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After sitting empty for more than a year, office space — and the role it should play — is top of mind for many organizations as they develop their reopening plans.  

82% of organizations are planning to adopt a hybrid work model.

According to Gartner, 82 percent of organizations are planning to adopt a hybrid work model, in which employees split time between the office and remote work, after the pandemic.

In this model, employees' visits to the office will become more intentional and centered around specific meetings and events while individual focus time will be spent at home. The office will become a hub for innovation, social gatherings and maintaining company culture. 

As a result of these changes in how and where we work, many organizations are rethinking their office spaces and implementing new hybrid-office strategies. Office hoteling is one such strategy that is becoming increasingly popular in reopening plans. 

What is office hoteling and how does it work?

Office hoteling eliminates assigned seating and requires employees to reserve desks, cubicles, meeting rooms and other collaboration spaces in advance. Often used in flexible work environments, office hoteling gives employees the freedom to make their own schedules while maximizing office space. 

For example, if an employee works in the office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, she can book a desk for those days while another coworker books the same desk for Tuesdays and Thursdays. In a traditional office environment with assigned seating, this desk would have gone unused two days a week.

The process for reserving a space remains the same whether an employee works in the office every day or just occasionally. Using an office hoteling application or space reservation system, employees can view a map of available spaces and corresponding occupancy limits to determine which space will fit their needs and locate their coworkers. Like booking a hotel room, employees can reserve spaces weeks in advance and check in upon arrival. 

While the terms "office hoteling" and "hot desking" are often used interchangeably, it's important to note that these strategies are different. Office hoteling requires reservations; hot desking is on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Office hoteling benefits

Better space management and reduced costs 

The average cost of a workstation is $7,735.
The average cost of a workstation is $7,735.

With more employees working remotely at least part of the time, it doesn't make financial sense for organizations to dedicate office space for every employee when they won't be there to use it. According to iOffice, the average annual cost of a workstation is $7,735 — a steep price to pay for an empty desk. 

Office hoteling is the middle ground between completely open seating and assigned workstations. It allows organizations to minimize unused office space while still providing hybrid workers a place to work and collaborate in person. 

Over time, office hoteling data can help organizations identify opportunities to reduce their real-estate footprint and facilities costs, including rent, energy consumption and other operating expenses. If an office's highest occupancy level on any given day is 50 percent, for example, the organization might downsize from four floors to two floors.  

Greater flexibility for employees

In a hybrid work model, employees must be able to work seamlessly from home, the office and everywhere in between.
A hybrid work model supports employees at home, in the office and everywhere in between. 

Office hoteling enables a flexible workplace culture by making it easy for employees to transition from home to office and back again. Whether employees want to work in the office every day, a few days a month or just for special occasions, office hoteling gives them the freedom to make their own schedules.

Additionally, a key benefit of office hoteling is the ability to provide fair access to available spaces. This is critically important for enabling a hybrid workforce because it gives employees complete flexibility in the hours they work. Whereas hot desking favors employees who arrive first to the office, hoteling provides all employees an equal opportunity to book spaces— no matter when they start their day. 

Increased productivity and collaboration

Office hoteling encourages employees to thoughtfully plan their office days based on what they'll be working on and with whom. This helps drive productivity and collaboration in three ways: 

  1. Employees can start working productively faster. Unlike hot desking, employees can avoid wasting time finding an open desk when arriving at the office.
  2. Employees can sit near the people they'll be working with that day. Working on a project with the Marketing team today and Finance tomorrow? No problem. Employees can book spaces next to team members they need to collaborate with that day.
  3. Employees can foster new networking opportunities. With unassigned seating, employees can sit with other teams to help foster new relationships. Organizations can use office hoteling as an opportunity to develop mentorship and interactions between senior-level managers and entry-level employees that may not have happened with dedicated offices.

How WWT is planning to use office hoteling

Like many organizations, hybrid work is a key component of WWT's reopening plan. In a recent employee survey, 80 percent of our employees reported they would prefer to work in the office two days or less per week after the pandemic. 

