messy desk

The Dos and Don’ts of Hot Desking Etiquette

The days of messy desks stacked with endless papers, personal items and half-drunk coffee mugs is likely a thing of the past for employees who will be transitioning back into the office after a prolonged period of remote work due to COVID-19. 

COVID-19 has created a whole “new normal” for the workplace, which includes much higher cleanliness and sanitation standards; and rethinking the physical layout of office space to allow room for social distancing.

Beyond the pandemic, organizations like Facebook, Google and Twitter have announced a permanent shift towards a hybrid remote/in-office working model. In this new world, sharing desks will be essential, to avoid excessive real estate costs and environmental impact.

As the requirements for office use change, so does the need to use your existing space more effectively in order to optimize productivity, which explains why your company is considering – or should be considering – hot desking or office hoteling. If the shared desk route is in your future, it’s time to start thinking about the proper etiquette of sharing space with co-workers.

Hot Desking Guidelines: The Dos 

Here’s a few things you can do as a hot desk user to follow impeccable hot desking etiquette:

Do reserve a desk in advance

This prevents people from booking desks that aren’t a sufficient distance apart, to keep your office is COVID-safe. When someone vacates their desk, Smartway2 will automatically take it out of service until it’s released by a cleaner. In the event that someone falls ill, Smartway2 produces reports that enable contact tracing, so you can identify at-risk colleagues. 

Do keep the noise down

Other people are likely to be working in or around your space – the last thing they need to hear is your argument with a colleague about a new project or what their plans are for that day! By not overextending your voice and noise from your desk you are less likely to make others feel uncomfortable.

Do tidy your desk after use

What’s worse than booking a desk and settling down to work to find a scrap of paper or anything belonging to the previous user? Even disregarding the hygiene aspect, it’s just plain rude! You can get some more ideas on how to clean your spaces here.

Do use conference rooms for confidential calls

Most hot desking facilities will also have adjoining conference and meeting room facilities which you can use for some privacy. Make use of these for your own benefit and free up the desk you are using for others who may need a desk.

Hot Desking Guidelines: The Don’ts

And here’s a few things to avoid to stop you sticking out like a sore thumb:

Don’t leave a mess behind

Seriously, just don’t. Don’t be that person or you will eventually get found out by peers and that is not a place you want to be in. Everyone wants to check in to a desk which is clean and usable – especially due to COVID-19.

Don’t book the same desk all the time

You may decide to prevent people booking the same desk more than three days in a row, to boost collaboration; or have people check-in to meetings ahead of time to prevent costly ‘no-shows’ that waste valuable space when people don’t show up for their reservation.

Don’t store your things at your desk

For shared space to work successfully, it is imperative the space (desk, conference room, etc.) is left clear, clean and ready for the next person to use. This means ensuring no food or personal effects are left on desks or in shared spaces. To prevent this from happening, you will need to implement a storage solution for workers who want to leave or store belongings at the office.

Love It or Hate It

The hot desking trend is not without controversy. In fact, a quick Google search will lead you to a slew of differing opinions on the subject. That being said, there are certainty ways to go from hot desking hell to hoteling heaven. The path toward a smooth transition is highlighted by having a clear-cut plan and fully articulating the benefits to employees.

What are the benefits of hot desking? Smartway2 lists the following as the Top 3

  • Cutting real estate costs and carbon footprint by reducing the amount of office space required per person
  • Boosting productivity and collaboration by creating a more agile working environment that delivers a superior employee experience
  • Optimizing space by reducing the number of individual workstations and freeing up room for, say, huddle rooms and focus booths


The Nitty Gritty

Research points to the fact that co-working spaces are on the rise and in fact a study by Co-Working Resources estimates that almost 5 million people will be working from co-working spaces by 2024, an increase of 158% compared to 2020.

The movement towards increased co-working comes as many try to figure out what their work life will look like in the future.

Smartway2 recently completed a survey showing that an overwhelming majority of employees would prefer a hybrid work environment, dividing their time between the office and working from home . The research also revealed that only 6% of employees want to work from home full time after COVID-19.  The breakdown of numbers is as follows:

  • 39% prefer working from home most of the time, with some time at the office
  • 32% prefer to spend equal time at home and the office
  • 21% prefer to work primarily from the office, with some time at home 
  • 6% prefer to work from home full time 
  • 2% prefer to return to the office full time


Hot Desking in the New Normal

A recently published article by McKinsey & Company states, “The pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. Organizations must reimagine their work and the role of offices in creating safe, productive, and enjoyable jobs and lives for employees.” This research goes on to make the following recommendations for organizations when it comes to the future role of the office:

  1. Reconstruct how work is done
  2. Decide ‘people to work’ or ‘work to people’ which means organizations should identify what can be done remotely.
  3. Redesign the workplace to support organizational priorities
  4. Resize the footprint creatively

The McKinsey & Company article finishes with this, “Organizations must also use this moment to break from the inertia of the past by dispensing with suboptimal old habits and systems. A well-planned return to offices can use this moment to reinvent their role and create a better experience for talent, improve collaboration and productivity, and reduce costs.”

Organizations that can leverage learnings from the COVID-19 crisis to introduce with new and better ways of working – including more effective use of office desks and spaces – will be at a distinct advantage versus their competitors.


Embracing Change

Hot desking is often part of a bigger shift towards an agile working strategy. Because the office is now one of many places where employees can effectively complete their jobs the need for permanent desks doesn’t always make sense.

Research from IWG’s Global Workplace Survey finds that 85% of people say their productivity has increase in their business as a result of greater flexibility. The same study also finds that 50% of employees globally are working outside of their main office headquarters for at least 2.5 days a week.


Learn More About Hot Desking & COVID-Safe Workplaces

When it comes to hot desking, effective change management is going to be essential to ensure its success in your workplace and avoid the common pitfalls. You want your employees to feel safe on their return to work, if these expectations for etiquette aren’t clearly outlined before, during and after implementation, then you can expect the worst experience for your employees. 

If you’re striving to create a COVID-safe workplace or would like to learn more about workplace scheduling for modern, agile, collaborative companies, our team at Smartway2 can help. Smartway2 can automate social distancing, contact tracing and sanitation procedures in your workplace, while providing you with advanced workplace analytics. To learn more, request a demo here.



Last updated November 16, 2020