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Hot desking is an office organization system which involves multiple workers using a single physical work station or surface during different time periods. The "desk" in the name refers to an office desk being shared by multiple office workers on different shifts as opposed to each staff member having their own personal desk. A primary motivation for hot desking is cost reduction through space savings - up to 30% in some cases.
Hot desking is regularly used in workplaces where not all the employees are in the office at the same time, or not in the office for long periods at a time, which means actual personal offices would often be vacant, consuming valuable space and resources. An alternative version of hot desking would be in a workplace where employees have multiple tasks and multiple employees may require a certain work station, but not for their entire duties. Thus a permanent work station can be made available to any worker as and when needed, with employees sharing the station as needed. This could be for a single element of one's work (for example, sales employees who may need an office when they have client meetings but otherwise do not need an office) or may be a series of multiple work stations for multiple tasks in an assembly line fashion. A collection of such workstations is sometimes called a mobility centre.
The term hot desking is thought to be derived from the naval practice, called hot racking, where sailors on different shifts share the same bunks.
With the growth of mobility services, hot desking can also include the routing of voice and other messaging services to any location where the user is able to log into their secure corporate network. Therefore their telephone number, their email and instant messaging can be routed to their location on the network and no longer to just their physical desk.
With the emergence of hot desking and the growing amount of technology in the workplace there has been the development of tools to aid the simplicity and efficiency of hot desking. Generally the hot desking system is maintained by a piece of software which integrates with the company's communication systems and is tailored to the office of each individual company. These software systems usually also allow the company to manage many resources such as conference rooms, desks, offices, and projectors and other types of media.
In some cases, the employees are designated to a certain area but because of the hot desking situation, all available seats must look the same. Therefore, in order to enable workers to make sure they are sitting in the right group area (or "neighborhood") sometimes colored walls, mousepads, or acetate nameplates are used. Then workers are designated to sit anywhere in the red zone, for example, or the blue zone. The groups in the company are then identified by these group colors.