Why Employees Hate Hot-Desking and How You Can Fix It

March 13, 2022
Why Employees Hate Hot-Desking and How You Can Fix It

You may not have heard the term hot-desking, but there’s a good chance it’s going on in your company if you have any remote workers who occasionally come to the office. When the pandemic hit, companies sent their employees home to get work done safely. Many found that remote work not only worked, it worked well. Staff was just as productive, if not more so, and businesses could slash operating costs. Some organizations even added additional workers under the remote model. For many, remote/on-site workers may have created the hot-desking issue. Hot-desking is sharing on-site workspaces for employees who work remotely but occasionally need to come to the office. Having a dedicated workstation for staff members who only come to the office once or twice a week isn’t an efficient use of space or resources. Shared workspaces, or hot-desks, make more sense, but they can be challenging for employees.

The future workscape

Real estate service provider JLL believes the pandemic’s impact on workplace management and real estate will result in 30% of all office space being used flexibly by 2030.

Real estate service provider JLL believes the pandemic’s impact on workplace management and real estate will result in 30% of all office space being used flexibly by 2030. That would include non-dedicated/shared workspaces for hybrid workers. Although a survey from the UK found less than half of workers believe they are more productive in a hot-desk environment than they are at their own personal workstation. As more organizations reap the cost-saving benefit of a hybrid workforce, the need to optimize hot-desk space will be critical to keeping workers happy and productive. Be ready to address the downsides of hot-desking you have in place or if you plan to implement.

What they hate

For as many upsides hot-desking offers, there are downsides as well. Employees who come to the office routinely (one day a week, for example) may find it easier to acclimate to shared spaces – or they may not. Employees who come in rarely or occasionally may find it more difficult. Work with your staff to overcome the biggest challenges of hot-desking.

My stuff isn’t here

Whether your desk is set up at home or in the office, you know where everything is and where you want it to be. Using a shared space means your stuff may not be where you’re used to it being — or at all. Yes, the pens are all in the pen drawer (when there are any pens in there), but files and other materials you use may not be within reach. Rooting around for them may take time and energy better used on work. In addition to office supplies and resources, your personal setup at home may be very different. You have your tabs, links, and shortcuts at the ready on your home computer — at the office, it’s more generic. Employees aren’t sure they’re allowed to set up their own widgets and shortcuts on common computers. They may not get the same computer the next time they come to the office, so they end up taking the long route to get things done.

The fix

For office supplies and materials, create a basic desk-setup template. Use a system of:

  • Pens go here
  • Customer files go there
  • Supplies go here

Ask employees what they need most and where it’s most conveniently located. With a standardized hot desk, it will be easy for everyone to find what they need no matter which desk they use.

With a standardized hot desk, it will be easy for everyone to find what they need no matter which desk they use.

Create ‘locker’ spaces

Some employees will want their own comfort and productivity tools on-site:

  • Coffee mugs
  • Sweaters
  • Other supplies

They won’t want to cart them back and forth to the office. Set up lockers, cubbies, or places to hang messenger bags they can keep their ‘desk stuff’ in when they’re out of the office. They can grab their ‘must haves’ on their way to a hot desk.


Encourage employees to bring their laptops from home when they come to the office. If they don’t have one (they may be using a desktop remotely), issue a laptop they can use at home or onsite. Staff members who work primarily from home will have all their macros and shortcuts at their fingertips — no need to reinvent the wheel. To encourage that, consider issuing branded laptop bags for employees to use.

No room at the inn

You’ve noticed that there are very few people who choose to come into the office on Mondays and Fridays. However, Tuesdays through Thursdays, there’s a scramble to find desk space. No one wants to get out of their comfy slippers and schlepp their stuff to the office only to find there’s not an open desk. Hot-desking requires planning — and if you’re using a first-come, first-served basis, employees may be playing musical chairs to find a spot to work.

The fix

Set up a system to reserve space in advance. Just like a restaurant plans tables for customers with reservations, create a schedule (a shared Excel spreadsheet can work) for employees to make a desk reservation. Some employees come into the office routinely — they should be given priority. Assign their desks on the days/hours they regularly work on-site. For others who come in sporadically, the spreadsheet will let them know which desks are available and at what times. Plan reservation times in advance: set parameters for full-day, half-day, and hourly use of the desks. Ask employees to block out only the time they’re definitely going to use. ‘I might stop by Wednesday afternoon’ doesn’t warrant a reservation: ‘I’ll come in Tuesday from 1 to 2 pm to upload my work’ does.

Where is everybody?

Another downside can be wondering (and often wandering) where coworkers have landed. Are they in the office somewhere or working remotely? Most employees don’t sit at their desks from 9 to 5 without getting up, so they’re hard to find when they wander. Hot-desk employees don’t have a dedicated desk. In addition to not knowing where to find them, it’s hard to know whether or not to look around or just start making phone calls. When you need someone and don’t want to play ‘Where’s Waldo’ to find them, you will end up wasting time and frustration levels will rise.

The fix

Your spreadsheet can help here, as well. Employees can access the sheet to see who’s in the office today and where they’re physically located. If the name isn’t on the who’s hot-desking spreadsheet, they can quickly see the person they’re looking for is working remotely. If it is, they’re able to see where their coworker is located. Giving up a permanent desk for the ability to work remotely may be a good tradeoff for employees. Hot-desking can work if business leaders can assure employees are productive – wherever they put in their time. Work with your team to make sure hot-desk facilities are as easy to use and access as possible for a productive hybrid workforce.

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