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Hot Desking and Other Ergonomic Trends for Office and Hybrid Workers


The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how we work, with many people now working from home or in a hybrid arrangement. As a result, many companies are now looking for ways to accommodate hybrid workers who split their time between the office and home. One way to do this is to use shared desks or a flexible desking arrangement known as hot desking. Hot desking can be a cost-effective way to save space in the office, and it can also help to promote collaboration and communication among employees. Learn more about the pros and cons of hot desking and the ergonomic trends changing how we work.

Optimizing Office Space with Shared Desks

A 2022 study from McKinsey Institute estimated that 23 percent of all workers have been offered hybrid work arrangements and that overall, flexible work has increased dramatically since 2019. The rise in hybrid work is causing safety and facilities personnel to reassess how they utilize office real estate to optimize on-site and teleworking workspace productivity, safety and comfort.

Shared desks are desks that multiple people use on a rotating basis. According to EHS Today, shared workstations can provide more efficient use of office space in companies where employees work fewer days on-site. There are several ways that organizations can use shared workstations, including:

  • Assigning shared desk locations based on individual needs
  • Allowing workstations to be reserved based on their characteristics
  • Making desks and workstations available on a first-come, first-served basis

What is Hot Desking?

Hot desking is a flexible working arrangement that allows employees to choose any desk they want in the office without requiring a formal reservation. Employees simply find an open space to work daily and claim it as their own.

Companies can implement hot desking in several ways, at department level, by priority or the type of desk (standing vs. audio-visual compatible). The goal is to provide workers with a choice of workstations inside a comfortable organizational structure.

Facility Executive notes hot desking is becoming increasingly popular as companies seek ways to save space and reduce costs. There are several benefits to hot desking, including:

  • Increased flexibility for workers
  • More collaboration and interaction between employees
  • Reduced hardware costs
  • Less office clutter

However, before implementing hot desking, there are some potential drawbacks to consider. Hot desking can disrupt employee productivity and cause employees to feel a lack of personal space and privacy in the workplace. It can also be harmful to workers due to possible sanitization issues. Germs and bacteria can spread quickly when different employees use the same equipment throughout the day or week. Therefore, it's important to keep disinfectant equipment and surface wipes at workstations to help reduce the spread of germs. 

A-B-Cs of Workstation Ergonomics

Whichever type of desk configuration is used in an office, it’s essential that all workstations accommodate the needs of a range of employees who could use them by including built-in adjustability or by using the A-B-C method. According to EHS Today, the A-B-C method divides all available workstations into groups modified to fit employees of all sizes. In this scenario, employees are measured and matched to workstations that fit their measurements.

Ergonomic workstation accommodations include:

  • Adjustable workstations allowing workers to move easily between sitting and standing
  • Dual monitors adjustable by height and viewing distance
  • Fully adjustable office chairs so workers can modify lumbar support, seat height, armrest width and more
  • A compatible docking station
  • An external keyboard 
  • Power outlets on the top of the workstation for easily plugging in equipment

As employees adjust to a hybrid schedule, ensuring everyone follows proper ergonomic principles is important. Along with any built-in adjustability, employees should also be trained on how to properly adjust and align equipment. For example, employees should be working with their monitors positioned so their neck is in a neutral, straight position, their keyboard and mouse are at elbow height and their feet are on the floor or a footrest.

Companies should also ensure that as part of the return-to-work process, necessary workplace modifications are available and provided to individuals with special needs in compliance with all federal and state regulations.

Ensuring proper ergonomics is essential for any workplace, but it's especially important for those with shared desks and hybrid workers. Carefully weigh the pros and cons before deciding whether hot desking is right for your company. When implementing hot desking, it’s important to have a plan to address the potential drawbacks. By following the ergonomic principles outlined in this article, companies can help to create a safe and comfortable work environment for all employees.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.