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Office Hoteling: The Key to a Successful Hybrid Workplace

Imagine if you walked into your corporate office, and not a single workstation was available. Every seat was taken, every desk, office, and conference room was occupied. Not having a dedicated workspace could throw off your entire day. Do you go home? Hop from coffee shop to coffee shop? Perch on a windowsill or cram into the stairwell?

Now suppose you got to campus and discovered you were one of the only people there. The rest of your colleagues decided to work remotely. Every floor and every room is full of empty seats and desks.

In a hybrid workplace, either scenario is possible, and both are obviously terrible. Too many people on campus hinders productivity and employee satisfaction, and can give people anxiety about coming to work. On the other hand, too few people on campus results in wasted office space—and considering real estate is one of your top operating expenses, that waste is costly.

While there are a variety of ways to implement a hybrid workplace, they all typically involve variable demand for a fixed supply of space. Whether your work-from-home policy lets employees choose when they work remotely or you assign them days to be on campus, you need a process to ensure your virtual workforce has access to on-campus resources.

That’s what office hoteling is for.

For years, businesses have used hoteling to enable employees to reserve conference rooms and other shared resources. Before the rise of the hybrid workplace, booking conference rooms was a common practice to prevent multiple parties from trying to use the space at the same time. Now, with the amount of shared, flexible spaces hybrid workplaces entail, hoteling has become a crucial process for making this model viable.

In this article, we’ll explore why office hoteling is key to a successful hybrid workplace—but first, what is office hoteling?

What is hoteling?

Office hoteling is a process that allows employees to reserve shared space or equipment from available resources. They can see what rooms, workstations, amenities, or equipment are available at a specific time, or start with the resource they need and see the times that it’s available. This helps prevent double-booking, where two separate teams or individuals attempt to use the same space at the same time. It also ensures that if there is a conflict, there’s a definitive schedule that establishes who is supposed to have access to the resource at a given time.

Technically, hoteling can be as simple as a sign-in sheet. You just need a way for employees to select from the times and resources available. It may or may not let employees see who specifically is using the space or equipment at a given time—the main thing is that people should be able to see “Is the space I want available at the time I want it?”

Most organizations handle this with technology, so employees don’t have to be in a specific location to see the schedules for shared resources. Using an office booking software like Tango Reserve, employees can access room and workstation scheduling from home or anywhere else.

Tango Reserve

Office hoteling isn’t the only system for determining who works where, and while there are a range of terms people use interchangeably, there’s also room for confusion. Some hybrid workplaces may use “hot desking” instead of hoteling, and there’s an important distinction between these terms.

Office hoteling vs. hot desking

Hoteling and hot desking both address the same problem: there are more people than workspaces. But they solve this problem in very different ways. Whereas hoteling always uses some sort of reservation system, hot desking is typically more of a free-for-all—anyone can use any desk that’s available.

Hot desking is simpler, but it has some significant limitations. It only works if you have just enough desks for every person to get one, otherwise you’re playing musical desks and someone potentially gets left out. This makes it suitable for a hybrid model where employees have assigned shifts, but extremely risky for a workplace where employees can choose which days and times they come into work.

If your peak occupancy level is anywhere near 100%, hot desking is not ideal. Even if there are technically enough workstations, finding one that’s available becomes challenging. You don’t want employees wandering around campus hunting for an open desk or asking around in Slack when they could be working.

With hot desking, your office space is essentially first come, first served, where the employees who arrive earliest each day will consistently claim the best workstations and neighborhoods. If there’s a significant difference in comfort, accessibility, or aesthetics between workspaces, this can cause tension—and you may need to develop some systems for making this feel equitable, such as preventing employees from saving spaces for coworkers, or limiting how frequently you can use the same workspace.

There are certainly work arounds to make hot desking run smoother, but in general, hoteling is a cleaner, more organized solution.

Now let’s dig into some of the reasons why office hoteling is a key part of successful hybrid workplaces.

A virtual workforce doesn’t need assigned space on campus

It would be a colossal waste of space to have assigned workstations for virtual employees. Regardless of how many days per week they work on campus, you’d essentially be planning for these workspaces to be vacant for extended periods. And when your space is vacant, you’re paying for square footage you may not need—or that you could use for another purpose.

By giving a pool of employees a pool of workstations to choose from, you decrease the time that those spaces will be vacant. Instead of having a 1:1 ratio of desks to employees, you might have a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio, allowing the same number of employees to work with less space.

Hoteling helps you efficiently manage shared spaces

The more shared space you have, the more critical it is to have a clear, intuitive system for determining who can use it when. Conflicts over shared space waste time and cause unnecessary tension. Employees shouldn’t have to pull rank or complain to leadership to access the resources they need to do their jobs.

Hoteling lets everyone see when the space and equipment they need are available, so they can plan their week, day, or meeting around their reservation. By making your office booking system accessible to all employees, your business can prevent conflicts that reduce productivity and employee satisfaction.

Combined with other workspace optimization metrics from Internet of Things sensors, your reservation data can even help you identify “no show” cancellations, where employees don’t use the space or equipment they’ve reserved. Things come up and plans change—but when they do, you want to be sure someone else can use these shared resources.

As employees get used to your hoteling software, they’ll naturally develop patterns and preferences around where and when they work, making it easy for your employee population to share resources—and that’s what a hybrid workplace is all about.

