Hoteling and Hot-Desking: A Primer

Author(s): Sandi Conrad

The terms hot-desking and hoteling are increasingly common amid the tentative office repatriation conversations held throughout global IT and business departments. Even in a pre-pandemic world, companies have been moving to more flexible and adaptable workspaces to reduce real estate leasing costs and better suit the needs of their employees. In a recent UnWired survey of global businesses, executives stated that their employees spend only 49% of their time in the company’s main office and the remaining time split between other locations. Additionally, these same businesses are seeing use of the office desk space at the low rate of 47%, while meeting rooms had a utilization rate of about 50-60%.

Cost optimization through a decrease in capital and operating costs is an increasingly important target for businesses to achieve as we shift away from an isolated work life. Coupled with continuing to provide employees with working options that suit their level of comfort with reintegration post-pandemic, implementing hoteling as a part of the organization’s adaptable workspace strategy is an obvious choice.

The implementation of these flexible workspaces requires a significant degree of adaptability and customization on the end of the organization. Both the short- and long-term objectives and success factors must be defined to establish specific criteria against which you can evaluate different approaches to the following key factors:

  • Physical facilities adaptation and considerations
  • Infrastructure requirements
  • Maintenance needs and ongoing scheduling
  • Security constraints and considerations
  • Flexible workspace vendor evaluation

A multi-faceted approach that considers the specific needs of the organization based on these six categories will satisfy business and employee needs and drive sustainability and success in both the short and long run.

Physical Facilities Adaptation and Considerations

As you look to repurpose your current workspace for an adaptable environment, consider whether the solution is intended to be a stopgap or a way of working for the foreseeable future. While the short-term goal may be simply to find a workable space for all of your employees, more sustainable solutions will emphasize the best use of the space for the employees. This also helps to benefit the environment’s utilization ratio in order to decrease the organization’s overall real estate footprint.

First, ask what your intended scalability will be; are employees coming back on a rotating basis and maintaining a split office to work-from-home ratio? If this is the case, consider allocation methods for desk spaces and identify which desks can be assigned to individuals. This may drive the need for numbering and registering desks within a corresponding reservation or hoteling solution. Additionally, ensure that appropriate lighting, cabling, and power supplies are available for all desks. Consider adding descriptions of desk location and desk types (i.e. standing desks, phone access, Polycom connectivity) to facilitate the workstation booking process for employees.

Considering the current global landscape, ensure that you are creating a safe and workable space for your employees. Workstations may need to be separated based on regional health guidelines, and the introduction of physical dividers such as plexiglass barriers or movable dividers may be necessary. This will trickle down to the limitations and rules you place on booking collaborative spaces. You may have to consider additional employee tracking to ensure that in the event of illness spaces are adequately sanitized and any employees that may have used the workspace within a certain timeframe are notified.

Finally, consider the culture within the organization and employee expectations when implementing a reservation system versus a “touchdown space,” or first-come-first-serve model. Providing employees with a level of control when it comes to booking their workspace is the crowd-pleasing option, but it may be logistically limiting should there be many non-employee visitors anticipated on a daily basis.

IT Infrastructure Requirements

Any physical space redesign is accompanied by significant changes in supporting IT infrastructure. Should you be moving to a space that was previously purposed for something else, the workload in transitioning to a hoteling or hot-desking environment will be significant.

Consider employee connectivity: will wireless access be the primary method of connecting to the network, or will cabling options need to be provided? If the latter is the case, evaluate the role of endpoint protection deployed by the organization for both corporate and personal devices and cross-reference this with relevant data security best practices and policies.

If a reservation system is selected for employee workspace allocation, will administration be assigned to monitor and validate check-in and check-out? This may not be logistically feasible, so consider an automated check-in system that enables easy access to workstation assignment, location, and additional infrastructure elements as a part of a reservation software solution.

