The True State of Hot Desking in 10 Statistics

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on September 1, 2020
How to Plan a Safer Workplace Now and in the Future

One of the earliest iterations of flexible office space, hot desking gives every employee access to the same pool of unassigned workspaces on a first-come, first-served basis.

In theory, hot desking has the potential to decrease an organization’s real estate footprint while encouraging a more collaborative atmosphere. Unfortunately, in practice, hot desking has shortcomings that can negatively impact productivity and the overall workplace experience, which is why companies who implement it often encounter pushback from employees.

However, while employees may not be the biggest fans of hot desking, it’s still critical to adopt a more flexible approach to office space — particularly as part of your return-to-work strategy.

These 10 statistics highlight employee attitudes toward hot desking and the importance of a flexible workspace strategy.

10 statistics about hot desking and flexible working

1. When they return to work following the coronavirus pandemic, 19% of employees want their employer to eliminate hot desking entirely. (Gensler U.S. Work From Home Survey 2020)

2. Half of all global employees worked outside their main office headquarters at least two and a half days per week prior to the pandemic. (IWG)

3. Most workplaces had vacancy rates of 20-50% prior to the coronavirus pandemic. (Work Design Magazine)

4. Approximately 56% of the total U.S. workforce (around 75 million employees) have jobs that include tasks that are possible to perform remotely, at least part-time. (Global Workplace Analytics)

5. The number of employers in the U.S. that offer flexible workplace options is 40% higher than it was five years ago. However, only 7% of these companies made flexible work arrangements available to most or all employees prior to the pandemic. (Global Workplace Analytics)

6. While 30% of employers anticipate reducing their real estate footprint in response to more employees working from home, 50% expect they’ll need to increase their space to allow for physical distancing. (PwC)

7. In a Gallup survey, 37% of employees said they would leave their current job in a traditional office to join a company that offered a flexible office environment. (Gallup)

8. Global HR and recruiting firm Adecco reported that, in the wake of COVID-19, 77% of professionals want greater flexibility in how and where they work. (Adecco)

9. In their 2020 Global Occupier Sentiment Survey, CBRE reported that 73% of senior-level global real estate executives said flexible office space will be a part of their long-term real estate strategy. (CBRE)

10. JLL estimates that, as the result of COVID-19’s impact on real estate and workplace management, 30% of all office space will be consumed flexibly by 2030. (JLL)

The impact of COVID-19 on hot desking and flexible space

If the COVID-19 pandemic has been the primary catalyst for your decision to explore flexible work arrangements, you’re not alone.

Along with adjusting to managing an almost entirely remote workforce, business leaders have had to consider the long-term ramifications of the pandemic, including what the workplace will look like once employees start returning.

But even before COVID-19, employers all over the globe had been assessing options for how to rethink their real estate strategy to offer employees greater flexibility.

CBRE contends that these workplace transformation initiatives have been fueled by business leaders coming to two important realizations. The first is understanding the crucial roles the workplace plays in every organization:

  1. The silent partner to a company’s brand and culture
  2. The vehicle that drives employee connectivity, productivity, and innovation
  3. An essential tool that provides a competitive edge in engaging and attracting talent

The second is recognizing the evolution of the function of the workplace. Rather than viewing the workplace as a single physical location where all employees are required to be every day, progressive business leaders understand that the office should act as the hub of an ecosystem where employees use technology to connect, communicate, and collaborate from anywhere. In other words, the office should not be somewhere employees are required to go but somewhere they choose to go.

Prior to the pandemic, many employers may have been reluctant to offer more remote work options out of concern that the majority of their workforce might never return to the office.

In reality, surveys like the one conducted by Adecco show most employees prefer a hybrid approach, spending around half their time working remotely and half their time in the office. The latest Gensler research found as many as 70% of employees want to spend three to four days in the office when they return to work.

As CBRE puts it, to support employee productivity and engagement, employers must provide ”well-located, thoughtfully designed and tech-enabled physical spaces [and] the power of choice over when and how to use them.”

Enter desk hoteling.

Desk hoteling: A modern version of hot desking

Like hot desking, desk hoteling eliminates assigned seats. However, instead of operating on a first-come, first-served basis, employees reserve a desk each day — ideally, before they arrive.

Desk hoteling software allows employees to reserve desks or meeting rooms using a user-friendly mobile app.

In addition to the well-known benefits of desk hoteling — including cost savings and greater collaboration — a flexible office design allows you to more easily abide by CDC guidelines for safety.

Desk hoteling makes it easier for employees to maintain spatial distancing. It also simplifies the process of cleaning and sanitizing desks because facilities managers are less likely to encounter desks cluttered with personal belongings.

And since desk hoteling requires employees to make reservations ahead of time, your facilities team will have visibility into expected occupancy levels so they can make adjustments to avoid overcrowding.

While many employees never warmed up to the idea of hot desking, flexible office space strategies are here to stay.

This is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate your workplace design to ensure your distributed workforce feels safe and supported.


Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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