Office hoteling can help identify underutilized space

One of the main benefits of hybrid workplaces is the potential for a business to repurpose unused space or scale down their real estate portfolio. By implementing a system that allows employees to share workspaces, you reduce the amount of space you would normally need to dedicate to desks and offices. And since you have a clear record of which spaces are reserved and used at what times, you have greater visibility into which conference rooms, stations, offices, neighborhoods, or amenities you could do without.

If similar spaces are being used infrequently, a single space of that type may suffice. You may find that an underutilized space could be reconfigured to a type of space there’s more demand for. The challenge is to balance overall utilization with other measures, such as peak occupancy. If certain spaces are in high demand at particular times and sit vacant at others, you may be able to give this space an additional function for the times it’s underutilized, when simply eliminating or converting the space could create problems.

Hoteling helps you avoid purchasing space you don’t need

By enabling employees to share workspaces, hybrid workplaces help businesses make better use of the square footage they already have. Office hoteling takes this even further by laying the groundwork for you to identify wasted space and gauge demand for other types of spaces. If employees aren’t reserving a particular room, amenity, or workstation, you can allocate this space for a new amenity your employees have been asking for, or more of the space they use all the time.

Investing in additional real estate can create serious growing pains, but with insights from your reservation system, your hybrid workplace won’t have to buy, lease, or rent more square footage as often.

Teams can reserve spaces together

For many virtual employees, connecting and collaborating with coworkers in-person is what they miss most about working on campus. It’s one of the hardest things to replicate in a virtual workplace. Sharing space with close colleagues can increase productivity and employee satisfaction, as team members can more easily bounce ideas off one another, talk through their challenges, and bond with each other.

But that can be difficult to facilitate in a hybrid workplace. Using a hot desking model, employees either have to save workspaces for each other or try to show up at the same time. With office hoteling, they can simply reserve spaces near each other on the same days and at the same times. You can even make it so that teams can reserve neighborhoods of workstations or larger workspaces to ensure that there’s room for everyone.

Artificial intelligence can leverage hoteling data

Over time, your employees naturally reserve particular places at specific times, and they’ll gravitate toward options that allow them to work with the people they’re most comfortable and productive with. This is a prime opportunity for artificial intelligence and machine learning to recognize patterns and provide recommendations.

Tango Reserve analyzes employee reservation data to detect these patterns. As employees open the reservation app to choose their workspace, Tango Reserve makes recommendations based on their past preferences. Before they’ve messaged their team or selected their preferred workstation, our AI can tell them where their team is that day, which days of the week everyone is coming in, or what time their favorite desk is available.

This helps your hybrid workplace become more efficient and makes it easier for your employees to create the work environment that’s best for them. And of course, employees can choose who to share their reservations with, so everyone can feel comfortable and productive.

Hoteling can improve emergency preparedness

We’ve all participated in routine fire drills where everyone leaves the office building and stands in a deemed “safe zone.” Then the head count begins. But what if some colleagues aren’t there because they’re with a client or out sick? The safety officer is left scrambling.

Evacuating and making sure your employees are accounted for and safe shouldn’t be left to chance. Desk reservation systems do more than enabling your employees to secure a workspace for the day. When every person is in the hoteling system, you can see who has checked in (so you know they are in the office) and what desk they reserved (what part of the building they’re in and where they’re sitting).

This means that in the case of an emergency, management can see exactly who they need to make sure is safe and who may still be in the building.

Hoteling also allows users to find another place to work when their building is inaccessible. For example, if Campus A in downtown Washington D.C. is on security lockdown, employees can check the system to find desks at Building B in Arlington so they can continue to work.

If everyone is registered in the system, even for offices where everyone has permanently assigned spaces, then their whereabouts can be more efficiently tracked in the case of an emergency. It’s an all-around good strategy both for safety and for continuity of operations so key services are not disrupted and revenue streams are not affected.

The key to office hoteling adoption

Any change to “business as usual” in the workplace requires careful and deliberate communication to educate workers and encourage adoption. Switching to office hoteling can represent a big change for your employees, and how you implement that change will impact its success, the benefits gained, and your employees’ comfort. Having a defined process in place is critical for workers to accept and adapt to the changes.

Change management in workplace design centralizes communication for the project, allowing senior leadership to be alerted to important issues more readily for early resolution. Change management also maintains high productivity levels by involving staff in identifying issues and solutions, empowering them to gain a more holistic perspective on the changes taking place. This focus on communication promotes good will and eases emotional transition to a different workplace culture.

An effective change management initiative during the roll-out of the new office hoteling system requires a clear vision and defined goals. Desired outcomes from a positive cultural shift come by involving stakeholders, communicating often via different media, and reinforcing new behavior through workplace education.

Get the most advanced office hoteling software

Tango Reserve is a purpose-built office hoteling software. From a single solution, you can manage all of your shared resources, and your employees can easily reserve spaces and equipment in our simple, intuitive mobile app. Over time, Tango Reserve learns who your employees prefer to work with, and when and where they work best, giving each employee custom recommendations and streamlining the reservation process.

To help employees navigate campus to unfamiliar spaces, every reservation includes accurate wayfinding information. If an employee misses a reservation, Tango Reserve can make the space available again, helping you minimize vacancy rates. Through the employee app, you can even send surveys to learn more about what employees need and how satisfied they are with the spaces they’ve used.

As part of our IWMS suite, Tango Reserve fully integrates with our space management software, facility maintenance software, and other tools enterprises like yours depend on. You’ll also get access to a robust analytics system, giving you richer insights into your workplace.

Want to see what Tango Reserve could do for your business?

Request a demo today.


Brett Sample