Several employees sharing a desk is a great way to make the most out of your office space. But before you get started, you should know that organizing desk sharing in your company is a multi-step process.

Once you’ve laid the foundation by surveying your employees and taking your work culture into account, it’s time to set specific rules.

Depending on your company, you may want to keep things loose and only introduce a simple desk sharing/hot desking policy.

Quick Summary:

Here are 11 best practices for sharing a desk:

  1. Consider Beginning With a Test Run
  2. Ask Team Members to Perform a Full Reset Every Day
  3. Designate Spaces for Different Purposes
  4. Create Office Neighborhoods
  5. Control the Noise
  6. Consider Instituting a BYOD Policy
  7. Use Technology to Make Reserving Desks Easy
  8. Provide Personal Storage Space
  9. Centralize Shared Documentation
  10. Offer Adjustable Equipment
  11. Remove Unused Cables and Hide Used Ones

If you’re implementing desk sharing at a larger company, it’s a good idea to spend a bit more time on the issue and create additional guidelines.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled 11 key desk-sharing best practices that you can use directly or slightly alter to suit your company’s needs.

What Does Sharing a Desk Mean?

Sharing a desk is a flexible desk arrangement in which employees aren’t assigned a single desk — rather, they share desks with their co-workers. This system, which gives employees flexibility and the freedom to move around the office with ease, is a key part of hybrid work models.

Desk sharing is similar to hot desking in that employees can use any available desk on a first-come, first-served basis. This means team members can work where they feel most comfortable and productive.

The framework behind desk sharing is similar to co-working spaces in that it encourages collaboration and a sense of community. A recent study shows that 43% of people who use these types of spaces are able to concentrate better, and 43% believe that desk sharing gives them a better work-life balance.

desk sharing

Increased productivity and concentration aren’t the only benefits of desk sharing. As the way we work is becoming increasingly flexible, up to 40% of organizations’ desk space sits empty on a given workday.

Amid rising real estate costs, walking away from one assigned desk per employee means less overall square footage needed.

Additionally, newly freed-up space could be repurposed or reimagined for more meeting rooms to facilitate collaboration, relaxation areas, creative lounges, and other multifunctional layouts designed to improve the way employees collaborate.

But first comes a cohesive desk-sharing policy!

Our Top 11 Desk-Sharing Best Practices

Here are just a few tips you could implement in your company’s desk-sharing policy:

1. Consider Beginning With a Test Run

Before you implement anything new in your office, it’s important to be transparent about the upcoming changes with your team.

employees in an office setting

A desk arrangement like sharing may seem strange if you’ve never worked in a hybrid workplace before.

That said, there are several different ways that you can prepare your team for this change. Call an all-hands meeting to let everyone know you’d like to start sharing desks.

You’ll also have to decide whether to implement a daily desk assignment for each person or use hot desks instead. Furthermore, you should mention the benefits of desk sharing so that your team knows why you want to try it out.

workers discussing work

You may also want to consider a test run to help everyone ease into sharing desks.

Try desk sharing for 30 days, and then gather employee feedback. If there is a big push against it, take the time to go over those all-important benefits again or design workarounds to address employee concerns.

2. Ask Team Members to Perform a Full Reset Every Day

Hygiene is of utmost importance when it comes to sharing a desk.

Whether one or several co-workers use a certain desk over the course of a workday, any signs of usage should be removed by the end of work hours.

Removing all personal items from the desk and wiping them down (you’ll need to provide sanitizers and antibacterial wipes), throwing away any trash, and putting desks and chairs back where they belong are all a big part of proper desk-sharing etiquette.

shared desk cleanup

Create a checklist to establish a system for the full reset. Consider adding the following items to it:

  • Pack up personal belongings.
  • Wipe down the dedicated workspace, including the desk itself.
  • Use sanitizer on the computer and/or phone.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Reposition the desk and chair as they were before you arrived.

By doing this, whoever comes in next can immediately start using the desk — and set it up the way they prefer.

3. Designate Spaces for Different Purposes

Community and collaboration are the biggest benefits of in-person work.

To enhance the community aspect of the office while still respecting people’s privacy and need for space, you can designate different areas for socializing or collaborating. Of course, providing the opportunity for people to withdraw is equally important.

