The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.

The NimbleFins guide to hot desking for businesses

Hot desking can help businesses to cut down on their office costs and adapt to changing flexible work patterns. With more of us than ever working flexibly, business owners are finding that it just doesn’t make sense to have a big office full of empty desks. Many businesses are turning to hot desking as a solution.

In this guide we explain how hot desking works and the pros and cons. We also answer common questions like “what are the alternatives to hot desking?” and “are hot desking expenses tax allowable?”

Table of Contents

What is hot desking?

Hot desking is when businesses use their office space flexibly. Desks can be used by anyone, rather than employees having a permanently allocated desk. The aim is to maximise the efficiency of the office space and minimise the amount of empty desks.

It certainly makes sense for businesses to try and reduce their office overheads. Research shows that UK businesses spend £4,800 per year to pay for office space for each office worker. Not only that, but £10 billion per year is wasted on empty or unused office space in England and Wales alone.

How does hot desking work?

Hot desking works by allowing employees to choose a desk when they arrive for work. They can find a desk, plug in and get to work. New hardware solutions mean that some offices can dispense with laptops altogether. Most employers provide lockers for personal belongings and meeting rooms for private meetings.

Some employers prefer employees to book their desk in advance using hot desking software. This is known as desk hoteling.

The impact of Covid 19 on hot desking

Covid 19 led to more of us working from home or requesting flexible working. This encouraged many businesses to reduce their office space and move to hot desking. However, it also created some problems for hot desking. Some employees are nervous about sharing a desk space because the Covid 19 virus can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.

Desk hoteling has become a popular alternative, where employees book a desk in advance with the facilities team. This team is responsible for allocating desks and making sure they are cleaned in advance.

What are the pros and cons of hot desking?

There are many pros and cons to hot desking, including the following:


  • Reduced office costs - hot desking reduces the number of desks needed and the amount of empty desks. This means businesses can consider renting a smaller office space and can even save on related expenses like office insurance.
  • Flexibility - employees can work in different teams depending on their current project.
  • Creativity - hot desking can lead to more creativity in the workplace as employees work alongside different staff members and pick up new ideas and skills.
  • Teamwork - different teams and staff members get to know and work alongside each other. This can strengthen relationships and encourage more collaboration across the organisation.
  • Allows innovative office solutions - for example 2 or 3 businesses may be able to share the same office space.


  • Lack of storage - employees have nowhere to store files or paperwork they are currently using. This may not be an issue for many paper lite businesses, but it can cause problems where some paperwork is still needed, such as legal or accountancy work.
  • No personal space - employees can’t add personal touches to make their desk suit their personality. They may also have to waste time adjusting an office chair to fit their height or size. This can cause employees to feel demoralised and undervalued.
  • Lack of private space - in open planned offices, there is often a lack of private space for confidential meetings. This problem can be exacerbated by hot desking as senior staff members may be surrounded by other employees.
  • Reduced productivity - it is sometimes hard to predict when staff will come into the office. This means that some days the office may be full and employees can waste time and energy looking for a desk. They may even not be able to find a desk on some occasions.
  • Isolation - employees may miss working alongside their team each day and feel isolated. They may often find themselves working next to people they don’t know.

How to solve hot desking problems

Many businesses are finding solutions to help with common hot desking problems. Here are some examples:

  • Office environment - businesses can invest in high quality office furniture and computer hardware to make the office space more comfortable.
  • Hot desking software - employers can use hot desking software to allow employees to book desks, saving time when they come into the office.
  • Regular team meetings - managers can arrange regular team meetings and social activities to make sure the team has time to bond and feel more valued.
  • Regular one-to-one catch ups - managers can arrange regular one-to-one catch ups with their team members to enable them to ask questions and raise any concerns.
  • Suitable meeting rooms - offices can provide comfortable and private meeting rooms that can be booked by staff.
  • Encourage staff feedback - the HR department can encourage and monitor feedback from employees on how hot desking is working. This can help them identify and resolve any issues.

