How to make desk sharing implementation a reality

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Hot desk booking software

With remote working increasingly becoming the norm, now is the time to think about how best to utilize your space, with some hard questions about how best to use your desk inventory.

A recent workforce sentiment survey by CBRE found that 85% of respondents prefer to work remotely two to three days a week. Real estate leaders are picking up this baton – 54% in the same survey said they prefer a future hybrid arrangement that combines remote and office working.

Things are changing – fast

Remote working has become more ingrained in the collective psyche with even government leaders actively encouraging it from a public health perspective.

So how can you rationalize your space while providing a great experience for your remote workers?

With this drive to a smaller – yet socially distanced – real estate footprint then the idea of a fixed desk becomes a thing of the past.

While employees would previously expect their own allocated desk, this is now unviable and incompatible with new ways of working – and also fails to fit in the expense of prime real estate in leading cities such as London or New York. Sharing a desk is going to become prevalent.

Think laterally

The traditional purpose of an office is changing too. In the near future the office may become more of a communal hub for training, seminars and career development.

Some real estate leaders may even look to the configuration of the head office itself. With a highly distributed workforce you may need smaller satellite offices nearer to workers’ homes. Workers are voting with their feet as they re-evaluate whether (post-Covid) they really want to live the city commuter life.

Whatever happens, it seems agile working and some forms of desk sharing are the way forward – whether that takes place at HQ or a smaller regional office set up.

How to best manage desk sharing

On the surface it may seem relatively easy to implement desk sharing. And it is – with the appliance of technology. There are two main ways to manage your desks:

1. Hot desking

This has a very specific meaning. Hot desking is a more casual way of enforcing desk sharing where staff do not need to pre-book a desk and can simply turn up and start working.

This is a great way of working if you have a large real-estate footprint and demand doesn’t exceed supply.

While it may seem a free for all, some technology measures still need to be put in place. Sensor technology works really well in this environment as it enables real-estate leaders to pinpoint exactly how and where their desks and spaces are being utilized as the sensors measure occupancy in real-time.

Coupling this sensor technology with digital signage enables staff to see exactly where the free desks are – and they just simply need to walk up to the desk to check-in or move away to check-out.

2. Hoteling

Although the term hoteling is used interchangeably with hot desking it is in fact a different way of managing the desk sharing process.

The main difference between hot desking and hoteling is that hoteling involves a formal booking and check in/out process. This system is more suited where demand for desk allocation outstrips supply.

So, if you were looking to reduce your real estate footprint then this would be the ideal way to go. It offers greater control of your real estate and from a health and safety perspective it is a better solution as cleaning times can be factored in to desk booking times.

Using technology enables you to implement business rules such as minimizing no shows by auto-releasing desks if the employee doesn’t turn up 15 minutes after their allotted time, for example.

Mobile desk sharing technology can help you here. It’s a convenient way for your remote staff to quickly book a desk at the office while they are working from home.

These desk sharing systems are typically integrated with a wider workplace infrastructure:

  • Outlook/Exchange – this integration means staff can see at a glance where they need to be on their calendar. Once the desk is booked they can forget about it until they need it.
  • Desk sensors – integrated with the desk sharing solution these enable staff to quickly find their booked desk, to see which desks are not available and which desks are being cleaned.
  • RFID/QR Readers – in a large corporate setting it may not be feasible to have everyone manually sign in – but with QR code scanners and RFID readers they can quickly check in/out with the minimum of fuss.
  • Visitor management systems – thanks to Covid their scope has broadened to include remote staff. They can now help in the track and trace effort against coronavirus as well as restricting access to staff who display symptoms.

A new feature of such systems is that of reverse hoteling which gives real estate leaders even more control over their desk inventory as they can temporarily book out permanent desks – for example when staff are on leave.

This is a great feature for when you need more space for social distancing or, in the future, if you are looking to maximize the return on your investment. Why book a small meeting room with the attendant expense when you can easily book out a corner office?


Remote working, unlike Covid, is here to stay. Sharing a desk is going to be commonplace.

Moving forward we highly recommend that you consider technology for desk sharing as the best way to meet the needs of your remote staff whether you suit a casual hot desking style or a more controlled hoteling style.

Don’t just take our word for it -check out this video from international research firm IDC to see how the technology has benefitted them by increasing utilization of their expensive real estate and fostered collaboration.

We have also developed an ROI calculator so you can see how much you can save when you implement a desk sharing solution.