A few examples of areas you may want to designate in your space include the following:

  • Breakout zones serve as social hubs where people can spontaneously socialize, have lunch breaks, or hold informal meetings.
  • Collaborative spaces or conference rooms for holding meetings, brainstorming, giving presentations, or other similar activities.
  • Kitchen area and cafe that is entirely dedicated to preparing food and socializing.
  • Silent areas or touchdown zones where employees can focus more intensely or take a short break in silence.
  • If you have the space, consider installing a soundproof phone booth where employees can make phone calls without disturbing anyone else.

hybrid workers

Don’t forget about the importance of taking breaks.

Implementing a space for employees to take a timeout from working can show them that you care — and do wonders for their productivity and happiness as a result.

A study conducted by Staples noted that a whopping 85% of employees who were surveyed believe that taking breaks helps to boost productivity. The same study found that 59% of people believed that taking more breaks would increase their happiness at work and reduce stress.

Happy employees are more productive employees, which can also go a long way in terms of job satisfaction.

4. Create Office Neighborhoods

While we’re on the topic of organizing your office space, office neighborhoods are another handy concept for office managers to consider.

beautiful desk

An office “neighborhood” is a seating arrangement that ensures people who share something about the workplace are grouped together. It’s a great way to organize desk sharing effectively and many facility managers use it. It creates a productive desk environment, as employees can easily work together without having to worry about moving around too much.

Neighborhoods can be organized around teams or departments, shared work on projects, shared needs or daily activities (like a seclusion or collaboration space), or shared requirements for amenities and equipment.

Depending on the number of desks, the number of employees and their needs, and how much unused office space you have, there are tons of variations to choose from.

different teams in an office

When done correctly, office neighborhoods can help you create a work environment that encourages flexible work, a healthy workplace culture, efficient space utilization, occupancy, collaboration, and productivity.

5. Control the Noise

Since office spaces are frequently open and there are plenty of distractions, introducing some sort of noise control is important.

This is a major piece of the desk etiquette puzzle, as it can help people be more respectful of others. Moreover, if your desk-sharing policy groups together people with different needs, reducing noise levels will help keep everyone happy.

an illustration of a laptop

Here are a few basic noise control rules to help get you started:

  • Keep all devices, especially smartphones and laptops, silent.
  • Have informal conversations in only designated spaces.
  • Take phone calls and meetings in conference/meeting rooms.

In terms of office design, you can also reduce the amount of sound bouncing around by using carpets and other noise-absorbing surfaces and furniture. Ergonomic chairs made from fabrics such as suede or microfiber are just one example.

6. Consider Instituting a BYOD Policy

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is an approach that allows employees to use their own devices rather than company-provided ones. Of course, depending on the nature of your company’s work and security needs, this may not be possible.

If your business allows people to use their own devices, you can eliminate part of the difficulty associated with desk sharing — namely, having dedicated computers and other devices (like laptops and headphones) on every desk.

This also presents huge potential cost savings, as you won’t have to worry about purchasing devices or other accessories for your entire company. If you can implement it, a BYOD policy is an ideal solution for saving money.

BYOD Policy

What’s more, letting employees use their own devices is much more convenient for them. Going from their personal computer to their work computer and back again can be frustrating. Additionally, some people are more comfortable with Mac than a PC, and vice versa. BYOD, if you can manage it, is a win-win for your hybrid desk environment.

7. Use Technology to Make Desk Reservations Easy

Using desk booking software (i.e., going from hot desking to desk hoteling) can hugely reduce the friction for your company and all the employees that share their workstations. Desk hoteling means that employees can reserve a desk in advance, just as they would book a hotel room before going on vacation.

Team members can simply open the app (or use Google Calendar, Slack, or Teams) and see who else is in the office and the availability of desks. They can then book desks, depending on their flexible schedules.

A complete hybrid workplace management system will also enable them to book meeting rooms without going through an intermediary. By the way, OfficeRnD Hybrid offers a free meeting room booking system.

And if certain employees in your company need permanent desks or private offices, a good hybrid workplace software should allow you to institute assigned desks so they’re not available for booking by anyone else.

The best desk booking software can take much of the guesswork out of desk sharing. Creating flexible workspaces also requires a level of organization, and technology can help you stay on top of things.

8. Provide Personal Storage Space

One of the challenges of getting rid of permanent workstations is the inability to leave personal items in a designated personal workspace.

Providing lockers or other types of secure personal storage where people can leave their belongings easily resolves this issue. Having personal storage space will also reduce the overall amount of clutter and a lot of the daily activities related to resetting one’s workplace.

personal storage space

Other potential challenges of desk sharing include a lack of privacy, space, and the ability to personalize. Giving people their own space means they’ll have the freedom to decorate it as they like. They’ll also be able to keep any personal or private belongings out of reach of others.

