What is Desk Sharing and How to Implement a Desk-Sharing Policy

We as humans are extremely territorial creatures, so the idea of desk sharing is not always accepted with open arms. However, in the offices that still have the traditional system of assigned desks, the occupancy hardly goes past 50%.

What is Desk Sharing? Desk sharing is a work arrangement when one workstation is no longer assigned to only one person, but shared among two or three employees usually working in shifts or in a different pre-arranged manner that allows each of them to have access to the workstation when needed. 

Companies are faced with serious underutilization and high maintenance costs due to the higher number of employees working remotely. So desk-sharing was born as a way of using unused space better.

Adopting a desk-sharing policy can be quite tricky. First, it requires employees’ awareness of why the company is implementing this policy and their cooperation. Second, it can also quickly disrupt the balance of a productive workplace, mostly because employees may feel like they don’t have a home anymore, or they will fight with each other on how and when to use the desks.

Desk-sharing concept

The trend of sharing various services and goods, such as accommodation, cars, bikes, etc. is on the rise. So why not share the workstation.

The idea behind this concept is that the desk is not always the best place for carrying out all work responsibilities during work hours. People tend to use different places for different tasks. For example, when I need to concentrate, I prefer to work on a desk, or when I need to read something I usually sit on a sofa.

How to implement a desk-sharing policy?

The desk-sharing policy is implemented efficiently, only when the employees have access to multiple facilities within the office where different tasks can be done. Adding additional work zones with an optimal location, meeting rooms for informal conversations or space where small teams can conduct their meetings are just a few options that can be implemented for a better workplace.

1. Technological improvements

When companies decide to redesign their office space, must be aware that the rearrangement of the workplace also requires some serious technological changes and improvements.

Every desk needs to be equipped with the right devices and equipment. Even though shared desks are used by the same people, they need to be easily accessible for all employees.

Speaking of the right devices and equipment, the company’s management must decide whether the employees will have dedicated desktop PCs or depending on the nature of work – laptops, tablets, smartphones, or some other gadgets.

Remote working as proven so far can only increase the productivity and creativity of the staff and obviously, the desktop PCs aren’t mobile and don’t offer any type of remote and flexible working. Consequently, it’s no surprise why companies are offering the latest technologies to their employees.

Investing in IoT tools and smart sensors is something that should not be ignored. These solutions are able to monitor the energy usage and desk tenancy, automate everything starting from temperature controls to lighting, leaving the managers to focus on planning the bigger picture.

The software might be even more important to employees than hardware.  Using different apps and platforms for communicating, cloud-based solutions for storing important data, CRM platforms, online training, etc., can certainly improve productivity in the workplace.

2. Series of analyses

Every employee has a different style of working. It’s very important to conduct a thorough analysis and receive detailed information regarding office occupation and utilization. This will help you in designing the space according to the employees’ needs and requirements, especially for the ones that are regular office occupants.

3. Changing habits

Designing the workplace space needs to be followed by preparing and teaching staff on how to work effectively in the new work environment. Usually, many of the employees will show some level of resistance to the new changes.

Explaining the benefits of having a desk-sharing policy will help in creating a positive environment. Let the employees know what is the exact reason behind the change. This way they will understand the reason and go along with the changes.

You can’t eradicate the habits of the employees entirely, but you can offer new routines that can replace those habits.

On the other side, management should also learn new skills for effectively managing their team in the new work setup.

For better transition, sometimes hiring external consultants may help in the easier implementation of the new changes.

4. Addressing all of the concerns in a timely manner

It’s perfectly normal employees to have concerns regarding this whole change. By actively addressing their concerns and offering constructive solutions, they will feel less threatened. Whether in one-on-one meetings or through open meetings, employees need to feel free to discuss their situation.

Make sure to provide a platform or forum where employees can share their feedback, what they like or dislike, what needs to be improved and how can be improved. Make the desk-sharing arrangement flexible and open for improvements.

Let the office manager or some other person have the authority for resolving any disputes or questions among the employees.

