The Ultimate Guide to Hot Desks and Dedicated Desks in Coworking Spaces

Exploring hot desks vs. dedicated desks and how to find the optimum balance in your coworking space
By Kelly K
September 8, 2023
Everything you need to know about hot desks and dedicated desks in a coworking space

Desk rentals are the primary revenue driver for many of our clients. We’ve seen the growth of a business explode through strategically offering the right mix of hot desks and dedicated desks in the space.

Striking the right balance with desk rentals however can be complex. You can offer ad hoc hourly or daily hot desking, weekly dedicated desks, monthly memberships, and so much more.

With so many options, how do you choose the right mix of dedicated desks and hot desks for your coworking space? Let’s take a deep dive into desk rentals in your coworking space to figure out exactly how to utilize desk rentals to drive exponential growth for your business.

What is a hot desk?

A hot desk is a desk or seating area that is shared communally amongst a group of users. Most hot desks share the following characteristics:

  • Can be rented on an hourly or daily basis
  • Can be booked instantaneously on-the-go through a coworking space booking platform
  • Personal resources and supplies cannot be left on the desk

Hot desks are often located in an open seating area. They’re ideal for one-off bookings that can be done on the fly. When people think of coworking, they often think of a hot desk.

Example of hotdesking

Hot-desking tends to be most popular amongst professionals who work from home or tourists that are traveling for work. 

Below is an example of what hotdesking may look like in a coworking space.

John works for a tech company that has a hybrid work model. He usually works from home, but occasionally enjoys coworking as a way to network and meet other creative people in his community outside of the people he works with. 

He pops by the coworking space three to five times a month, especially on days when there are events, and books himself a hot desk for a few hours to get focused work done. Because he does not have a set schedule, he appreciates being able to drop-in to a space on a case by case basis.

Benefits of hot-desking in a coworking space

Ultimately, hot-desking allows you as an operator to offer greater flexibility to your members, while increasing your revenue per desk. The biggest benefits to hot desking are:

  • Greater flexibility and a “work how you want” approach for your members
  • Opportunity to drive increased utilization and revenue from a single desk
  • Great entry-point offering that allows a user to experience your space and potentially upgrade to other offerings or plans

The percentage of desks that you choose to offer as a hot desk will be highly dependent on the market you’re in and your target audience. We’ll get into that a bit more later.

Drawbacks of coworking hot desks

COVID-19 has shifted the demographic of many coworking spaces, resulting in lower demand for hot desking in some areas. 

Here are some of the biggest drawbacks to consider with hot desk offerings:

  • Harder to predict recurring monthly revenue because of increased variability
  • More difficult to foresee and accommodate for foot traffic
  • Challenging to fill since COVID-19 due to an increased desire for privacy amongst coworkers

Hot desking is becoming less and less popular in some markets, so it’s important to conduct ample research before deciding on your product offering

What kind of coworking spaces benefit most from hot desks?

As written about in our 2023 coworking trends article for Coworking Resources, we’re seeing a greater shift in the market away from hot desks and open seating areas and more towards private offices. 

This is largely due to coworking spaces becoming hubs for remote workers that are in need of private, quiet areas to work – hence the rise of other product offerings like phone booths. 

So what kind of spaces benefit the most from offering hot desks? 

  • Nature-inspired spaces and other destinations with a high number of tourists travelling through
  • Spaces located in dense metropolitan areas, such as London, New York, or Los Angeles with the market to support a steady stream of new members

Essentially, any markets where you’re likely to see a large number of tourists or transient individuals will be more likely to benefit from an open hot desk offering.

Benefits of Hot Desks Drawbacks of Hot Desks
Greater flexibility Harder to predict recurring revenue
Increased utilization from a single desk Difficult to accommodate for drop-ins and foot traffic
Entry-point offering for new users Safety concerns since COVID-19

What is a dedicated desk?


Definition of a dedicated desk in a coworking space

A dedicated desk is a single desk that is rented out to one specific individual. Characteristics of a dedicated desk include:

  • Rented on a long-term basis (ie. weekly or monthly)
  • Cannot be booked on the fly for a single day
  • Personal resources and supplies can be left on the desk or in a locker

Dedicated desks give members peace of mind that when they come into your coworking space, they’ll have a place all to themselves where they can work. 

