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desk sharing

Hot Desking vs Desk Sharing

According to our recent research approx. 50% of organizations desks are being left unused  – in other words that’s the occupancy rate of merely 50%. Are organizations today able to finance so much unused space? Companies are increasingly considering the introduction of desk sharing (aka desk hoteling), taking into account not only the economic aspect, but also free space that can be used in a much better way.


The whole office is my workplace

Imagine this, you come to work in the morning. You enter the office and immediately go to your locker – the locker where you keep all your things. You take your laptop and the necessary documents, because you start the day with a meeting with your boss. You go straight to the room you booked in advance. After the meeting, you have an appointment with the client. You sit down on the sofa, go over your laptop notes to prepare for the call, and go to the phone booth where you call the customer. When you’re finished, you want to reply to a few emails. You also have a report to do. You do not need exceptional silence for this, so you go to the open space. You sit down at any free desk, plug in your laptop and open your e-mail mailbox…


This is how part of a workday in a desk sharing environment can look like. This solution is based on the idea of ​​sharing, which can be found more and more often in flexible offices. Today, in the era of the trend of sharing various goods – car, accommodation or services – the use of one desk by different people is no longer surprising, although it still causes a lot of fears and doubts. Primarily because it is mistakenly associated with the loss of your own job.


In fact, desk sharing (desk hoteling) is a broader idea that offers various amenities in the company space and is a profit for the employee. According to this concept, effective and comfortable work in the office is not about having your own desk, but about having access to various places where you can perform a given task. Therefore, when implementing such a concept, additional work zones should be designed – places for telephone conversations, rooms for quiet work, informal meeting zones, rooms for small meetings, creative zones or design workspaces.


Bed bunking – the inspiration

Where did the idea for desk sharing come from? The source of inspiration for this idea is hot bunking, which used to function on most warships, and today is mainly found on submarines. The space there is at a premium and is used primarily for storing weapons. Since the seamen work in shifts and some of the crew are always on guard, there are fewer berths on board than all the people. Sailors take turns to use them, thanks to which the beds are constantly used and always warm – hence the name hot bunk (“hot berth”). The number of berths depends on the shift system in force on the ship – usually it is one berth for 2-3 seamen. This solution allows you to minimize the space needed to sleep, and use the saved square meters for other purposes. The idea of ​​space sharing moved to office space in the form of hot desking and appeared in various forms in the 1980s and 1990s. The early desire to implement it was, however, hampered by the low level of technology and the lack of tools for effective work away from the permanent workplace.


Hot desking vs desk sharing

Today, when technology allows flexibility, there are many forms of space sharing. Two – hot desking and desk sharing (desk hoteling) – are particularly popular, hence it is worth making a distinction between them.


Hot desking

One desk is shared by people who work at different times. A form designed for mobile workers or employees working in shifts (e.g. telephone consultants). Often in offices, a hot desking zone is created for employees coming from other departments or people who want to work together at a desk for some time, and the arrangement of their fixed desks does not allow it. In a nutshell, hot desking is about impromptu reservations (no pre-scheduling required). 


Desk sharing

Desk sharing is a method of office management in which workers dynamically schedule their use of workspaces such as desks and cubicles. It is an alternative approach to the more traditional method of permanently assigned seating. Desk hoteling is reservation-based unassigned seating; employees reserve a workspace before they come to work in an office. People pre-schedule desks vs. spontaneous reservation, often longer-term (days, weeks, months). It’s basically a seat assignment, but with an end date in mind.


The first assumption behind desk sharing is that a desk is no longer the best place to do your daily responsibilities.

Let’s consider how we work from home? If we are working on an important project, we usually sit down at the table; we read while sitting on the couch or armchair; we silently think about a concept, assuming a comfortable position. Contemporary concepts promote this style of work also in the office. We used to do everything sitting at a desk – we were making phone calls, writing emails, working with documents, thinking about a new idea. Today, places are designed that provide optimal conditions for performing these tasks, so the desk ceases to play its former multifunctional role.


The second assumption of desk sharing are economic considerations – empty desks are an image of modern companies that allow flexible forms of work, but have not yet adapted their offices to them. According to the analyzes, the desk occupancy rate in organizations is 45%. This means that for over 55% of the working time – these positions are empty, and each square meter of unused space means unnecessary costs for the employer. Desk sharing reduces this problem – a smaller number of desks than employees allows you to save space and use it, for example, in other zones.


How to introduce desk sharing to the organization?

The introduction of desk sharing is a big challenge for the company. It is associated with a change in habits and philosophy of work, management method (the team becomes dispersed), information flow or communication methods. It also requires a technological change and, above all, a different arrangement of the office space.


The decision on whether to introduce desk sharing to the company should be supported by a number of analyzes. Undoubtedly, among the aspects that should be examined are the style of work of individual organizational units and the level of use of desks in individual departments. Detailed data is also crucial in the subsequent process – designing an office space (check out our eBook about it). This is important because the arrangement design must be fully adapted to the specifics of the company. The target office users – employees – should have access to all the necessary work zones in the new office. Moreover, these zones must be optimally located and designed in an appropriate number.


Soft activities should run parallel to the hard processes of space analysis and design. It is necessary to prepare employees for a new style of work, teach them how to use the new space, and equip the managerial staff with the knowledge and skills of effective management in the new environment. All activities in the field of Workplace Change Management should be carried out with external consultants who are experts in this field and implement such changes on a daily basis.

Want to learn more about hot desking? Check out our article for more details.