5. Number of shared desks

Determining the type and number of shared desks that will be needed at all times is very important. Factor in the number of employees, their shifts, and other factors that may affect the occupancy. Even though, implementing a desk-sharing policy is to cut costs, having extra desks will ensure that all of the employees don’t feel uncomfortable due to lack of space during peak times.

6. If possible make the changes gradual

If there is a possibility of making the arrangement changes gradually, do it. This means implementing the policy team by team. This way you will have enough information on whether this arrangement works well, before applying the changes to the whole office. Also, the employees will have the chance to adapt over some period of time.

How to make desk-sharing work?

For any sitting arrangement to work smoothly, it requires implementing a set of rules and guidelines on how to use the shared desks. Rules however we like them or not, keep everyone on the same page, following the same standards, and help in preventing any problems before they happen, as well as prevent any bad habits and having an organized and positive work environment.

 Clear desk policy

Implementing a clear desk policy is the first step for a successful desk-sharing practice. It’s important for all of the employees to be aware of the baseline reset of the workplace and leave the desk at the end of their workday in the shape they found it.

Essential equipment such as a keyboard, mouse or even a phone should always be in their place. Whereas all of the other personal things should be kept at a personal locker or some other dedicated space.

Clear desk policy also includes wiping the desk with antibacterial tissues, removing all papers, emptying the trash can, turning off devices, etc.

♦ Preventing illness

Colds and flu can be very common in an open office environment. Encourage the employees to work remotely from home when they’re ill, or if that is not applicable to use hand sanitizers and tissues as much as possible to prevent the spread of bacteria and germs.

Implementing a policy to clean the office more often, especially during the months when colds thrive, can help in the prevention of more people getting ill.

 Have enough storage

Every employee needs to have a personal storage locker for storing their personal stuff. Additionally, the team needs to have team storage, where members of the team can have access to important documents of mutual interest.

♦ Work stations should be adaptable

Having ergonomic furniture is a must for any type of workspace. It allows employees, especially in a desk- sharing set up to adapt their work station according to their needs.

♦ Prevent isolation

The desk-sharing policy is introduced not only to reduce costs but also to enable the employees to collaborate with each other more. However, if it’s not implemented properly, it can lead to poor communication and information flow and isolation from other team members and managers.

Pros and Cons

The line between successful desk sharing and total chaos is very thin. Before implementing it, consider the following pros and cons.


 Better office use and lower utility costs
 Better collaboration opportunities among the employees
 Creating a better workplace culture
 Opportunities for flexible working arrangements: part-time, remote, contractors
 Employees have better flexibility and agility
 Employees are encouraged to take care of theirs and others health by being more cleaner and tidier
 Non-traditional work arrangements attract more talent


 Employees don’t have personal space
 A lot more time is spent on setting up the work station
 Employees can get territorial, thus creating problems
 More disruptions
 The IT department can have more challenges in setting up all of the infrastructures

Hot-desking v.s hoteling

Many times terms hot-desking and hotelling are considered the same thing. Even though they both are used for unassigned workplaces, they are different. 

Hot-desking is a work arrangement where employees don’t have assigned seating. Employees take the desks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hoteling is a work arrangement where employees need to schedule upfront the use of a workstation, meeting room, or cubicle. Hoteling is the closest approach to the traditional assigned seating. 

Are open workplaces still popular?

By 2014, open floor design becomes a norm, especially for tech companies and startups. 

Open offices were designed with the sole purpose of encouraging better and spontaneous collaboration, creativity, and innovation among the employees. 

However, according to recent studies, open floor workplaces have the opposite effect. Face-to-face interaction has been reduced and messaging has increased. Employees think that there are too many distractions and so little privacy. These studies show that people working in open workplaces take a lot more sick leaves, have more stress and are more unhappy than the ones with more privacy.

Steve Todd

Steve Todd, founder of Open Sourced Workplace and is a recognized thought leader in workplace strategy and the future of work. With a passion for work from anywhere, Steve has successfully implemented transformative strategies that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Through Open Sourced Workplace, he fosters collaboration among HR, facilities management, technology, and real estate professionals, providing valuable insights and resources. As a speaker and contributor to various publications, Steve remains dedicated to staying at the forefront of workplace innovation, helping organizations thrive in today's dynamic work environment.

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