Hot Desking vs. Hoteling vs. Flexible Working — What’s the Difference?

Although the “open office” layout sounds great in theory (facilitating collaboration and creative teamwork while saving the company money on real estate costs), office workers tend to not love them in practice. Many of their complaints about the open office—the noise, the lack of privacy, the uncertainty about where you’ll sit each day—can be mitigated with better policies and change management.

Plus, we’re starting to see a swing back from that extreme. Instead of just opening up the entire office, companies are implementing hybrid or activity-based workplaces (ABW) that better meet the needs of their employees and have some financial benefit for the company (namely, savings in real estate expenses).

Download Now: How to Get Employees Warmed Up to Hot Desking

One of the key concepts in ABW is that you don’t have a 1:1 seating ratio. Once a company gets data showing how many employees, on average, are actually in the office each day, they can adjust that ratio accordingly and give up desks. That space is either relinquished entirely or repurposed (turned into meeting or collaborative space, for example).

Offer Choices with Flexible Working

When a company embraces flexible working or a flexible environment—meaning a workplace that doesn’t have fixed seating and/or gives employees some element of choice in when and where they work—they often introduce the concepts of hot desking or hoteling. Let’s dive deeper into these strategies and look at how they work (or don’t work) and how you can use tools like Serraview to set your employees up for success.

Learn how to convince your company’s leadership team to embrace flexible working.

Hot Desking Can Be a Jungle

What is hot desking? Generally, hot desking means any employee can find and work at any open seat (desk or workstation) when they get to the office each day. This strategy is a large part of why workers tend to dislike open office layouts: you never know where you’ll be working each day or who you’ll be working next to—or if you can even find a desk.

For example, in this scenario, someone in Accounting who needs to focus on putting together a big report could end up sitting next to someone in Sales who spends the entire day making calls. It’s not hard to imagine the Accounting employee getting more and more frustrated every passing minute.

One way companies can mitigate this is by putting some restrictions on who can work where and creating “neighborhoods.” Perhaps the fourth floor is reserved for Marketing and Sales employees (or any two groups that work together frequently). This is one way to apply flexible working principles—by introducing some governance around the “hot desks.”

A company could also designate a certain floor or section a “quiet zone” for anyone, in any business group, who needs to do focused, heads-down work. The key is understanding how your employees work and what kinds of space they need to work well. By implementing these strategies, you can make hot desking feel less like fighting your way through a jungle and more like following a well-marked trail.

Hoteling: Check In, Work, Check Out

Another way to manage the flexible work environment is with hoteling. This means employees can reserve a specific desk/workstation or any other type of space: meeting/conference rooms, collaborative spaces, phone banks—whatever’s available in the office. With hoteling, workstations still aren’t assigned to specific employees, but they have some more choice and control over where they work.

Employees can use an app or software to find a desk before they come into the office or as they arrive, so there’s some comfort of knowing in advance that they’ll have a place to sit. Depending on the software and technology you use, they can even search for certain colleagues and make sure they reserve a desk nearby for easy collaboration.

Companies can choose how to best manage these reservations and check-ins: How far in advance can someone reserve a spot, and for how long can they keep the reservation? If their to-do list changes and they no longer need the meeting room they booked this morning, how long will that 1:00 reservation be “held” before the room is shown as available?

To make these decisions, you again need a thorough understanding of how people use your space as well as some knowledge about the company’s flexible work policy. You can also use technology, like IoT sensors and beacons, to allow people to book soft seating or lounge areas, if that will make it easier for teams to work together.

Time to start measuring your space differently: Discover the new space utilization metrics

Winning Employees Over

Well before you start the transition to ABW or a hybrid workplace, you need a strong change management plan to help employees understand and embrace a new style of working. Implementing strategies like establishing neighborhoods or quiet zones and using reservation/check-in tools for hoteling go a long way to helping employees feel like they have some control and choice in their work environment. This goes a long way towards engagement and productivity.

With Serraview’s wayfinding apps, employees can easily take advantage of your hoteling policy—request a demo today.


Tips for a Pain-Free Office Relocation

When the lease for a major telecommunication company’s downtown office was up, executives were eager to move to an area with a lower crime rate. The CRE leaders found a new potential office in a suburb east of the city, but they overlooked the fact that the majority of their employees lived in the downtown area or to the west. Public transit options to the eastern suburbs were limited, and faced with hour-plus cross-town commutes, employees were incensed at the proposed move.

Sound familiar?

You’re not alone. Read on for some tips to avoid painful office relocation scenarios.

Plan Change Management and Communication Early

The above scenario could have been avoided entirely if leadership had considered the impact on employees’ commutes from the beginning. It’s all too easy for CRE teams to zoom in on numbers and forget the people—and emotions—involved in office relocations.

In a typical relocation timeline, you should start evaluating your current office and lease terms 18 months before your current lease terminates. That length of time is necessary to decide whether to stay in your current space as-is, negotiate different lease terms, adjust your footprint (adding or releasing square footage but staying in the same building), or move to a new location. If you decide to move, you would then start looking at the market and evaluating potential new locations and office buildings.

How CRE can use evidence-based decision making to get better results.

At this time, you should already have a change management plan for the office move ready to kick off, which should start “planting the seeds” to prepare people for a change and mitigate negative reactions.

Identify and Engage Your Key Stakeholders for the Office Relocation

A big part of your change management plan should detail who you’re going to closely work with and how. Determine who will be most impacted by the move and start communicating with them as soon as you can.

Of course, managers or department heads of the business groups that will be moved will need to be kept informed throughout the planning process—they’ll also want to share their departments’ needs as you plan the new build out or tenant improvements.

The key is to strike a balance between making sure people feel both informed and heard (they will have concerns and questions) and staying on schedule with the office relocation plans. You don’t need to invite every stakeholder to every planning meeting, but you’ll want to keep them involved during key milestones.

Work with the Nay-Sayers

Don’t just write off Bill in Accounting as a chronic complainer. The sooner you identify the people who are most likely to have the biggest gripes about the office relocation, the more time you have to win them over.

Invite the nay-sayers to private meetings so they can share their complaints. It’s really important to listen in these meetings—often simply showing empathy can go long way towards turning them into advocates. You may also be able to explain the benefits and reasoning behind the move and show how you plan to address their concerns.

And when you do that, you’ll find that the people you “convert” are likely to become your biggest champions for the office relocation, helping other reluctant employees to get on board.

Design the New Office for Your Employees’ Work Patterns

Dig into your current utilization data and let that inform things like how many conference rooms you need, soft seating, collaborative space, and co-locations. An office relocation presents a great blank canvas and a chance to address problems with your layout (like “there are never conference rooms available on the second floor”). Don’t just let designers come up with a trendy design that isn’t functional and expect your employees to conform to it. Work with your stakeholders to design a space that will facilitate productivity and engage employees.

When it comes to moves and relocations, having a comprehensive plan (and checklist) is critical. Even when you’re in early phases of evaluating your current lease or considering new locations, start looking at change management and communication. The earlier you start engaging with stakeholders and other key employees, the more time you have to answer questions, overcome objections, and win people over so they’re excited about the office relocation.

Find out how workplace optimization software like Serraview can help you build an office relocation plan—request a demo today.