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12 shared desk etiquette rules for successful hot desking


January 18, 2024


January 18, 2024

Desk sharing is great. But it can quickly become a nightmare if introduced without guidelines. This is what shared desk etiquette is for. From leaving the workstations clean to canceling desk reservations when employees get sick and using lockers for personal belongings, there are some important desk-sharing rules.

This article includes 12 hot desking etiquette practices to help you easily set up this model and create your own rules. Obviously, these are just examples, and you need to develop guidelines that match your company, workforce, and values. Are you ready to discover how this system can really improve your on-site experience and turn your flexible office into a success? 

Definition of shared desk etiquette

Shared desk etiquette explains the do’s and don’ts hybrid teams need to follow to have a productive and positive experience when coming on-site. Therefore, respecting desk-sharing rules is a requirement for everybody within the company. As you’re about to see, these simple principles are not only based on politeness and common sense but also on your firm’s values and culture.

They help your teams use office space and time in a new way. Remember that the hot desking experience can be a challenge at first if not introduced correctly. But if both managers and employees respect this etiquette, it can be one of the most enjoyable and productive working models.

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5 desk sharing etiquette practices for employees to follow

1. Ask your team members to book a desk ahead of time to avoid scheduling conflicts

First and foremost, preventing scheduling conflicts is paramount in a hot desking environment. Nothing can be more irritating and frustrating for your staff than arriving at the office only to discover that somebody is already seated where they were planning to sit for the day. This is even more annoying in a hybrid model, as people don’t come on-site daily. 

So, taking time to explain to your teams the importance of booking in advance is crucial. This supports you in avoiding any type of tension and dissatisfaction among your co-workers. To make it simple and organized, we recommend you equip your staff with easy-to-use solutions such as the deskbird desk booking feature.

2. Require phones to be on vibrate or silent mode

The typical image of a busy office is that it is noisy. Like in any working model, requesting phones to be on silent mode is a must in a shared workspace. Open space leads to many disruptions, often caused by phones. The room doesn’t need to be completely silent, yet it should maintain a certain noise level suitable for everyone. 

For example, you may recommend headphones, and employees may put devices on vibrate or mute. Nevertheless, personal calls can be taken in a soundproof phone booth or a small meeting room. By offering a variety of solutions, you allow your staff to handle their personal and professional business with total privacy and without disturbing anyone else.

3. Remind your staff to bring their own devices 

At home, employees have their working environment set, like their computers, devices, and software. But when they come on-site, they may find it difficult not to work with a familiar setup. So why not suggest that your staff adopt the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model? They can use their own materials rather than company-provided ones. 

Of course, this must respect the nature of your firm’s work, and you must set up BYOD security solutions. But, not having dedicated computers on every desk is not only more manageable, but it also enables you to save costs. The key is to design a BYOD policy with clear rules about the dos and don’ts. Lastly, the fact that your coworkers are using equipment they are comfortable with makes them more productive when they are at the office.

👉 Learn more about the BYOD advantages and disadvantages!

person eating pizza at desk
Employee eating at their desk

4. Request your employees to stay home if they are sick

Using a  desk booking system means that your company already has a hybrid work model, and your teams are used to working from home two days a week. A learning we have from recent years about viruses and illnesses is that it’s best to avoid meeting in person and spreading it to staff members. 

In a desk-sharing environment, this is paramount. The rule is simple: if you are sick, stay home! There is no need to expose colleagues when people can work remotely, especially because several employees use the same desk, which increases the risk of contamination. 

Be sure to remind your team members to cancel their desk bookings and warn your staff about a possible sickness spreading around the office to avoid a spike of sick leaves, especially during flu season.

5. Emphasize the importance of leaving the workspace as they found it

A desk is a very personal environment, sometimes even customized with pictures or decorations. But with desk sharing, this option isn’t available. You must leave the place the way you found it, clean and tidy. Leaving any personal belongings on the desk is not allowed. Everything must go on each rotation, and only basic stationery can be supplied by the company.

As we just emphasized, hygiene is also very important. Always provide sanitizers and wet tissues for people to tidy their place as soon as they have finished their session. Pay extra attention to any cleanliness problem and be sure to address it respectfully so it doesn’t happen again.

👉 Discover how your team can easily find their colleagues and book a desk in their favorite office area, thanks to our interactive floor plan feature!

7 desk sharing rules for employers to think about

1. Invest in an IWMS and desk booking software

If you plan to implement hot desking in your business, you may wonder how you are going to get things organized. We recommend that you consider installing an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). It can provide you with office analytics on how and when space is used. You can then optimize your layout to make it even more efficient. This would give you precious information on the different options you may want to offer to your coworkers.

