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Room for one more? How to introduce desk sharing in your office

As businesses look to reimagine their office space in light of an increase in hybrid-working patterns, we share our top tips for introducing desk sharing into your organisation.

What is desk sharing?

Often referred to as ‘hot-desking’, desk sharing is a workplace system in which desks are used by different people at different times, on an ad hoc basis. In this system, there are no or very few fixed desks. Instead, employees find an available desk, plug in their equipment and get to work.

It certainly isn’t a new concept – many organisations have been desk sharing for years. But with the rise in hybrid working, more and more companies are looking to adopt similar systems. JP Morgan, for example, recently said they expect to need just 60 seats per 100 people in the coming years. If you’re thinking about introducing desk sharing in your business, here are a few things you might like to consider:

1.      Communicate with your teams

If desk sharing is new to your organisation, it might take a while for some colleagues to embrace this new way of working. Humans are creatures of habit. We like a space that we can call our own and personalise to meet our individual needs. When you desk share, this sense of ownership is taken away and it can be tricky to adjust. 

To help smooth the transition, you’ll first need to think about who will be required to desk share. There may be certain roles, a receptionist for example, where assigned desks are required. If you’re not sure who would need a fixed desk, then speak to your employees about their needs. There might need to be a degree of flexibility depending on job roles and personal circumstances but beware of making too many exceptions. It needs to feel like you’re all in it together to make it work!

Next, don’t forget to think about your other office spaces, not just desks. People are more likely to embrace desk sharing if there are other flexible workspaces available to use. Couches for one-to-one meetings and booths for quiet work, for example. Again, collaboration is key here. Speak to your teams about how they work and consider how different spaces could be redesigned to accommodate this. Zoning, where areas are designated to specific teams, can be really useful way of ensuring teams that need to collaborate still have some physical proximity for instance. If you’re not sure how you can meet the needs of your employees in the office space you have available, we can help. As office design and build specialists, we have a number of tricks up our sleeves!

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Once you’ve got a plan for reconfiguring your office, communicate, communicate, communicate. You really can’t talk to your staff too much or too early about this. Make sure they understand why you’re introducing desk sharing and the benefits to the business – and to them. Share plans with them and try to generate excitement about this new way of working. It will really help to pave the way for the roll out of desk sharing if they feel bought into the process.

2.      Embrace Technology

Providing the right technology is critical for successful desk sharing and indeed hybrid-working more generally.

If you’re an organisation that favours Microsoft, there’s a whole host of features in the Office 365 suite that helps teams to work together, even if they aren’t physically in the same space. If Microsoft isn’t your thing, there are lots of free alternatives out there such as Slack for messaging and Zoom for video-calling.

Don’t forget about hardware either. In the days of COVID-19, desk-sharers will need their own equipment or a rigorous cleaning schedule with materials on hand to wipe down surfaces after each use. If you go down the equipment sharing route, make sure everything is as flexible and configurable as possible. Height adjustable monitors and posture responsive seating are key. This enables people to feel in control of their workspace and supports health and wellbeing too.

Desks with adjustable chairs

If people need specialised equipment, make sure that these items are clearly labelled and store them in a designated area so that people can always find what they need. It’s also important to encourage staff to be mindful of cables, chargers and so on and return everything to the original spots at the end of each day. This makes set-up simple for the next person using the desk.

3.      Lead by example

You know we said humans are creatures of habit? Well, even after introducing desk sharing, there can be the temptation to stick to the same desk or set of desks. Competition for the ‘best desks’ can be fierce (who doesn’t want to be close to the kettle?).

Be clear at the outset that you’re serious about making this work. Define the processes you’d like people to follow and make sure everyone knows the company etiquette on desk sharing. Then, lead by example and sit at a different desk every time you go into the office. If you’re a people manager, encourage your team members to do the same.

Desk sharing in action

It’s worth bearing in mind that some people will initially find desk sharing uncomfortable so keep talking to your teams about why it’s important. Share the benefits you or others have experienced as a result of desk sharing. You could also encourage people to personalise other areas of the office, perhaps by installing a team noticeboard, or consider introducing lockers so people have their own storage space in the building. There’s a lovely idea in this blog post about including a wall dedicated to friends and family so that teams feel at home but don’t need to put photos up on desks.

Finally, if desk sharing really isn’t sticking, don’t forget that you can always politely ask people to move desks if you spot that certain desks are being monopolised. Sometimes all people need is an extra little nudge!

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