How to Work In a Flex Desk Environment Successfully

Andrea Susman
5 min readApr 10, 2021


Understandably, discussions have centered on hybrid workplaces, as companies reopen campus doors to workers. Because the workforce will be spread across many locations, on-site and off, office space will be handled differently. Unassigned workspaces, for example, are coming to the forefront as a required change to streamline operations and smooth a fragmented team.

Picture this. You’ve been away from the office for a week or more, laboring from the confines of a home office. You come in to find that the entire space has been reconfigured, and for good reason. Desks are spread further apart to honor social-distancing guidelines. There are fewer workstations overall, and there’s almost no way to tell who’s assigned to what office, desk, or terminal. You’re going to spend most of the day trying to discern when and where you can work, as opposed to getting down to business.

Now imagine that same scenario, repeated for hundreds, if not thousands, of additional workers.

Uh oh. That’s a lot of time wasted.

As the digitally transformed workplace embraces a flex office concept — practicality and usability need to go hand in hand with employee expectations.

What is a flex desk? What is a flexible work environment?

The term “agile” is something you hear a lot about these days. Conceptually, it can be applied to many different operations, departments, and situations. An agile workforce is one that can seamlessly transition their workday and get work done in a work-from-anywhere world.

A flex desk, hot desk, or shared desk — yes, there are that many names for it — are terms used to describe a workspace, room, or terminal that is unassigned and open to everyone. Most importantly, the space is tied to a hoteling system, usually managed via mobile services, so users can reserve and claim it as needed.

Before the system can be established, the entire workplace must be restructured to accommodate smart-desking and coworking opportunities. Desks, offices, conference rooms, and all manner of workspaces must be outfitted with the appropriate technologies and solutions. Sometimes, not much is needed to make that happen, while alternatively a complete overhaul may be required, it just depends.

The difference between hot desking and desk hoteling

Despite a general back and forth between terms, there is a clear difference between some of the most talked about flex or flexible work environment concepts. Hot desks or hot-desking, for instance, refers to on-demand access to these spaces, with the appropriate solutions to reserve, utilize, and free them afterward. Desk hoteling, on the other hand, generally deals with more advanced reservation protocols and platforms that don’t require the employee to be at the station or a kiosk to reserve it.

They are often used interchangeably, but the differences are certainly something to keep in mind. Both types of seating methods can be used as part of a robust desk management strategy to accommodate both ‘in advance’ and ‘on demand’ access to seats.

How we arrived at the flexible workplace crossroads

Many emerging workplace trends are bouncing around. Some existed before the pandemic, some didn’t, and more still have accelerated due to the current landscape. Flexible work environments and hot desking are one of the trending concepts, but that’s because they provide a lot of value for workplace reentry tactics, such as:

  • Supports flexibility, scaling, and shifting demands
  • Allows fewer desks or workstations, and all equipment has a fixed cost
  • Improves worker sentiment through agile and refreshing solutions
  • Spreads out workers, adhering to social-distance guidelines
  • Helps better organize workstation-based projects
  • Promotes networking across teams and departments
  • Spaces prioritize intent with amenities to serve specific uses

While these benefits seem promising, surely there’s a right and a wrong way to do it?

How do you create a flexible work environment?

To serve a distributed workforce — it’s about creating a desk sharing protocols that are simple and efficient.

Here are some tips to get you started:


Setting up the proper framework for a desk reservation system company-wide requires a good foundation.

  • Know the environment you’re creating the solution for and tailor it to the available spaces and workstations.
  • Provide on-demand and advanced reservation capabilities.
  • Embrace mobile app technologies to enable and enhance on-the-go capabilities.
  • Understand and leverage “neighborhoods” within the workplace to create more organized scenarios.
  • Create or repurpose a wide variety of workspaces to use from huddle rooms and cafe tables to private booths.


With a good foundation, operation efforts become more streamlined and the desk reservation system becomes an easy to use tool, but connected IoT devices make the whole system smarter.

  • Create and provide a list of guidelines for employees on interacting with the app, system, and services.
  • Use real-time technologies to activate or deactivate bookable workstations, as needed.
  • Leverage sensors and connected technologies to capture information about occupancy and usage.
  • Include on-demand access to IT services, who can provide station help and support whenever applicable.
  • Measure desk efficiencies and repurpose spaces regularly, as the workforce demands evolve.


With an agile workforce and dynamic workspaces, it’s even more important to be transparent, contextual, and simultaneously all-encompassing with your communications.

  • Provide in-depth tutorials, in-app resources, and service solutions so that employees have what they need and they know where to find it.
  • Deliver alerts, notifications, and updates relevant to specific users and/or their location.
  • Communicate in real-time the activation or deactivation of workspaces, alerting groups and individuals to new desk availabilities.
  • Create a feedback loop through surveys and instant polling where employees can share their experiences, good or bad.

Usage & Occupying Desks

For employees working in a shared desk office space, it’s helpful to keep some rules and etiquette top of mind to make the co-experience better for everyone.

  • Remember to make reservations as spaces become available or as your needs change.
  • Always follow local guidelines for in-office recommendations and safety protocols.
  • Bring everything you need to the worksite or station, and be sure to remember it all when you leave.
  • Leverage indoor navigation to find lesser-known spaces or stations.
  • Mind your neighbors, as they may be working on various projects and will have requirements of their own, like a silent space.
  • Regardless of how frustrated you are, always be kind and friendly to those around you, as flexible work environments are structured differently.

Desk booking protocols for a smoother work flow

When you’re using a desk booking system with advanced rules and reservation capabilities, a lot of the confusion and frustration in choosing who sits when and where evaporates. It becomes so much easier to manage not just people but also spaces. When individual plans change, it doesn’t matter, teams are not left scrambling trying to find a place to work.

Desk booking solutions improve the environments where employees work and collaborate giving greater flexibility to choose a place to work that best matches each employee’s needs. Most importantly, when emerging from a 100% remote workforce, desk scheduling software allows companies to expand and contract in-office availability instantly — to accommodate major changes in density.

By following the tips above, you can be sure that you’re providing an innovative and satisfying experience to your teams.

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