Desk sharing vs hot desking: Comparing the approaches

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Hot-desking and desk-sharing are two approaches to pool the use of desks between employees and an approach that more firms are considering since the rise of remote work. The approach provides space savings relative to having individual desks for all employees, while providing the benefit that employees still come into the office and meet colleagues for several days a week. 

What is hot-desking?

Hot desking in an approach where employees are night assigned specific desks. Rather, there is a communal pool of desks where employees are able to work. It is very similar to a library – employees can take the desks that are currently open, and clear the desks when they are done. 

What is desk-sharing?

While hot-desksing is a form of desk-sharing, the term “desk-sharing’ (as used in this article) can also refer to two or more individuals assigned to a particular desk. On certain days of the week one employee uses it, and on different days of the week someone else does. Thus, rather than having an open pool of desks, the individual desks are shared by specific people. 

Differences between hot-desking and desk-sharing

While both hot-desking and desk-sharing are similar in their attempt to reduce the number of permanent desks that are required for a given number of employees, the approaches are different and may evoke different employee reactions. 

The predictability of an assigned desk

The key difference between the approaches is whether employees have a permanent desk or not. In desk-sharing, they have the predictability of knowing exactly where they will be sitting. On the way to work, there is no uncertainty in who you will be sat next to.

In hot-desking this is not the case – each day you may be sat in a different location, and the desks available may be different. 

Flexibility for employees to come in on days that they want

Another difference relates to the flexibility that the two approaches allow for when employees can come in. In desk-sharing, there must be a schedule established to avoid two people needing to use the deck on the same day. In comparison, hot-desking allows much greater flexibility. Because the desks are pooled, it is less important to monitor schedules.

Space utilization considerations

Connected the difference in flexibility is the difference in space utilization. Hot-desking can make better use of desks. If a firm has a large number of employees that only come in one day a week, hot-desking will be more efficient than say pairing employees so that two people are sharing each space. 

Requirements to clear your desk each night

A final consideration between the two approaches is the requirement to clear your space. While with shared desks, there will have someone else potentially using it, certain items can likely be left out or stored in your desk.

In hot-desking, it is more important to clear your desk each evening. Indeed, if people start leaving things out, then hot-desking can quickly deteriorate into problems with people laying claim to desks. 

Final thoughts: Consider what works best for your setting

When weighing up the pros and cons of hot-desking compared to desk-sharing it is important to consider what is best for your specific situation. It is not the case the one is better than the other, but rather what works in your environment. Indeed, it is possible that a combination of the two approaches may work well, with shared desks but also a hot-desking pool in case two employees assigned to the same desk come in on the same day.