-to-day work. 

Use a Desk Scheduling Tool

When trying to set up a hot-desking or hoteling, you will need to have a scheduling tool ready to keep on top of those desks being booked out. Whiteboards and spreadsheets are difficult to keep track of and don’t scale, which is why a scheduling tool designed for desk-booking is vital.

Hot-desking, Hoteling, Reverse Hoteling & Flex Space – What’s the Difference? 

As more companies strive to create agile workplaces, there has been growing confusion around terminology, as different regions use different terms. As well as this, the space and philosophy of flexible work are continuously developing and changing. In light of this, we have explained the meaning of the hot-desking, hoteling, reverse hoteling and flex space: 

  • Hot-Desking: Hot Desking is when workspaces and desks are used by different employees at different times, on an ad hoc basis. The aim of hot-desking is to encourage innovation and maximize space efficiency. 
  • Desk Hoteling: Desk Hoteling is when employees reserve a specific workstation or any other type of space such as a conference room or collaborative workspace, in advance. With desk hoteling, employees are not assigned to a specific workstation and have more freedom to choose where they want to work and feel most productive. 
  • Reverse Hoteling: This is then when employees that have permanent desks release them to the rest of the company when they’re not in the office. 
  • Flex Space: A more general term that people use to describe areas in the office that can be used for multiple purposes whether its meetings or one-to-one sessions. Companies may use moving walls or desks to make this possible. 

Health and safety are now at the forefront of everyone’s minds and companies are looking for innovative ways to make their office space safer while also creating a more productive work environment, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While there will need to be considerations such as socially distanced work areas, densifying the office and engaging in stricter hygiene protocols, businesses will still find the benefits. According to Gensler’s research and research carried out by the team at Smartway2, most employees want to come back to the office at least part-time.

This means office configuration and workspace assignments will need to be adjustable and flexible and agile work strategies such as hot-desking or reverse desk hoteling can help overcome the challenges.

If you’d like to see reserve hoteling or hot desking in action, please book a demo with a member of our team.


Hannah Cresswell

Last updated February 8, 2021