What Is Hot Desking? Hot Desking In A Nutshell

Employees who work under the hot desking system do not have assigned seating. Instead of having one desk or space to call their own, these employees use whatever space is available when they arrive at work. The practice is thought to be a derivate of hot racking, which describes the practice of sailors working on different shifts while sharing the same bunk. Hot desking, therefore, describes a workspace system where desks can be used by any employee at any time on an ad hoc basis.

Understanding hot desking

Hot desking emerged in the 1990s and has seen renewed interest due to a shift toward remote work and pandemic-induced demand for more flexible work schedules. The approach is well suited to hybrid workplaces where employees have more freedom to decide where they work. Indeed, if employees are not in the office every day, there is no point in them having a permanently assigned desk. 

Advantages and disadvantages of hot desking

Hot desking has several important advantages and disadvantages for both the business and the employee. Let’s have a detailed look at these below.


  • COVID-19 safety – hot desking allows the business to determine how many workstations it can accommodate based on social distancing guidelines. The practice also encourages the business to maintain an activity report so that cleaners know which desks need to be sanitized between shifts. 
  • Space utilization – permanent workstations are costlier to maintain since they require more space. Employees engaged in remote or hybrid working use less office space that the business can then use for some other purpose.
  • Clutter reduction – with no employee assigned to a specific desk, there is less opportunity for the individual to clutter their desks with personal and other items. This creates a tidier, organized, and more productive space.


  • Employee disruption – for employees who like routine and order, hot desking is likely to be disruptive since they may be forced to work in a different area each day.
  • Loss of productivity – some employees, particularly if they are rostered later than others, also waste valuable work time searching for a suitable place to set up. These employees often find that productive spaces near windows or in a quiet corner of the office are always taken.
  • Lack of communication – since employees never know where their colleagues are seated on any given day, communication can suffer. Newer employees who require assistance on a matter may find it difficult to source help as there is less chance they’ll be seated next to colleagues in the same department. A social media expert, for example, may find themselves seated next to an accountant. The lack of communication and predictable seating also makes it harder to call impromptu meetings or discuss important issues in a timely fashion.

Key takeaways:

  • Hot desking describes a workspace system where desks can be used by any employee at any time on an ad hoc basis.
  • Hot desking emerged in the 1990s and has seen renewed interest due to a shift toward remote work and pandemic-induced demand for more flexible work schedules.
  • Hot desking increases COVID-19 safety for businesses and leads to better space utilization and clutter reduction. However, it can be disruptive for employees who favor routine and can cause a reduction in productivity and communication.

Connected Frameworks

Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”
First proposed by accounting academic Robert Kaplan, the balanced scorecard is a management system that allows an organization to focus on big-picture strategic goals. The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard include financial, customer, business process, and organizational capacity. From there, according to the balanced scorecard, it’s possible to have a holistic view of the business.
The theory was developed by psychologist Edwin Locke who also has a background in motivation and leadership research. Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation provides a framework for setting effective and motivating goals. Locke was able to demonstrate that goal setting was linked to performance.
A SMART goal is any goal with a carefully planned, concise, and trackable objective. To be such a goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Bringing structure and trackability to goal setting increases the chances goals will be achieved, and it helps align the organization around those goals.
Businesses use backcasting to plan for a desired future by determining the steps required to achieve that future. Backcasting is the opposite of forecasting, where a business sets future goals and works toward them by maintaining the status quo.
Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market StrategyMarketing StrategyBusiness ModelsTech Business ModelsJobs-To-Be DoneDesign ThinkingLean Startup CanvasValue ChainValue Proposition CanvasBalanced ScorecardBusiness Model CanvasSWOT AnalysisGrowth HackingBundlingUnbundlingBootstrappingVenture CapitalPorter’s Five ForcesPorter’s Generic StrategiesPorter’s Five ForcesPESTEL AnalysisSWOTPorter’s Diamond ModelAnsoffTechnology Adoption CurveTOWSSOARBalanced ScorecardOKRAgile MethodologyValue PropositionVTDF FrameworkBCG MatrixGE McKinsey MatrixKotter’s 8-Step Change Model.

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