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 10 Keys to Office Hoteling Success

Office Hoteling has become one of the most significant trends in professional office management.

Its success in a particular office or firm, however, is dependent on many details in its daily implementation.

Here is a summary of the most important factors which distinguish the most successful implementations of office hoteling.


Recognize the sacrifice that the employees participating in Hoteling are making.

A personal office is more than just some partitions and furniture. It represents stability, a sense of place in the firm, a way to express individuality, and a hard earned symbol of rank. When the firm appears to be divided between the office ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ it will appear pretty clear at first which is the more desirable group.

This does not mean that it is impossible to expect employees to make sacrifices for the firm. Otherwise nobody would work late or weekends. It is only when those making the sacrifice appear to be treated no differently than those who are not that rebellion occurs.

Recognition begins with the reservation and setup staff. Their attitude should convey that the person making the reservation that they are doing a service, not being a nuisance, by making a reservation.

Other recognition can take the form of small thank you gifts at appropriate times from the facility department. Most important are measures that insure that the participants know that upper management knows who is helping with the program and how much it is aiding the company.


Articulate and Implement Hoteling as Part of Broader Facility Management Goals and Initiatives

When shown to be part of broader, and more exciting, goals Hoteling will make far more sense than seen alone. Not only will this make the participants more likely to accept their role but higher management will better understand their need to be firm when the inevitable resistance occurs.

The specific broader initiatives will, of course, vary from office to office but might include any of the following:

  • Greater mobility and productivity.
  • Enabling telecommuting.
  • Flexible use of satellite offices.
  • Quicker creation of client or project specific work teams in close proximity.
  • Improved wide area networking.
  • A more compact and efficient office
  • An improved central files system
  • Flex-Time


Plan for Peak, Rather than Average, Demand

Airlines do not expect to fill every seat on every flight. Car rental agencies do not expect to have every car rented every day. Facility managers, however, often see every empty office as waste rather than a natural daily, weekly, or seasonal fluctuation in demand. This frequently occurs in the pre-planning for Hoteling when the average in/out percentages over a long period of time is used to set the number of spaces required.

Part of planning for peak demand is having a well organized set of procedures for when capacity does fill. Hanging a ‘no vacancy’ sign will confirm employee’s worst fears about Hoteling, that when they needed an office they were left homeless. That rooms were available on other days or that the total average occupancy for the month is only 80% will mean nothing to them. They will begin to make ‘just in case’ reservations. These will rapidly deplete the supply of rooms and creating ‘full’ buildings with numerous empty spaces, eroding confidence in the entire process. Possible measures for peak demand days include extra room checks for unused reservations and temporarily converting conference rooms into multiple overflow offices.


Benchmark Your Service Quality Against Other Travel Related Companies.

Consider your employees experience with other travel reservation entities: Airlines, Car Rental, Hotels, etc. These form a very clear and consistent image of a professionally run reservation desk. If it does not match their experience with office reservations it will be perceived as amateurish. This can also apply to having too much service. Travelers understand that complaining will not cause an airline to change another person’s seat assignment to accommodate them. This is not seen as poor service because it is expected and that in the future they will not be inconvenienced by someone else’s demands. Part of high service quality is politely applying the rules firmly and consistently.


Treat problems as opportunities to demonstrate Service Quality and the core principles of Hoteling.

Shortly after being launched Lexus had to make a large recall of vehicles. While not unexpected, it was embarrassing. Lexus responded with a level of service never before applied to an auto recall. The result enhanced, rather than diminished, Lexus’ image as a high quality manufacturer at a critical point in its history.

Mistakes will be made. The real test is how you react to them. Respond quickly and professionally, admit and apologize for your error if there was one, but do not reward noncompliance with Hoteling procedures. Rehearsing typical situations with the service staff is highly recommended.


Organize your office before implementing Hoteling.

With a permanent office many employees develop work habits involving generating and keeping excessive local files. The need to move in and out efficiently from a Hoteling office

requires a much leaner, more organized, and prioritized approach to paperwork. Many long time participants admit that the change was beneficial to their productivity but difficult. Developing standard methods for prioritizing and labeling files, reviewing records procedures, and so forth are valuable suggestions.

One large office, when preparing for Hoteling, held an ‘office recycling drive’. It yielded over 40 tons of surplus paper and created numerous empty file cabinets for use as Hoteling storage.


Have a method for accommodating extremely short visits.

Very often people will need to stop by the office for some very quick but necessary work on their way to, from, or between customers. These visits are characterized by their length being shorter than their potential variance (i.e. 10 minutes sometime in the next hour). Thus they do not schedule very well since the reservation would have to cover the entire possible time. Unless there is some space for these visits employees will make reservations for entire day or half day. Many different terms have been used to describe these stations. They work best when they are not ordinary cubicles for two reasons.

  1. Their simple needs (work surface, phone, network, power, task lighting, supplies, seat or stool, coat hook, and waste bin) take half the space of a full cubicle. Thus there can be twice as many of them.
  2. If they contain amenities suitable for a longer stay (file storage, white board, etc) they will be dominated by longer visits by people not bothering to make reservations. Thus they will be unavailable for the true drop-by visitors.


There is no substitute for daily walk-about checks.

It is possible to have a well ordered reservation system with no relationship to reality. People make reservations ‘just in case’ they need them. Unreserved persons make themselves at home wherever seems empty. Those with room assignments find someone at their desk and have to waste time moving them out or finding another empty office. They will all wind up regarding the office reservation process a joke.

Twice daily walk-about checks against the occupant report must be followed by action both to give them and Hoteling credibility. Persons without reservations should be given them (and moved if necessary) and persons who are not using their reserved offices should be given a message on their voice mail asking if they still need the room and reminding them that there are others who are (or will be) needing it.


Enlist the assistance of your administrative and secretarial staff.

The office administrative staff are the ones who know where a particular employee is and will be. This can be valuable in knowing whether a particular reservation is in fact not necessary. They can even be proactive in this (i.e. "You’ll be at headquarters for the rest of the week. Should I call let the reservation desk know that your office will be available?"). To get this level of cooperation from these employees they must see some personal benefit from Hoteling. One possibility is to make the task of setting up meetings and conferences easier. Another is to use the setup and room checks process to verify the condition of and supplies in their offices as well.


Never forget you are a service to the participating employees

It is unlikely that anyone will ever look upon Hoteling as nice as having a permanent office. If they perceive it as being firmly, fairly, efficiently, and professionally run they will regard it as important and necessary. They will then work with the system rather than against it. Treat Hoteling as if it were a semi-voluntary program. Even though there may be a specific mandate for particular employees to participate there are too many ways to circumvent and hinder it.

You must always seek to win and keep their willing participation through excellent service.