With half of pre-pandemic workers now remote and one in five reporting they don’t have an assigned workspace when they go to the office, hotdesking is quickly becoming the miracle tool of the hybrid office.
As a concept, hotdesking is not new. It’s a classic telephony feature that allows users to co-opt any business extension and make it their own personal phone. Today, hotdesking is more about the desk than the phone, but it’s the same concept – enabling everything an employee needs to make a space their own, including a physical place to sit, connecting equipment, and accommodate the usual customization or personalization of the apps and space. Bonus points are awarded for making hotdesking simple and easy: for example, by giving workers suggested locations, wayfinding, maps, and other information.
Mobile technology is the norm, so engaging a mobile workforce seems easy enough. But as many organizations are now learning, hotdesking done right requires solutions that are powerful (and simple) enough to make office time more productive than staying home.
Hotdesking – Tough to Get Right
Implementation is harder than it sounds. There are a number of questions the people responsible for supporting hotdesking have to answer. Should desktops have one, two, or three displays? Should the employee bring a laptop or simply log on to a public workstation? Should an employee be able to sit anywhere? Should team members sit together? Should the space include a keyboard and mouse? There are no clear answers, but consistency does drive simplicity.
Ideally, employees should be able to scan, swipe, or log in to get the perfect space and personalize it with everything that makes it productive – from photos to a voicemail light. This kind of solution can be accomplished with a low-tech approach, such as a printed QR code on a desk that allows employees to scan it to claim it. Or it can be more high-tech, with robust touchscreen displays that allow real-time bookings and recommends a suitable space and directs the visitor to it.
The good news is we’re seeing more and more hotdesking options. There are solutions from a variety of software companies. But it’s a natural extension for enterprise communications vendors, as most already do meeting room reservations that are already tied into enterprise calendars. Room reservation displays also visually display rooms availability, and many offer maps and wayfinding. Reserving a meeting room isn’t that much different from reserving a desk — or is it?
Microsoft, Cisco, and Zoom have all expanded their offerings from meeting room management to desks. One key benefit they all offer is the ability to dynamically assign hard phones to the user’s extension, and these tools can even leverage the phone's display as a booking kiosk. However, that's not for everyone, as some organizations utilize more than one meeting or calling solution. Also, many organizations are moving away from physical phones, and softphones on a laptop don't need to be re-provisioned with hotdesking.
On the other hand, if an employee doesn’t need to bring their laptop to work, why not provide a simple workstation that can be provisioned for the user upon booking? This can be done with the Cisco Desk Series, for example. For those who bring their laptops, the Desk devices can also be used as a single USB peripheral for display, microphone, and speaker. Zoom has a similar solution with products such as the DTEN ME Pro. Microsoft too has both phones and displays, but they are not the same. The Teams Displays are more powerful, but lack telephony.
If we move away from phones or implement softphones, the competitive options increase and the space is attracting more vendors. This week, both Crestron and Logitech announced new solutions for shared desks.
Creston Desk Q and Desk Touch Scheduling Solutions
Crestron expanded its portfolio to desk reservations with its announcement of two new scheduling solutions. Desk Q is the simpler, QR-code-based reservation solution. Instead of attaching QR codes to a desk, they can be mounted in the Crestron Q that looks more professional and also provides a visual indicator for availability. It is powered by USB-C and connects to the scheduling system over Wi-Fi. The expected price is between $100 and $150.
The Desk Touch offers a new 3.5” active matrix TFT color display with three-finger multi touch. This allows users to book a space directly on the touch screen. It is powered by ethernet and connects through Wi-Fi. The expected price is around $300.
These new systems work with Crestron's existing scheduling software and integrate with Crestron’s scheduling solutions as well as third parties including Tango (acquired AgilQuest), Appspace, and Calven. Combined with its Microsoft Teams solution, Crestron now offers three desk scheduling solutions.
Logitech Logi Dock Flex Scheduling
Logitech is also getting into desk management and did so by cleverly combining two of its existing products – the Logi Dock and Logitech Tap Scheduler – into the Logi Dock Flex. The dock part provides charging and connectivity ports, cable management, and security. The Tap Scheduler has been adapted to be the built-in display of the Dock Flex. It provides a touch-screen UI for booking and desk status. The Logi Dock Flex will run around $700.
The solution is designed to pair with Logitech's new Logi Desk Booking application. Logi acquired Meetio, a meeting room scheduling company two years ago and has extended the application to desktops. (Or is in the process of doing so – the solution has been announced but won't be available until the fall.) Pricing has not been announced yet, but it sounds like they are exploring a freemium model.
The new Logi Desk Booking works with printed QR codes on the desk, but the Dock Flex solution offers a more comprehensive and intuitive experience. Like many Logi solutions, it's available for Microsoft Teams and Zoom experiences. It also works with several third-party workplace management vendors such as Embreva and Condeco.
Hotdesking Done Right is a Boon for Employers and Employees
Hotdesking is where employers and employees can agree. Hotdesking is a natural progression. Dedicated desks were the norm in grade school. We upgraded to lockers in high school or sooner, and now the enterprise is catching up.
Employers benefit from smaller real-estate requirements. Employees can enjoy the benefits of hybrid work without the pressure to utilize a dedicated desk. Deploying hotdesking solutions are also stimulating innovation around office wayfinding and e-signage – areas that have become more important as offices have fewer full-time inhabitants.
Reducing office space while giving employees options to return to the office to connect and collaborate can be a big win for both employers and employees. It is a powerful financial benefit for organizations that want to reduce real estate commitments. And when done right, it has the potential to increase productivity, boost revenues, increase morale, and provide more employee fulfillment. The right space planning combined with simple yet powerful technology can help any organization optimize its hybrid work strategy.
Dave Michels is a contributing editor and Analyst at TalkingPointz.