Sep 6, 2022

Hybrid vs Hoteling: what’s the difference?

We talk a lot about hybrid working here at Hotbox – hardly surprising for a company specialising in making products designed to power a hybrid workforce – and we know a fair bit about helping companies cross different cultural divides, from supporting FedEx’s teams going hybrid in Germany to VMWare doing the same in Mumbai and Punai. With that in mind we wanted to talk about something we haven’t before – the method of office management favoured in the US known as ‘Hoteling’.

People working in a hybrid office

So what’s the difference between hybrid and hotelling?

Well, ‘hybrid’ can be defined as a flexible working model in which employees work some of their hours in a shared physical workplace, and the remainder remotely – either at home or somewhere else.


Hoteling on the other hand means…exactly the same thing! Well, pretty much the same thing. With ‘hoteling’ the emphasis is on booking yourself in and out of a desk/workstation, but depending on the situation the difference is likely to be marginal.


But even a small difference should not be underestimated. Whether you’re a ‘hybrid worker’ or a ‘hoteler’, that flexibility is part of your company culture. And nothing is more important to culture than language. With English dominating so much global communication – especially US-UK – it’s very easy to assume that there’s no barrier. In fact, countless national, regional or industry specific terms and nuances can create a critical subtext which can include or exclude certain groups. This can be verbal or written – when it comes to hoteling vs hybrid, search engines will be looking for completely different phrases depending on who is searching and where.


When we use abbreviations like H4, the H stands for hybrid as well as Hotbox.

Luckily, it can stand for Hoteling too. But in the UK you’ll be very unlikely to hear the word hoteling anywhere. Talk about hybrid working in the US and you’ll only be understood by a minority of people. While everyone on either side of the pond knows that variations in spelling and phraseology generally exist, there is virtually no knowledge of the equivalence of these specific terms. It’s like a mutual blind spot.


As a practical phrase ‘hybrid’ has permeated the UK rapidly, but not fully. Certain boundaries still exist. It’s used heavily in workplace design and contract furniture, but many hybrid specialists tell us that it’s not a term clients use with them or are conscious of. They ask for a refit to support a new way of working, but they haven’t assigned the ‘hybrid’ label. Outside of ‘business’ circles – such as public sector and healthcare – it’s even less well known, even by individuals who have embraced hybrid working wholeheartedly.


How and why certain phrases are adopted – or not – is impossible to really predict or understand, but disparities of use can cause challenges. When you’re trying to integrate groups across international boundaries and establish a holistic culture, language really really matters. So in our experience it’s well worth listening at least as much as you are talking.