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Desk sharing etiquette: 7 desk sharing best practices

This post will walk you through desk sharing etiquette tips that will help you create a productive, safe, and friendly workplace.

In the last few years, office managers have thrown out the handbook and experimented with new ways of working. One of the biggest workplace features that changed were desks. Assigned seats and permanent desks are no longer the norm in offices. Instead, workplace managers have introduced desk sharing.

Desk sharing has spiked in popularity over the last few years since many businesses shifted to hybrid work. According to our 2022 workplace trends report, reservations for hot-desking increased by more than three times from June to November of 2021—and that number is continuing to rise.

Desk sharing doesn’t work without a few systems and rules in place first. But with a bit of guidance, you can set up a desk sharing program that your employees love. In this post, we’ll cover:

  • What is desk sharing?
  • Benefits of desk sharing
  • What is desk etiquette?
  • 7 desk sharing best practices

What is desk sharing? 

Desk sharing, or hot desking, is a flexible seating arrangement where employees can reserve a desk for the day. Instead of having permanent desks, employees can select a desk or workspace each day they come in. Once they’ve finished working, the desk becomes free and available for another employee to book it.  

The length of the reservation can vary. Some companies allow employees to reserve desks for a day, week, or even just a few hours. The point of this model is that desks are available for those who need them for a specific time.

Benefits of desk sharing 

Desk sharing offers employees maximum flexibility to collaborate with different teammates, work in a satellite office, or just enjoy a new part of their usual office. Employees can reserve specific desks if they want to be close to a teammate or near meeting rooms. They don’t have to worry about lugging heavy monitors and supplies each day since the desks come set-up with desk amenities

Another benefit to desk sharing is better use of office space. With hybrid work, fewer employees are coming on-site every day than in the pre-pandemic days. So you don’t need a permanent desk for each employee. This opens up square footage to create other intentional and productive spaces

What is desk sharing etiquette?

Desk sharing only works if everybody understands the appropriate etiquette to sharing workplaces. Desk sharing etiquette refers to the do’s and dont’s necessary for people to follow when using shared desks. It’s an attempt at being courteous and considerate to fellow teammates so that they can have a productive and positive experience at work. 

If you’re hot desking or trying out another form of desk sharing at your workplace, here are a few desk sharing etiquette best practices you should have in place:

7 desk sharing etiquette tips

1. Implement a desk booking system

Before setting up desk etiquette rules, you first need to set up a desk reservation system that makes it easy for employees to book a shared desk. Desk booking software will help your employees know exactly which desk they’re sitting at for that day. 

If they find that someone is already sitting at their reserved desk, they can either kindly let their teammate know that they’ve reserved that desk or use the app to quickly select a different desk. With a desk booking app that displays a map of all available desks for the day, your employees can easily find a new desk that suits their needs and won’t have to fight over spaces.

2. Make it easy to clean up 

When you visit a national park, you’re advised to leave no trace. That means picking up trash off the ground and cleaning up after yourself. Well, an office is the same way. Encourage employees to pack up everything they brought when they leave for the day and leave desks exactly the way they found them for the next person. Make it easy for them to clean up after themselves by placing trash bins nearby. 

Also, since people will likely be snacking and drinking coffee at their desks, they’re more prone to making messes. Stock up your kitchen with cleaning supplies and place wet wipes around the office. This will make it easier for people to quickly wipe down their desks after a spill and at the end of the day. 

Bonus: Create a checklist for your team outlining what a baseline reset should look like. That way they can just follow the checklist and make sure they’re leaving the desk the way it should be for the next person who uses it.

3. Be careful with germs

We may be in the endemic part of COVID, but the virus isn’t gone. Without precautions in place, a workplace can be a spreading ground for germs. Try to plan ahead for cold and flu season by encouraging employees to stay home and take rest if they are feeling sick. 

Also, make hand sanitizer and tissue boxes readily available throughout the office. You could even provide each desk its own sanitation station to make it easier for employees to keep themselves and their desk mates safe. 

If an employee does get sick, create a way to alert their nearby deskmates. A desk reservation tool will allow you to see where that individual was sitting and who else was nearby. Work discreetly with that individual to notify teammates and ensure everyone is healthy before returning to the office. 

4. Have a silent devices policy  

While the office shouldn’t be a completely noiseless space, it also isn’t a place for loud, distracting music coming out of headphones or alarms going off every few minutes. Ask employees to silence or lower the volume on their personal devices before coming in for the day. 

And, if they do have to take a personal call, encourage them to use a phone booth or small meeting pod. By offering a variety of working spaces, you can make sure your people can handle their personal and professional business with total privacy and without disturbing anyone else.

5. Encourage socializing in shared spaces 

One of the best parts of hybrid work is getting to socialize in person with teammates and work besties in person again. There’s nothing wrong with chatting with desk neighbors, but it’s important to be mindful of loud or lengthy conversations. 

Encourage your employees to use social spaces around the workplace like the kitchen area or lounge areas for social conversations. With effective space management, you can make sure those who want to catch up over coffee can do so without disturbing a teammate focused on a project at their desk.

6. Lock up extra items

A new consideration with desk sharing is that folks don’t have a permanent place to store their belongings. Employees might be coming into the office with gym bags, skateboards, suitcases, and other big items that can block a hallway or clog up desk space. 

Help your employees keep the area around their desks uncluttered by offering storage solutions. If you have lockers, you can assign them out to individuals for the day. Or if you have extra rooms around the office, you can convert them into storage rooms. Once you’ve got a storage space set up, ask employees to check in any extra items they might be bringing and keep the office hallways clear. 

7. Build a culture of flexibility

If your workplace has a built-in culture of flexibility, your employees are much more likely to follow desk sharing etiquette. Hot desking and office hoteling brings up new considerations and challenges. For example, maybe someone reserves their favorite desk but finds someone else already set up there. Or maybe an employee brings in their puppy and has a desk right next to someone with a dog allergy.

Encourage your employees to handle unplanned situations with flexibility, kindness, and respect. Train them on how to use the tools and platforms at their disposal to switch desks, communicate their needs, and submit support requests. Desk sharing is a community effort and requires flexibility (and a handful of etiquette rules) to make it work. 

Desk sharing isn’t necessarily a new concept but it is constantly evolving. Be sure to regularly check in with employees to see how their work experience is going and if there’s anything that needs improvement. 

Curious how other companies are implementing desk sharing? Check out how Lionsgate is managing desks in their offices.

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Maria Akhter
Author Bio Maria Akhter

Maria is a content marketing manager at Envoy, where she helps workplace leaders build a workplace their people love. Outside of work, her passions include exploring the outdoors, checking out local farmers' markets, and drinking way too much coffee.