Hoteling and Hot Desking Solutions for Offices with Limited Space

For the mobile or telecommuting workforce that doesn’t have a permanent office or cubicle at their company’s location, coming to the office can feel like the annual visit to your cousin’s house party.  It’s family and everyone knows you, but don’t get too comfortable and remember to take your things when you leave.

Visiting employees have to tend with searching for a spare desk, a free conference room or hopefully using the office of someone out at a meeting.  If there’s no desk, you’ll wind up setting your laptop in the lobby or pantry.  So how do you handle those employees who come in, but you don’t have the spare cube or office?

Hoteling (aka hotelling) and hot desking is a recent trend described as a method of supporting unassigned seating in an office environment by setting aside an area where external employees have rotating shared desks. Hotelling is reservation-based unassigned seating, whereas, hot desking is reservation-less unassigned seating.

FURNITURE Getting your work done is not about having a dedicated desk, but having access to the right kind of office setup for getting the work done. Companies can provide many solutions to accommodate visiting employees so they’re not left holding a conference call in the pantry while the Keurig machine is squealing high-pressure coffee into your colleague’s mug. This could be a desk, a workspace in a resource area or a training facility. A popular choice is the call center style setup as shown in the pictures (below).

POWER Hoteling systems furniture requires power so make sure your design team indicates the appropriate load.

TECHNOLOGY Shared workspaces can have a thin client terminal and monitor for Terminal Server/Citrix environments, power for laptops, Ethernet and a phone. Have a good telephony solution. Employees should be able to log in to their phone extension whether in the office or out, and from whichever desk they sit at. A main enabler of hotdesking is the ‘follow me’ type of phone system. All you need to do with a ‘follow me’ system is to dial in to your network and all calls to your company phone number will be redirected automatically to your current physical location. To the caller it will always seem like you’re at your desk throughout the working day.

WIRELESS Wireless-based networks are key. An office equipped with wireless means a computer can work anywhere.

If the hoteling space is not used for a while, make sure the well-intentioned swing space does not become a storage collection area. Keep the space inviting and clear so visiting employees feel a part of the team rather than coming to an open area that is strewn with cartons and supplies.

6 Comments on Hoteling and Hot Desking Solutions for Offices with Limited Space

  1. Two Q’s – (1) Any recommendation on tools/ solutions for implementing a hotel reservation based system? (2) Which corporate functions would you recommend hoelling versus hot desking vice versa?

    • Hi Irene, great questions.

      There are so many software packages on the market that can perform space management and employee scheduling. If you go to and type the word “hoteling” in the search bar, it will bring up some robust packages.

      As to corporate functions of hoteling vs desking, it’s very effective in rotating call centers or where several employees are never in the office simultaneously. But it’s tough to guide you without firsthand knowledge of your business, workflow, scheduling and shifts.

      You may want to pose the question in a LinkedIn facilities group to see if other FM’s have deployed the strategy by function. If you don’t belong to any, I’d be happy to post on your behalf and report back any replies.

  2. Good info.
    Why is it aka hotelling?

    • It’s like Cancelled and Canceled. I never understood the difference. Some say two L’s vs. one L has much to do with US/Canada version and UK version of the word. Both are supposedly correct English and I do see both versions of the word used.

  3. David R. Pitchford // January 27, 2012 at 11:07 am // Reply

    Very informative article

  4. Regarding location of Hoteling / hot-space(s), place these in a location accessible to the work unit/group where the visiting employee would best serve his time spent in the office.

    A common practice is to locate hotel/visitor work space next to high traffic aisles, informal meeting areas, or other distracting locations. This defeats the needs of the employee/visitor and their productivity would be compromised.

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