Identify how these changes to employee arrival may impact overall workspace density and develop standard policies around the reservation holding system that are communicated to all employees. Managing the process of transitioning your employees from a traditional workspace to a hoteling or hot-desking environment will come with significant challenges, and as such the project requires buy-in before it even starts. Begin by targeting employee groups that will be directly impacted, ease them into the new adaptable workspace, and solicit feedback to help improve the next iteration of the transition process.

Maintenance Needs and Ongoing Scheduling

While a comprehensive maintenance, cleaning, and monitoring process may not be one of the first considerations that comes to mind, it requires thorough evaluation. To ensure workstations are sanitized and ready for incoming users, a cleaning schedule will need to be established and coordinated with the booking system and reservation cadence. This will likely require administrative monitoring and oversight and may need to be adapted as regional and municipal regulations around social distancing and shared space requirements change.

On a micro-level, employees may need to take a more active role in maintaining their respective workspaces. This includes increased care and effort around cleanliness and removal of personal items from workspaces, which may drive the need for additional storage space within the shared office space (think lockers or small storage bins). While a hoteling solution does not lend itself well to personalization of the workstation, evaluate opportunities that you may have to help employees feel more “at home” within their shared space. A recent study showed that a personalized office environment in which employees could make their hoteling space their own led to a 15% productivity increase. For example, you could enable employees to have personalized backgrounds on a virtual desktop. Efficiency and a positive end-user experience should be able to coexist.

Security Considerations

As your workspace transforms from a controlled environment to one with many variables, keeping a keen eye on security is vital. Revisit the organization’s BYOD and acceptable use policies to ensure that devices being brought into the business regularly from an outside environment are protected and not at risk of introducing malicious external threats to the organization.

From a data privacy perspective, evaluate the compliance standards of any vendor selected for the organization. The move to hoteling or hot-desking introduces another opportunity for personal data to be collected, so ensure that either manual reservation processes are strictly guided by principles of data minimization or reservation software adheres to relevant regulatory data management standards.

The final layer in effective security is the most tangible: protection of the physical facility. What does your current employee access process entail? How are biometrics used, and how can these be integrated with reservation systems or software? If the organization moves away from a manual check-in or reservation process, will additional integrations around card scanners, biometric systems, sensors, and building alarms be necessary? Consider any additional pieces the organization requires to ensure a safe working environment as new employee variables continue to be introduced.

Flexible Workspace Vendor Evaluation

The implementation of a hoteling, hot-desking, or flexible workplace management software solution is the final connecting piece that creates the foundational landscape for your organization’s adaptable workspace.

When selecting a vendor solution, consider your organization’s industry and evaluate whether the solutions in question offer tailored software. For example, FM:Systems offers a suite of integrated workplace management system solutions for organizations across industries, including higher ed, healthcare, government, pharma, finance, tech, energy, retail, and corporate. This allows for specific customizations based on the unique operational needs of the company.

Key considerations around features included in workspace management solutions will be driven by the business requirements. Basic feature offerings should include:

  • Device booking capabilities (think mobile application)
  • Space management analysis
  • Booking filters (i.e. window seat, standing desk, floor or area of the building based on accessibility considerations)
  • Auto-bump feature for current bookings to represent what will be open to book
  • Integration capability with O365/Microsoft Exchange
  • Maintenance management and alerts
  • Reporting, dashboards, and analytics
  • Automated check-in and check-out

Additional features to consider that will improve the overall user experience include:

  • Sustainability management features
  • Strategic planning
  • Employee mobility flows
  • Occupancy sensors and sensor analytics
  • Environmental sensors
  • Employee thermal detection (this may be a COVID-19 requirement for many office-bound organizations)

The work environment you create carries a significant impact when it comes to employee well-being and general productivity. And while the current global environment may not easily lend itself to out change management, opportunities still exist for success in a thorough approach to office reintegration that considers the multiple tenants of a safe, adaptable, and flexible workspace.