Example of a dedicated desk

Here is an example of what a dedicated desk may look like in a coworking space:

Tina runs a small, but successful ecommerce business. She comes into a coworking space Monday through Thursday every day and sits at the same desk adjacent to the open seating area. 

Here, she leaves her computer monitor and wireless keyboard on her desk and has a locked storage cabinet where she keeps a variety of other office supplies. Tina’s desk is not available to book by any other member Monday through Thursday, and is available for her to use at any time on those designated set days.

Benefits of dedicated desks in coworking spaces

Having dedicated desks in your coworking space can attract small business owners and entrepreneurs looking for a more long-term commitment. Here are a few benefits to dedicated desks:

  • Higher revenue per desk compared to hot desks
  • Can help build your coworking community by having regular tenants
  • Offers users additional ownership and security in the space
  • More reliable recurring revenue

Balancing your product mix of hot desks and dedicated desks can help you make the most of your desk offering and drive more revenue as a result. 

Drawbacks of dedicated desks

However, there are some drawbacks to consider with dedicated desk offerings. This includes:

  • Can be challenging to sell due to lack of knowledge and increased commitment from members
  • Fewer opportunities for drop-ins and new faces
  • Requires additional security for items stored in house
  • Hard limit on the number of users you can accommodate
  • Less privacy compared to a private office

Dedicated desks are not always a well-known option for a lot of members, especially those unfamiliar with coworking. You may have to do some education on the benefits of a dedicated desk and what it can offer members outside of a drop-in offering.

However, if you’re able to sell dedicated desks successfully, they can help you reach your goal of reliable, predictable revenue month over month and become a key component of your business model.

Benefits of Dedicated Desks Drawbacks of Dedicated Desks
Higher revenue per desk More upfront commitment
Helps to build a coworking community Fewer opportunities for drop-ins
Offers ownership of the space Requires additional security of personal items
More reliable recurring revenue Limit on the number of users you can accommodate

What’s the difference between a dedicated desk and a private office?

Dedicated desks are sometimes confused with private offices. However, the two are totally different product offerings with different clientele.

Private offices are standard offices in an enclosed space with a locked door. They are typically rented on a monthly or yearly basis and involve a signed contract agreement with fixed terms. The office is treated as a leased space that the users then “owns”. They are more expensive than a dedicated desk.

Dedicated desks are desks that are not in an enclosed space. They are often considered a desk within your open seating area. They are rented on a fixed term, though it can be weekly, monthly, or even a certain number of days a month. They do not often require a contract outside of a typical membership agreement.

If a member is looking for a private space to work, they are often looking for a private office. However, this could be due to a lack of knowledge on a dedicated desk and how it can support their goals and involvement in the community.

This is where education, as discussed earlier, can really come in handy to convert members and convince them of the benefits of a dedicated desk.

Hot desks vs dedicated desks

The difference between hot desks and dedicated desks comes down to a few key factors including cost, term length, privacy, personalization, and flexibility. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors below.

  • Cost: hot desks are less expensive than dedicated desks on a per day basis. However, because dedicated desks guarantee revenue, most operators find dedicated desks to be the greater money-making opportunity. 
  • Term length: hot desks can be booked ad hoc, as part of a daily drop-in. Dedicated desks require a fixed term length (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.).
  • Privacy: hot desks do not offer much privacy, as they are usually located in an open area where anyone can join. Dedicated desks are sometimes made to be more private with the use of dividers or physical separation from other desks. 
  • Personalization: hot desks cannot be personalized in any way because they are used by so many people. Dedicated desks can offer some degree of personalization, as members are typically able to leave things on the desk overnight.
  • Flexibility: hot desks offer greater flexibility because they can be booked on the fly by any person, at any time of day. Dedicated desks require more of a commitment from your members.

Because hot desks and dedicated desks each have their own strengths and weaknesses, giving your members the option of choice is important to meet a variety of needs. Which brings us to our next point.

Why should you offer hot desks and dedicated desks in your coworking space?

Both hot desks and dedicated desks are valid product offerings in a coworking space. Here’s why having a mix of both is beneficial for your overall brand and business.

