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Hybrid work
Hot desking

Reverse hoteling: a flexible and employee-centric approach


August 3, 2023


December 28, 2023

An innovative solution to manage your workplace in an employee-centric way is reverse hoteling. This workspace management approach offers a flexible seating arrangement that provides the benefits of both assigned desks and hot desking while accommodating the diverse needs of all team members. Most of us have likely stayed at hotels, having a set check-in and check-out date. Think of this workplace system in the same way! Workers can ‘check into’ a desk that is vacant at the time. 

Hot desking is praised for its flexibility and for encouraging autonomy among employees, while assigned desks are necessary for specific roles. Therefore, blending both of these approaches creates a dynamic and efficient workplace by combining the best of both worlds. 

In this article, we delve into the meaning of reverse hoteling and the best practices to implement this approach in your hybrid workplace successfully. We explore what this approach means, how it is different from other workspace models, and what the advantages it brings to both employees and businesses are.

Definition of reverse hoteling

What does reverse hoteling mean?

Reverse hoteling is when each person has an assigned desk, but it can become available to others when an employee is out of the office. That workspace becomes a hot desk for the rest of the workforce when that team member is on vacation or on leave for a certain period of time. While they are gone, that desk is available for anyone to book and use. However, once they return, the desk is assigned back to them and is solely available for the use of the person who ‘owns’ it.

What is the difference between reverse hoteling, hoteling, and hot desking?

Reverse hoteling is different from hot desking, which makes desks available for booking for short periods of time, like a day or a few hours. Workers can book that desk for exactly when they need it, offering a great solution for flexible and hybrid work models

The desk is only booked for the time the employee is in the office, which can vary greatly in flexible workplaces. Leaving this desk open for booking helps companies optimize their space by ensuring spaces are not left unused. 

Hoteling, similar to hot desking, is when a desk can be booked for a longer period of time, such as weeks or days. Sometimes there is no end date at all, setting it apart from hot desking. It is also different from reverse hoteling because that desk is not initially assigned to one employee but is rather up for the taking.

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Employee practicing reverse hoteling

Benefits of reverse hoteling

Reverse hoteling provides employees with more seating options

Because it is a flexible seating arrangement, it creates more seating options. Some people like to have their own space and might require an assigned desk. Others like change and can book a different workstation each time they come to the office. This is also helpful for those that require specific equipment to get their work done. For example, the finance team members might need dual monitors to look at spreadsheets and the graphic designers might require tablets. Some employees use dedicated equipment daily, so it is important to make sure they have access to it. It appeals to all workers by fulfilling their workspace needs, whether that is a dedicated desk or more flexible seating. 

The physical workspace is better optimized

By meeting employee requirements, no matter their working style, reverse hoteling ensures the space is optimized. Not everyone needs an assigned desk, and not everyone wants to hot desking daily. So, having a certain number of dedicated tables for those who truly need it, as well as leaving room for other activities such as team meetings, is a great use of office space. By using a model that opens up desk space when it is not being used, businesses can fill unused areas rather than let them go to waste.

Businesses get to save on office costs

As a consequence of the benefit mentioned above, companies can opt for office space downsizing if they notice that only some assigned desks are needed. And, instead of letting them go unused when the assignee is out of the office, that spot is put to use–ensuring that no space is wasted. Utilizing this extra room means that offices can be smaller and serve the same purposes. Additionally, fewer square meters mean less electricity and maintenance costs!

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Downsides of this flexible seating arrangement

Reverse hoteling works better for some departments

Some departments require assigned desks all of the time, while others are more collaborative, making this system more suitable for some teams than others. Also, certain roles are better done at home and others in the office. Therefore, the implementation of such a system might serve some staff more than others. Additionally, reverse hoteling works better for small businesses than bigger ones. It is easier to keep track of a smaller number of desks and employees.

Security issues can arise

With people swapping desks, especially if there is technology involved, security risks can arise. For example, if an assigned workstation has a desktop computer, whoever is using that space next will also use it. Therefore, both employees’ data is visible to the other if not correctly protected. IT teams needs to include this in their cyber risk management strategy. The main objective is to set guidelines on logging in and out of shared technology to ensure sensitive data remains private.

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Employees working in office
Employees in flexible seating arrangement

The most important aspects to consider when implementing this workspace management approach

Planning the introduction of reverse hoteling in your workspace

When deciding to introduce a new work model, analyzing your current space to determine what is successful and what isn’t is crucial. Moreover, developing a new model is highly individualized, as each business has different requirements. To get started, consider the following questions: 

  • What are the primary goals and objectives of implementing reverse hoteling in our organization? Is it to reduce costs, increase flexibility, encourage collaboration, or improve space utilization?
  • What data or metrics will we track to evaluate the success of reverse hoteling? 
  • Are there key performance indicators (KPIs) that we can use to measure its effectiveness?
  • Are there guidelines or policies we need to establish to address these issues proactively?
  • What is the timeline and roadmap for implementing reverse hoteling? Are there specific phases or pilot programs we should consider before a full-scale rollout?

