Q

How does hot desking work?

Hot desking is the practice of maintaining fewer desks or PCs than there are employees who need them. The model helps cut overhead costs, but it can cause productivity issues if there aren't enough workstations.

Hot desking is a business model in which employees outnumber available PCs. In some cases, the employees might even outnumber the desks available.

Hot desking has its roots in the military practice of "hot racking" or "hot bunking" where a person finishing his watch or duty lays down in the still-warm bed of the person whose shift is just beginning. The concept was first introduced in the enterprise in the 1980s when PCs were insanely expensive. The idea was that an organization could cut costs by allowing users to share PCs. As time went on, the model became far less popular because PCs had become a commodity item.

Today, VDI technology is stirring a renewed interest in hot desking. When properly implemented, VDI allows users to access a virtual desktop from anywhere and on any device. That being the case, organizations are beginning to discover that they can significantly reduce the number of PCs in the office, because users can share PCs when necessary, and work from their own personal mobile devices at other times.

The hot desking model seems even more attractive when you consider that today many employees work from home at least part of the time. Even when employees are in the office, they might spend a good part of their day away from their desk, tied up in meetings. From a logistical standpoint, this makes PC sharing much more feasible than it might have been in the past.

Of course, this isn't to say that hot desking is appropriate for every organization. Some organizations have experimented with the model, only to discover that it affected productivity negatively because sometimes employees had to wait to access a PC.

Generally speaking, however, VDI makes PC sharing more practical, because those users who have their own devices can use them while other users can share PCs on an as-needed basis. The key to making this process work is to make sure that there are a sufficient number of PCs in the organization to prevent users from having to wait on a PC, even if some PCs happen to be down for maintenance.

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This was first published in August 2014

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