Overlooking the first and second floors of WWT's global headquarters in St. Louis, MO.
WWT's global headquarters in St. Louis, MO.

To ensure a successful transition to hybrid work, our IT and Facilities teams immediately focused in on our physical office spaces. While our office layouts are designed with digital collaboration in mind — plenty of meeting rooms, huddle spaces and individual workstations equipped with videoconferencing capabilities— we needed a solution for optimizing space and enabling flexible working on a larger scale. 

After evaluating several office hoteling and space reservation systems, we chose iOffice's Hummingbird employee experience app.  Because our Facilities team uses iOffice for digital blueprints, seating charts and other space visualization purposes, Hummingbird can pull in our existing data and floorplans for office hoteling. If we decide to make any changes to the office layout in the future, Hummingbird will automatically reflect the most current layout and space reservation options.

Once offices reopen, WWT employees can download the Hummingbird mobile app to:

  • Browse available spaces.
  • Reserve desks and rooms in advance or on-the-fly by scanning QR codes located at each workstation.
  • View a map of their upcoming reservations.
  • Locate coworkers within the office.
Screenshots of iOffice's Hummingbird app. Employees can easily reserve spaces for specific dates and times.
iOffice's Hummingbird app allows employees to reserve spaces for specific dates and times.

Initially, WWT employees will be encouraged to book spaces on the floor they were assigned to before the pandemic. However, we will be closely monitoring our occupancy levels and how the spaces are being utilized to determine if "neighborhoods," or dedicated areas for groups of employees (i.e., a Marketing neighborhood, Finance neighborhood, etc.), are necessary.

How to choose the right office hoteling solution for your organization 

Since 2020, and the shift to hybrid work, the market has become crowded with new and existing vendors offering office hoteling capabilities. A quick Google search for "office hoteling vendors" generates more than 37,000 results. But not all vendors and solutions are created equal and what works for one organization may not be the right fit for your organization. 

When evaluating office hoteling solutions, consider asking these five questions: 

  1. Are there integrations with my existing technology? A good place to start is within your current environment. If you're already using vendors for space management, digital signage, videoconferencing or IoT sensors, ask if they offer office hoteling integrations. If so, you might be able to accelerate implementation and extract more value from the solution. If not, we recommend exploring Appspace, iOffice and Nuvolo (built on ServiceNow) for office hoteling because of their integrations and analytics capabilities.
  2. How will this solution impact the employee experience? A key reason to implement office hoteling is to enable a seamless hybrid-office experience. Consider the booking experience from the employee perspective: Is the solution intuitive and easy to use? How does the solution fit into employee workflows? Are there any solution limitations that could cause employee frustration?
  3. Can the solution help support a safe work environment? Employee safety is the top priority when reopening offices. Many organizations are limiting capacity levels within buildings, floors and meeting rooms to prevent disease transmission. Consider implementing a hoteling solution that can display real-time occupancy levels and space cleaning schedules and requires employees to complete COVID-19 screening questions before booking or when they check-in to a specific workstation.
  4. Is there executive alignment around the solution? Like with any change management initiative, office hoteling requires executive support and alignment to drive employee adoption of the solution. Be sure executive teams understand the organization's goal to create a flexible workplace and how office hoteling can help achieve that so they can become champions of the change.
  5. Can the solution adapt to changing business needs? The office hoteling strategy you implement today may not be the same strategy you want in the future. For example, you might decide to add or remove reservable spaces within your office layout. It's important you choose a solution that can easily adapt to changes without significant rework or manual processes.

Get started today 

Leveraging a partner like WWT, and our Advanced Technology Center (ATC), can help you make the right decision faster when evaluating office hoteling solutions. Our partnerships with leaders in space management and hybrid-office technology allow our experts to advise organizations on how to best implement and integrate office hoteling solutions to achieve an optimal experience.

Learn more by downloading this featured analyst report on office hoteling and hot desking, courtesy of WWT and Appspace.
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