What are the alternatives to hot desking?

There are a couple of main alternatives to hot desking as follows:

Desk hoteling

Desk hoteling is where staff can book a desk before they come in to work, often using hot desking software. It has several advantages over traditional hot desking as follows:

  • Employees can book a desk in advance so they don’t need to waste time looking for a desk when they arrive. This reduces the feeling of uncertainty if they have previously failed to find a desk when they arrived.
  • Employees can book the same desk for several days so they don’t need to waste time moving desks each day.
  • Employees working as a team can book desks close together in advance, making it easier for them to work together.
  • The facilities team can clean and prepare desks before employees arrive. This has been particularly important during the Covid 19 pandemic. The facilities team can also make sure that any specialist equipment is in place, eg. an ergonomic chair or a raised monitor, to make it easier for staff members with health needs.

Partial hot desking

The decision to move over to hot desking doesn’t need to be an all or nothing. In fact, partial hot desking could suit many businesses and solve many of the problems created by hot desking.

There are two options for partial hot desking as follows:

Some employees are allocated permanent desks. These may be staff members who work 100% in the office or other employees who need a permanent desk to work efficiently. For example, a secretary or personal assistant may need to work near their manager. Or someone with a bad back may require an ergonomic office chair or standing desk.

Hot desking is team wide rather than across the whole office. For an accountancy firm this might mean that the audit and tax team have separate work areas and staff members can hot desk within those areas. They are still free to move to another work area if they can’t find a desk.

What hot desking equipment will I need?

It’s important to invest in high quality office equipment to help hot desking work for your business. Here is some of the equipment you will need:

  • Office equipment - good quality and easily adjustable office chairs will make it easier for employees to adjust their set up and avoid long term back problems.
  • Monitors - having a consistent monitor set up is important so staff members can plug in their laptop and start working. Some employees prefer to have a dual monitor setup so they can cross-check several documents at once
  • Mouse and keyboard - having the same mouse and keyboard set up makes it easy for employees to move between desks. If you are concerned about hygiene then you could consider giving everyone their own personal keyboard and mouse.
  • Chargers and dongles - stocking each desk with its own chargers means your staff have less equipment to carry and they can set up quickly.
  • Docking station - a docking station helps expand the connectivity options available for laptops.
  • Power outlets - it’s important to have enough power outlets and for them to be easy to access. Many businesses choose to use a modular supply so that employees don’t have to crawl under their desk to plug in.

Frequently asked questions

What is a hot desking policy?

A hot desking policy sets out how to make hot desking work for both employees and the business. It includes employees’ responsibilities including, having a clear desk at the end of the day, not leaving confidential documents on desks and using meeting rooms for confidential calls. The policy also sets out the business’s responsibilities including, having enough desks for employees, providing lockers for personal items and having fast and efficient technical support.

Is hot desking bad for productivity?

Hot desking can be bad for productivity if employees waste time looking for a desk when they come into work. This problem can be solved by desk hoteling, where employees book a desk in advance using hot desking software.

Are there any issues for hot desking health and safety?

Hot desking can lead to a messy office as employees don’t have ownership of their work area. Managers should encourage a clear desk policy where staff members clear their desk before they go home.

What is a coworking space

A coworking space is a shared office space where different businesses can rent office space. It can be a great option for small businesses with only a few staff members. It can also work well for bigger businesses that need extra office space on some occasions. Businesses usually pay a membership fee and then extra fees based on the number of visits. Rates are all inclusive so it can be a cost effective solution.

Is hot desking the same as desk hoteling?

Hot desking is slightly different to desk hoteling. Hot desking is where employees find a desk to work from once they arrive at work. Desk hoteling is where employees book a desk in advance, often using hot desking software.

Are hot desking expenses tax allowable?

Hot desking expenses are tax allowable as they are classed as a business expense.


The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.