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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 especially valuable in cities where real estate prices are high.
Hot desking is often found in workplaces with flexible schedules for employees, where not all employees are actually working in an office at the same time or on the same schedules. Employees in such workplaces use existing offices only occasionally or for short periods of time, which leaves offices vacant. By sharing such offices, employees make more efficient use of company 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, when a sales employee needs an office for a client meeting but does not otherwise have need of a personal office. Another example would be when employees need to perform specific tasks at work stations created for those tasks in an assembly line fashion. There, the individual work stations are not set up as personal offices. 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 increasing presence of technology in the workplace, tools have been developed to make it easier to utilize hot desking in an office environment, to standardize the process, and to automatically enforce basic business rules or policies. Generally, using the hot desking method is accomplished by installing and operating by a piece of software which integrates with the company's email and calendaring systems, with the telephony or PBX systems, and is tailored to the office of each individual company. These software systems usually also allow the company to manage many space-related resources such as conference rooms, desks, offices, and project rooms. Sophisticated software systems for managing these space resources often also manage the support equipment and services such as audio-visual equipment and catering for meeting rooms, lockers and carts for desks and offices, and parking spaces for the people actually using those space resources on the same day.
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, static printed or dynamic digital 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.
- Golzen, Godfrey. (May 5, 1991) The Sunday Times Cut the office in half without tears; Appointments. Section: Features.
- Harris, Derek. (May 5, 1992) The Times Turning office desks into hot property;Facilities Management;Focus. Section: Features; Page 20.
- Peterson, Kim (November 14, 2014). "Why Companies are Doing Away with Assigned Desks". CBS News.
- Ames, Peter (February 2, 2015). "Hot-desking: Hot or not?". Management Today.