Is Desk Hoteling Right for Your Office?

business man looking at paper

The COVID-19 pandemic permanently changed the way companies use their office space.

While many organizations previously held physical workplaces as sacred for productivity and collaboration, the pandemic opened up new possibilities for where and how employees could clock in for the day and flexible working arrangements gained traction among high-growth businesses. An Accenture survey of nearly 10,000 workers found that 83 percent of respondents preferred hybrid models.

As companies reimagine the purpose of the workplace, “desk hoteling” is becoming a popular way to maximize in-person office space and allow greater flexibility for employees. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the history of hoteling, common uses and best practices for implementation.

What is hoteling?

Instead of assigning desks, companies with hoteling systems allow employees to choose their workspace every morning. Hoteling ensures that workers can seamlessly transition between at-home and in-person working environments.

The origins of hoteling trace back to Chicago firm Ernst & Young, which implemented a free-desk system in 1989 after its merger to consolidate offices. The Ernst & Young office functioned like an efficient hotel that employees could check in and out of — giving the method its apt name.

Though similar to hot-desking, desk hoteling is more structured. Rather than operating under a first-come, first-served rule, desk hoteling requires workers to reserve their spaces ahead of time. Employees can choose between a variety of private or collaborative stations depending on the nature of their tasks that day. At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for cleaning and decluttering their spaces.

What are the costs and benefits of hoteling?

Critics claim that hoteling makes it difficult for employees to personalize their spaces. Without permanently-assigned desks, it may not be worth the time and energy to bring in pictures and other special touches for added personality. Other common criticism of hoteling is that the reservation system requires significant trial and error, leading to insufficient space on busy days.

However, hoteling advocates argue that careful planning can easily solve both issues. When done well, hoteling creates a workspace that reduces overhead costs, improves space efficiency and boosts office accessibility for telecommuters.

Hoteling also gives each employee more of a say in their individual workspace. Team members can choose desks that allow for greater collaboration, privacy or socialization based on their work and personal preferences. In some cases, an entire team can reserve space to easily collaborate on a quick-turn project.

For many employers, the benefits of hoteling outweigh the costs. More than 30 percent of employers are considering hoteling systems for their offices, according to a survey by Littler Mendelson P.C.

In which industries is hoteling most popular?

Hoteling works best for companies that encourage employees to split time between their homes and offices. If employees are only in the office a couple of days every week, assigning desks may be a waste of space.

Hoteling is most popular in accounting, finance, information technology and other naturally-collaborative industries. For companies in rapidly-evolving markets, hoteling allows them to stay agile and easily scale to meet new needs.

The legal industry, on the other hand, may avoid hoteling entirely because of confidentiality concerns. Though hoteling options can include private workspaces, law firms may need more security and separation between individuals than hoteling can reasonably provide.

What are some best practices for implementing a hoteling model?

A company transitioning to a hoteling system should consider these three tips:

1. Embrace the cloud.

Without file cabinets and junk drawers to save old papers, it’s particularly important for companies with hoteling models to use cloud-based storage systems. Become a predominantly paperless organization before transitioning to hoteling.

2. Reconfigure common spaces.

Ask each department for input on the kinds of spaces they would like to see in a hoteling system. Would they benefit from having private phone booths or Zoom rooms? Learn what their ideal collaborative spaces look like.

3. Create ample personal storage.

Make sure that each employee has plenty of room to keep their personal belongings each day. Some companies have created lockers and fully-stocked snack cabinets to mimic the personal accommodations that employees might otherwise miss in a hoteling system.

If you’re thinking about reconfiguring your office space, let Armstrong get you back to business. With dedicated move coordinators, expert crews and a nationwide network of assets, Armstrong has all the tools you need to make your office transition a success. Get started today by calling 800.288.7396 or requesting a free quote online.