‘Hoteling’ is the latest concept for business leaders developing hybrid work strategies. Numerous research reports have emerged highlighting that employees don’t want to return to the office full time. Buffer found that 94% of respondents who started working remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to work remotely some of the time for the rest of their career, and this figure jumps to 99% for those who worked remotely prior. 

Hybrid working, a model which was once regarded as a ‘perk’ only in niche industries or job roles, is now an expectation. In a recent Forrester report, they found 60% of large companies will pursue a hybrid model in which at least 10% of workers work at least two days a week from anywhere, and fewer than 10% will opt for a full anywhere-work workforce. 

While technology is a key enabler for hybrid work, business leaders are now looking for flexible working strategies which meet organizational needs and those of their employees to ensure productivity. With only 13% of employees stating they are fully satisfied at work, organizations need to take note and make significant investments in employee experience. Though this figure sounds insignificant, the true cost of employee satisfaction is monumental. It’s estimated that unsatisfied employees cost the US economy $450-500 billion each year every year through lost training, recruitment costs, absence, and lack of productivity, creativity, and innovation. 

Business leaders are now at a critical point – do they continue to allow employees to work from anywhere? Go back to the office? Or both? There is no ‘one size fits all’ policy, employees want the best of both worlds, and companies need to consider how they can effectively coordinate employee schedules. 

The concept of hoteling has begun to surface over the past few months to help manage the transition back to the office as well as long term hybrid working. But, what is hoteling and what do businesses need to do to successfully implement it?

What is hoteling?

Hoteling is a key part of enablement in the hybrid working environment and plays into benefitting an organization’s employee wellbeing program. The model works similar to hot-desking, where employees can reserve a desk for the day in a booking system providing flexibility to those who prefer the office, and those who don’t. This working solution acts as a mechanism to strategically plan when employees are in to enable better collaboration, coordinate schedules, secure environments, and balance stakeholder expectations.

What are the benefits of hoteling?

Improved collaboration

Everyone had different experiences during the pandemic, some benefited from remote work finding the additional time saved from commuting to the office, or even global client meetings provided them with more opportunities to be productive. Collaboration tools that have a social media feel to them, like Slack and Teams, meant employees could communicate virtually and have daily interactions with colleagues like in the office. Slack found that 60% of experienced remote workers found it to be more productive, and enjoyed the time with families, having a flexible routine, and not having to commute.

However, for some working from home, they didn’t reap the same benefits. Some employees lacked that in-person human connection you gain from in-person meetings, and regular face-to-face contact you encounter when popping by someone’s desk to ask a question. As a knock-on effect, this has impacted relationships at work, with collaboration becoming a struggling point. In Buffer’s survey, 45% suffered from feelings of loneliness, 45% lacked a sense of belonging, 16% missed collegiality and 27% experienced exhaustion through being unable to unplug. As a result, Slack found a third of respondents found this negatively impacted their productivity through a lack of communication and collaboration.

Hoteling is a strategy that offers flexible working and balances the collaboration needs across the organization. Hoteling scheduling tools enable employees to see when their colleagues are in the office, so they can check-in and coordinate so to have those important real-life encounters which they lack with remote work. This is particularly important when onboarding new staff members to ensure they’re building relationships with team members and have a smooth integration into the company culture.

Collaboration with hoteling for hybrid work

Safer working environments

A hoteling model supports local social distancing and COVID standards, while also providing a flexible working environment for employees. This is conducive to employee wellbeing because employees who feel efforts are being made so they feel secure are likely to feel higher levels of satisfaction at work. Currently, 39% of respondents in Sage’s survey believe their employer could do more to improve wellness while working, strategies like hoteling aid this because employees will feel their safety in the workplace is prioritized.

In a hoteling strategy, organizations should strategize how they’re going to execute office configurations with local social distancing standards in mind. Booking systems will be paramount for ensuring your hoteling strategy works. These must be easy to access and use accessible and usable with secure booking credentials and that employees receive confirmation and reminder emails of their reserved space

This means workstations, desktops, and phones must all be safely calibrated respecting distancing standards. To avoid too much mixing in the office and enhance collaboration efforts, you may want to allocate specific areas for departments. Another important aspect is ensuring that employees have easy access to Wi-Fi credentials, phone extensions and IT support contact information for when they come to the office, to avoid feelings of frustration when they come to the office.

Employees must be able to comfortably work from any location, on any device at any time with a hoteling infrastructure. Here, IT must ensure the right tools for physical and digital workspaces, connectivity and security are readily available, to ensure a seamless experience in the workplace and at home. This is where certain technologies like VPN can fall short because of the latency issues routing traffic to and from the office. Users may get a quick experience in the office, but while working remotely this could cause delays and frustrations to the user. You can find out more about alternative solutions here.

Managing stakeholder expectations

Some industries are more accustomed to remote working than others. For instance, a tech company is more likely to have adapted to working from home. Whereas, a nuclear reactor engineer would need a powerful device, strong Wi-Fi connection, and access to the correct machinery to carry out their role, which you’re unlikely to have in an ordinary household. Accountancy firm Grant Thornton announced 90% of workers wanted to continue to work from home. However, they received criticism from their external stakeholders that accountants wouldn’t be providing the same level of service and scrutiny to larger accounts such as Greensill Capital, Patisserie Valerie, and Wirecard. Here, business leaders need to find a balance that is acceptable to all stakeholders with their hybrid working strategies moving forward.

Hoteling is something here that bridges that gap with lack of satisfaction with service and presence. The model enables employees to be visible in the office space to avoid disgruntled feedback about certain business activities not being completed to the expected standard.

Financial benefit

Hoteling is an attractive strategy financially, organizations may find they now only require two office floors instead of ten. That’s not just lowered costs for rent, but also hardware such as desktops and office equipment. Something to bear in mind though is that employees will expect some kind of reimbursement program. If they’ve had to purchase additional equipment such as desks, chairs, or monitors to work from home, it’s a reasonable expectation that the employer pays. In a hoteling strategy, employee surveys can assist with scaling how much allocated space the organization needs on average on given days. With this saving, organizations can strategically decide the reimbursable allowance they wish to provide their employees.

Final thoughts

Rather than just introducing a new policy for remote working, organizations should seek to provide the correct tools and services, like hoteling, to empower employees to work from anywhere, at any time. Introducing flexibility in the workplace will enhance the employee experience and therefore drive the workforce to deliver better customer experiences and innovations.