9. Centralize Shared Documentation

Whether in physical form or in the cloud, centralizing shared documentation is another way to reduce clutter and optimize space usage, as well as avoid duplication and paper waste.

Set up a centralized space for files or banks of lockers where shared documentation is stored. You may also think about putting important documents on simple USB drives so that employees don’t have to worry about physical copies.

shared documents

The same principle can also be applied to digital documentation via the use of centralized and secure cloud spaces.

In the face of cyberattacks, having a strong and secure cloud space is essential. Google Cloud is just one option. Do your research and consult with your IT team to determine the best solution for your needs.

10. Offer Adjustable Equipment

When implementing desk sharing, you need to make sure that everyone’s basic needs for comfort at the workplace can be met. This can be achieved by providing ergonomic furniture (like adjustable desks) that employees can adjust to suit their needs in order to feel at home at their desks for the day.

Such furniture and equipment can include adjustable-height desks, a variety of chairs and seating options, and adjustable monitors. And even though natural light is best, the ability to individually adjust one’s lighting via a desk lamp is another good option to have.

11. Remove Unused Cables and Hide Used Ones

While wireless technology has largely taken over, companies still maintain cables for ethernet access — and even, in some cases, landline telephones — just in case.

unused cables

Simple as it might be, removing as many cables as possible declutters the office further and grants employees some freedom to move desks around (if allowed by your desk-sharing policy). You should also keep the cables that you do need out of the way so that people don’t trip over them.

There are many ways to organize phone cables and other wired equipment. Here are some basic ideas to help you get started:

  • Attach cables to the wall using adhesive strips.
  • Use small ties to group similar cables together.
  • Label your cables so you can easily determine which ones are for which device.
  • Store any unused cables in a drawer.

Not only will keeping your cables organized help keep your office clutter-free, but it will also make the desk experience a lot more enjoyable. And for most, a clear workspace means a clear mind.

Speaking of cables, don’t forget to include plenty of outlets on all desks for all those devices!

Getting Started with Desk Sharing

The above practices for sharing desk spaces are intended to help you get into the mindset of organizing your workplace as you embark on the hybrid work journey.

As you get started, you may also want to get some expert help with managing your desks, booking rooms, and managing your hybrid workplace. OfficeRnD Hybrid can help you address the challenges of hybrid work by helping employees embrace the new way of working while relieving you of many tedious administrative tasks.

Start for free with OfficeRnD Hybrid to learn how we can help you enable hybrid work and elevate workplace collaboration.


What Does Sharing a Desk Mean?

Policies around desk sharing allow employees to choose their desks on a weekly or daily basis rather than having assigned, permanent desks. Sharing a desk is a great way to make use of office space and cater to employees with flexible schedules.

How Do You Implement Desk Sharing?

You should always let your team know when you’re planning to make a change. Additionally, you need to come up with a plan to help things run as smoothly as possible. Other things to consider include implementing a bring-your-own-device policy, creating a place to store shared documents, and offering adjustable equipment.

What Are the Advantages of Desk Sharing?

Reduced costs, smaller offices (which is beneficial if you move your office), and the ability to attract talent are all advantages of desk sharing. Cost reduction may be the most intriguing feature for business owners looking for ways to save money.

What is the Etiquette for Someone Else’s Desk?

The etiquette for someone else’s desk includes respecting the other person’s belongings, not assuming you can use their things without permission, not leaving trash or clutter, and not taking or moving anything without permission.

What are the Issues with Desk Sharing?

Some issues with desk sharing include the potential loss of privacy and personal space for employees, the perception of a less personalized workplace, and the potential for a negative impact on company culture and sense of belonging.

How do you Tell a Coworker to Clean Their Desk?

It is important to approach the situation tactfully and respectfully when telling a coworker to clean their desk. One approach is to explain how a clean workspace can lead to increased productivity and a better work environment for everyone. Another approach is to offer to help or suggest a cleaning schedule to make it easier for the coworker to maintain a clean desk.

Miro Miroslavov
CEO and Co-founder of OfficeRnD
Miro Miroslavov is a software engineer turned into a tech entrepreneur. In 2015 he co-founded OfficeRnD - a leading flex space and hybrid work management platform. As a CEO at OfficeRnD, he grew the company from inception to a leading software vendor that serves thousands of customers worldwide. He is a big fan of flexible working and is on a mission to "Making Flexible Working the Way of Working".