In addition, you can implement desk booking software like deskbird to help employees find which spot is available and when. It also facilitates creating bonds as it allows your staff to choose who they’re working with. Moreover, it develops company culture and boosts your team’s cohesion.

2. Set up a desk-sharing policy

You can’t expect employees to share the office space without any issue if you don’t give explicit guidelines about the dos and don’ts. Creating a desk-sharing policy is crucial to providing your team with clear instructions and expectations. 

For example, your hot desking policy can include an easy-to-follow checklist for the full-desk reset that would look like this:

  • always pack up personal belongings;
  • use sanitizer before touching any surface;
  • wipe down the workspace, including the desk itself, before you leave;
  • log out from all tools and resources (if you don’t apply a BYOD policy);
  • reposition the desk and chair as you would like to find them when you arrive;
  • empty the waste paper basket, if possible.

All these actions, if done by everybody, will ensure a clean, welcoming environment .

two women working at desks on laptops
Employees hot desking

3. Train your staff about cybersecurity risks in a shared workspace

Shared office space implies that different people are using the same resources. What happens if somebody forgets to log out, and the next person ends up having access to confidential data? This is why cybersecurity is even more important in a flexible and shared work environment.

Setting up the right cyber risk management strategy is key, but training your team members about this topic is just as crucial. Moreover, your servers must be virus-proof, and your data must be protected from outside and inside infection. Regularly make sure your staff knows the cybersecurity rules that apply in your hybrid work environment.

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4. Provide different types of workspace to answer your employees’ needs

With hot desking, rethinking the office layout is often a great idea to make the workspace more agile and productive. The shared-desk system is proof that the role of the office is changing and has to be reviewed in order to meet employees’ needs and expectations. 

Because employees come to the office to work on different types of tasks, providing them with the workspace they require to get their jobs done in optimal conditions is key. Here are a few examples of workspaces you can create:

  • workstations for people to work alone;
  • meeting rooms for face-to-face interactions;
  • soundproof booths for phone calls and video conference with clients or others;
  • comfy rooms for teams to sit down and brainstorm ideas;
  • quiet areas for individual-focused work;
  • a collective space to gather for lunch or breaks.

By providing such spaces, you can cover all the different needs your teams have.

5. Make your office space ergonomic

Employee well-being is a serious concern nowadays, and you must take it into account when creating your shared desk etiquette. As an organization, it is your responsibility to provide your team with the right tools and equipment to allow them to work in the best conditions. The workplace must be adaptable. For example, offer ergonomic furniture such as:

  • adjustable-height desks;
  • different types of chairs and seating options;
  • desk lamps or sufficient natural light;
  • monitors of different sizes.

All of these features enhance your employees’ health while having positive effects on their on-site experience and productivity.

💺 Read more about ergonomic practices in the workplace!

Colleagues talking at desks
Employees working at shared desks

6. Plan a locking system for personal belongings

A flexible work environment also means that your staff won’t be present daily. In a traditional configuration, they usually have spaces for keeping their possessions secure. But in a shared desk model, they might just leave their bags or bikes wherever they can. This might result in an untidy and unsafe environment.

The solution is to provide areas where they can store their belongings when they’re working and even leave them there if needed. This ensures greater safety and cleanliness. Be sure to let your staff know these amenities are available and make their use mandatory in your desk-sharing rules.

7. Implement an employee feedback system

When proposing a new way of working, pay attention to your team’s feelings and be open to suggestions. If the hot desking model is new in your company, why don’t you consider getting your employees’ first impressions? It would give time to make adjustments and improve before things turn sour.

Once the process is running, create an employee satisfaction questionnaire to prevent any problems and continue to enhance your office layout and management. Provide your teams with tools and platforms to communicate their needs and submit support requests (it can be anonymous). This is crucial to know if any issue is going on as soon as possible as the goal is to set a positive and dynamic environment so everyone is happy and productive.  

Hot desking is on the way to becoming one of the most popular work models due to the implementation of the hybrid model. However, shared desk etiquette is fundamental for it to be effective and make your staff thrive. The key is to deploy desk-sharing rules so everyone knows what to do and what to expect.

Using a workspace management system is highly recommended to run your shared office smoothly and successfully. Request a free demo of the deskbird app to discover all our user-friendly features, from desk booking to office analytics and week planning!


Paulyne is a hybrid work specialist, who writes about sustainability, flexible work models and employee experience.

12 shared desk etiquette rules for successful hot desking