As more employers increasingly shift towards flexible work arrangements to accommodate remote and hybrid teams, shared desks have become a popular and effective option.
Sharing desks in the office can help you reduce overheads, foster connections, and boost employee productivity.
But what does desk sharing look like in a practical sense? What are the pros and cons of shared desks? How can you tell whether desk sharing is the right option for your team?
Here’s what you need to know about shared desks and how it can work for your remote or hybrid team.
What Exactly is Desk Sharing?
Desk sharing is a system where employees aren’t assigned a permanent desk but, instead, share one with team members.
They may change workspaces throughout the day or week, depending on the desk-sharing schedule that’s set up.
There are two main shared desk systems:
- Reservation system: Employees book a desk or workspace for a day or portion of the day. Typically with this system, equipment is set up on the desk and an employee can come and use it without any setup. They just drop in and get to work.
- Open system: Employees bring their own laptops to work at any open desk or workspace with no reservation required.
Deciding which option to choose from will ultimately boil down to your employee schedules and workplace or operational needs.
Desk Sharing vs. Hot Desking vs. Hoteling
Within those two broad categories—reservation systems and open systems—there’s a lot of variation.
But to get a bit more granular, hot desking and hotelling are two popular arrangements within a shared desk system.
So, what’s the difference between desk sharing, hot desking, and hoteling?
1. Desk Sharing
A true shared desk system is when multiple employees are assigned the same workspace. They rotate using the desk based on a set schedule.
- Assignments: Managers assign a shared desk to multiple employees.
- Reservations: Not necessary as shared desks are assigned to team members.
- Equipment: Can be provided and shared by employees or brought by each person during their shift.
- Best for: Teams on a clearly defined shift work schedule where there’s no overlap between people sharing the desk.
2. Hot Desking
This open workspace option is a core feature of most coworking spaces. Employees have no dedicated, assigned, or reserved space to work in.
Instead, they bring their own computer, sit down at any open space, and get to work.
- Assignments: No.
- Reservations: No.
- Equipment: None provided; employees bring their own.
- Best for: Highly flexible remote or hybrid teams where some employees occasionally need (or want) in-person workspace.
The last option is almost a combination of the other two. Spaces are unassigned, but employees can book a desk to use for a specific period of time.
- Assignments: No.
- Reservations: Yes. Employees book their shared desk in advance of using it.
- Equipment: May or may not be provided.
- Best for: Traveling or remote team members who need to book a workspace for a defined amount of time. Alternatively, teams with limited office space because reservations can ensure they don’t run out.
The Pros and Cons of Desk Sharing
Before switching to a new system, it’s important you consider the pros and cons of desk sharing to determine if it will work for your team.
Benefits of Shared Desks
Desk sharing is optimal for remote and hybrid teams or those with clear shift work schedules. There are pros for both employers and employees:
- Increased cost-saving: The main benefit of desk sharing for employers is cost-savings by reducing overhead on unnecessary office space. In addition to less space, you can save money on equipment, furniture, and utilities as well.
- Better collaboration: Shared desks mean employees aren’t siloed into their specific workspace or department. Instead, they can interact with team members and have natural “water cooler” chats that spark connection, creativity, and collaboration.
- More autonomy: Some shared desk systems increase choice for employees. They can decide where and when to work, and how to best use their time and space. It boosts employee autonomy and, therefore, engagement in work.
3 Things to Keep in Mind When Considering Shared Desks
If you’re considering switching to a shared desk system, it’s important to reflect on some potential sticking points:
- New routines: Some people prefer, or are used to, having their own dedicated space. Changing workspaces may make it harder to focus, and it can take time to learn a new routine. This is where clear communication and consulting with your team during this process is important, as you may need to navigate different preferences. .
- Administrative challenges: Setting up shared office desks is more administratively challenging as it requires specific IT requirements, some kind of scheduling system, and policies surrounding best practices and desk-sharing etiquette. Using shared desks at a flexible office space like Launch Workplaces alleviates those concerns. We offer fully-customizable spaces, set it up exactly how you need it, and maintain the space with our professional cleaning services and dedicated on-site staff.
- Cleanliness and set-up: Let’s be honest—everyone has a different definition of “tidy!” But when you’re sharing a desk, it’s important to stay clean. This, plus the time it takes to set up and tear down, can be a con to desk sharing.
How to Implement Desk Sharing for Your Team
Switching to shared desks might be that boost your business needs to get to the next level! Here’s a step-by-step guide to implementing a shared desk system for your team:
1. Consider the options
When it comes to shared desks, there are a few ways to go. The biggest question is which option will be the easiest to implement and provide your team with the best experience?
This will determine what type of flexible office space you’ll need. Consider these options:
- Use private offices or team suites in a coworking space: If you sign up with a flex space like Launch, you’ll benefit from a flexible contract and all-inclusive membership with access to printing, refreshments, and community events.
- Offer coworking memberships for some team members: This is a way you can incorporate hot desking for remote employees who want to get out of their home office. There are many advantages of coworking spaces including networking, increased productivity, and better work-life balance.
- Transform your current office: Depending on your workplace, it may be appropriate to transform your current space into a desk-sharing arrangement. This may work for growing teams who need to accommodate more employees in the same space.
- Use desks and mixed-use spaces: Don’t just cram a bunch of desks into the space. One benefit of sharing desks is that employees can choose work areas that suit their needs and focus. So, keep mixed-use spaces like couches, lounge areas, or large tables.
2. Consult your team and get buy-in
Where possible, include your team in the process. Generate buy-in and excitement about the changes by explaining the rationale and benefits. Take into consideration their concerns, suggestions, and needs while planning.
3. Work through the logistics
There’s a lot to think of regarding logistics. Here are the essentials:
- Furniture: Desks, chairs, common space furniture, storage facilities. Consider how these can be flexible based on employees’ ergonomic needs (i.e., adjustable chairs and desks for taller employees).
- Equipment: Computers, monitors, keyboards, printer, etc.
- Scheduling software program: Some popular options are Eden, deskbird, and Smartway2.
If you’re signing up with a flexible office space like Launch Workplaces, this is all done for you. Our in-house team will help onboard you, figure out your team’s specific needs, and get your office space set up. Our goal is to walk you through the process to make it as simple and painless as possible!
4. Communicate your plan
Next, make sure the plan for shared office desks is clearly communicated to your team. Document it carefully, share it with everyone, and invite questions or feedback.
This includes training staff on any new scheduling software and communicating general policies and procedures for sharing desks.
5. Follow-up with team members
After shared desks have been implemented, make sure to check in with your team to see how things are going. Some areas to get curious about include:
- Scheduling conflicts: Has everyone always had a space to work? Any logistical challenges?
- Productivity: How has this arrangement positively or negatively impacted focus, engagement, and productivity?
- Interpersonal conflicts: Is there tension between shared-desk colleagues? Does anything need to be addressed by leadership?
Shared office desks are a way you can cut down overhead costs by moving to a smaller workspace. But beyond that, it can increase connection and engagement in the office while accommodating flexible, remote, and hybrid schedules.
If you’re looking for flexible office solutions for your team, contact us to ask any questions or book a tour at your local Launch today!