Attract more users

Everyone wants something different out of coworking. 

A freelance copywriter might only need a laptop, while a 3D artist needs two monitors, a desktop computer, and a tablet. Offering both dedicated and hot desks ensures you attract a mix of users that keep your community dynamic and your users engaged.

Create a steady, ongoing revenue stream

Including both a fixed and variable pricing model allows you to optimize your growth efforts. 

Both hot desks and dedicated desks can be rented out on an ongoing monthly fee. That allows you to have a reliable monthly recurring revenue supplemented by other variable streams of revenue such as event rentals, drop-in visitors, and shorter-term memberships.

This diversification of product offerings allows you to mitigate your overall risk.

Foster a lively, bustling community

When you have a mix of dedicated and hot desks, your community benefits from the best of both worlds. Your dedicated desk users dictate and perpetuate the tone of the community, while your hot desk users inject a freshness that keeps a community from feeling stagnant.

The good news is, with a coworking management software like Optix, you can actually have one desk act as both a hot desk AND a dedicated desk. Here’s how:

Imagine you have a prospective new client who wants to come in and have a dedicated desk but only for three days a week. You can now offer them the opportunity to use this desk as theirs, say Monday-Wednesday, and then hot desk it on Thursdays and Friday by making it bookable by the hour or day through Optix.

It can help you switch your resource from non-bookable to bookable, leveraging a single desk to get the most out of it. This also provides even more flexibility for users who are interested in a dedicated desk but don’t want to commit to dedicating it 24/7.

How to figure out the right mix of dedicated desks and hot desks

The right mix of dedicated desks and hot desks in coworking spaces

Striking the balance between hot desk and dedicated desk offerings can be challenging. Here’s a few tips for how to determine the best product mix for you when opening your coworking space.

1. Start with your ideal target customer

Having an ideal target customer is an important part of building a lasting coworking space brand. What kind of space do you want to be? And who exactly do you want to attract?

Once you define the needs of your target customer, you can begin to build your product mix around those needs. Aiming for an older, more established clientele? Having more dedicated desks and private offices is going to be a must.

Want to attract hybrid and remote workers? Keep plenty of hot desks on hand that can be booked on the fly, no strings attached.

2. Think about the market

Chances are, there are other coworking spaces or office spaces available in your city. Think about what they are offering and identify if there are any gaps in the market.

If you see coffee shops full of young people on their laptops, but private offices are struggling to be filled, that could be a sign that there’s a greater need for hot desks than dedicated desks and private offices in your community.

3. Calculate how much revenue you want to drive from desk bookings

There is a certain number of desks you need to rent each month in order to be profitable. Figuring out that number can help guide the rest of your strategy. At the end of the day, in order to have a profitable business, you’ll need to ensure the finances make sense.

4. Experiment with different product mixes

The great thing about planning out your space is that you don’t need to commit long term to specific product mix upfront. Make an educated guess as to the optimal ratio of hot desks to dedicated desks, measure the success of your initial hypothesis, and adjust accordingly.

If you realize it’s harder than you thought to sell dedicated desk memberships, convert a bank of dedicated desks to hot desks. If your users are clamoring to commit to a desk of their own, add a bit more storage and convert some hot desks over to dedicated.

We wrote an entire article on how to strike the perfect balance between hot desks, dedicated desks, and other product offerings in a coworking space. We recommend taking a look if you’re not sure where to start!

Balancing desk offerings in your space

In the world of coworking spaces, the choice between hot desks and dedicated desks ultimately boils down to individual needs and preferences. 

Hot desks provide the flexibility and cost-effectiveness that many transient workers seek, fostering a collaborative and ever-evolving workspace environment. 

On the other hand, dedicated desks offer stability, personalization, and consistency, making them an attractive option for individuals who require a sense of ownership. 

As coworking space operators, it’s crucial to strike a balance between these offerings to cater to a diverse clientele effectively. And when it comes to efficiently managing desk offerings, consider exploring solutions like Optix, which can streamline the process and enhance the coworking experience for both users and providers. 

So, whether you’re leaning towards hot desks, dedicated desks, or a mix of both, the key is to create an environment that empowers individuals and businesses to thrive in this exciting era of flexible workspaces.

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