Considering employees’ experience and needs

The other key element when creating a new workspace management plan is getting feedback from your employees and truly understanding their needs and expectations. Each role and person is different and requires certain types of spaces and resources to function at the best possible level. To ensure you are have an employee-centric approach, answer the following questions: 

  • How does reverse hoteling align with the company's culture and work style? 
  • Are employees open to the idea of flexible seating arrangements, or do they prefer having assigned workstations?
  • How will reverse hoteling affect employee productivity and collaboration? 
  • What impact will reverse hoteling have on the employee experience and satisfaction? 
  • How can we ensure that employees feel comfortable and supported in this new arrangement?
  • How will we handle any potential conflicts or concerns arising from the sharing of workspaces?
  • How will we communicate the transition to reverse hoteling to employees and address potential resistance or apprehension?

Examining facility planning and management issues

Before getting started, it is important to have a clear understanding of the current facility planning structure and whether or not it is working. If these are clear points for improvement, focus on them when deciding to implement a new model. To pinpoint areas for progress, consider the following: 

  • Are there potential challenges to address, such as finding colleagues or maintaining team cohesion when they are not consistently located near each other?
  • How will reverse hoteling affect office space utilization and efficiency? Can we anticipate any changes in occupancy rates or patterns?
  • Are there specific departments or teams that may benefit more from reverse hoteling than others?
  • How would reverse hoteling impact the overall office layout and design?

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Elaborating a financial plan

Keep in mind that any change in workplace management has an impact on your budget. But, more of than not, flexible strategies like reverse hoteling actually helps you save costs. Determining the financial impact of this decision is very important. So examine the following before getting started: 

  • What are the potential cost savings associated with reverse hoteling? 
  • Will it lead to reduced real estate expenses or other operational savings?
  • Are there specific modifications or investments required to facilitate this strategy effectively?

Analyzing IT requirements

As technology plays a crucial role in the implementation of any new work model, IT requirements are top-of-mind. It requires using new technology and adapting to new platforms and systems. Being attuned to the company’s needs helps determine which tools are necessary and those who serve as key functions to optimize the workplace in the way that is intended. To keep you on track, start with these questions:  

  • Are there any legal or compliance considerations related to reverse hoteling, such as data privacy concerns or health and safety regulations?
  • What technology and systems are needed to support reverse hoteling?
  • Is there a reservation system or app in place to enable employees to book their workspace in advance?

Best practices for companies that opt for reverse hoteling for their office space

Offer a mix of shared and assigned desks

As we previously discussed, different employees have different needs therefore, offices that take up reverse hoteling need to provide both shared and assigned desks. The shared desks can be used for hot desking, allowing hybrid workers who only come into work a few days a week to have a flexible spot. Assigned desks supplement this and serve those who need dedicated workspace or equipment on a daily basis. These workstations can then be used for reverse hoteling when the assignee is absent for a certain period of time. 

Use a hybrid workspace management software

Get the most out of this shared desk system by implementing a platform to streamline seating arrangements. A hot desking app allows hybrid employees to schedule which days they are in the office and which desk they wish to sit at. deskbird, for example, also allows for the creation of assigned spaces that reserve certain desks for specific team members. A shared desk reservation system would then automatically put these workspaces in the software for days when that person is not coming on-site.

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Woman working at desktop computer
Woman working in the office

Make sure all confidential data is protected and secure

Since sharing desks and technology poses a risk to cybersecurity, it is important to keep all systems secure. This can be done in a number of ways. For instance, it can be through improving password protection in conjunction with a fingerprint. For those working hybrid, set clear guidelines on how to use their company laptop. Additionally, put effort into basic cyber security training for the team so they know what to look out for.

Ask employees to keep their office space clean and tidy

Since the workspaces might be used by somebody else, employees need to keep their area as tidy as possible. While it is an assigned desk, the ‘owner’ needs to keep in mind that others will use the space. Nothing harms productivity like a messy work area! Set a practice where those who are not coming into the office for a few days or weeks clear their space before leaving.

Regularly check your office analytics

To determine if your workspace management strategy is working and if there are any areas of improvement, take a look at your office analytics. This includes office occupancy, in other words, how many people are coming in daily or weekly. In addition, office utilization is a key metric that shows which areas are used most. This helps you determine if more assigned desks or hot desks are needed, for example. This data also gives you an overview of how much energy is being used representing a great jumping-off point for improving sustainability in the office

Reverse hoteling is a great model to transform workplaces into dynamic spaces that improve employee satisfaction and, overall, business efficiency. By combining the advantages of assigned desks and hot desking, companies can create a flexible seating arrangement as well as enhance both space utilization and cost-efficiency

To successfully implement this concept, planning, considering employees' needs, examining facility management issues, elaborating a financial plan, and analyzing IT requirements are vital steps.

A mix of assigned and bookable desks is the best option. This is exactly what deskbird allows you to do. With both desk booking and assigned desk functions, the app caters to all hybrid businesses.

Do you want to take on a more flexible approach or streamline your current workplace? Get a free trial today! 

Reverse hoteling: a flexible and employee-centric approach

Annabel Benjamin

Annabel is a hybrid work expert who combines insightful strategies with practical applications to help navigate the changing landscape of modern employment. Her writings provide a wealth of tips, best practices, and innovative approaches to boost productivity, foster team cohesion, and maintain a healthy work-life balance in hybrid settings. 

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