Employees agree: hot desking provides more freedom and flexibility over their workdays. But it’s not without its challenges — and a significant one is maintaining hot desking hygiene.

How do you keep a hybrid office clean as employees switch between desks?

Hybrid offices that adopt hot desking must take hygiene seriously. If not, you’ll create a work environment where people often get sick, hurting your company’s productivity and putting your team’s health at risk.

In this article, we’ll review the best hygiene practices to keep your hybrid employees safe and healthy in a flexible working environment.

Quick Summary

  • Hot desking hygiene is part of creating a workplace environment where employees can perform at their best. Besides making the office more enjoyable for everyone, thoughtful hygiene policies and practices improve employee productivity by reducing the number of sick days they need to take.
  • Common illnesses that can spread in an unclean work environment include influenza, stomach flu, and Legionnaires’ disease.
  • The best ways to make your hybrid office more hygienic include improving your office’s air quality, implementing a desk hygiene policy, encouraging employees to eat in spaces other than a hot desk, and allowing them to take sick days with flexible PTO policy.

Why Is Hot Desking Hygiene Important?

With a hot desking arrangement in place, there are no assigned seats. Instead, employees choose available desks once they arrive, or book one as and when they need arises.

This arrangement allows hybrid offices to maintain smaller spaces and save on costs, while still ensuring employees who are present on the premises, rather than working remotely, have a designated place to feel productive.

employee working with a mask

Of course, the reality of this innovative idea is that multiple employees use the same desk throughout the week — and this can increase the spread of germs. The situation is quite similar with desk hoteling as well.

Research from the University of Arizona also shows that when an employee spends only two to four hours in the office, they still spread germs to more than 50% of commonly touched workplace surfaces.

Additionally, a study from the Norwegian National Institute of Occupational Health (STAMI) found that employees with their own desks take an average of 22 fewer sick days than those with a shared office, thus allowing companies to reduce absenteeism.

an illustration of employees keeping hot desking hygiene

Now, does that mean hot desking is to blame?

Not at all. In fact, hot desking remains a smart way to maintain efficiency and reduce costs. The answer lies in a robust policy — a specific hot desking hygiene practice.

Without a proper hot desking hygiene system in place, you’re risking the health of your employees and, potentially, your company’s overall operational performance. Analysis from the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) shows that illness-related absences lead to 1.5 billion days in lost productivity each year.

Is this something you want to risk for your hybrid workplace?

What Are the Most Common Illnesses That Spread at Work?

Your company’s success depends on healthy and engaged employees.

Hybrid employees can get sick when hot desking hygiene isn’t properly respected, which can damage your company’s productivity and progress.

an infection

Some of the most common illnesses that spread at work include the following:

  • The common cold
  • Influenza, a respiratory illness that infects the nose and throat and is highly contagious
  • Stomach flu, a bacterial infection that causes inflammation in the stomach and is highly contagious
  • Legionnaires’ disease, a type of lung infection caused by Legionella bacteria
  • Strep throat, a bacterial infection that creates a sore feeling in the throat
  • Pink eye, which causes swelling and redness in the eye area

Plus, there’s a shocking link between hygiene and mental health. Watch the short video below.

6 Best Hot Desking Hygiene Practices

Optimizing your hot desking environment for hygiene all comes down to proper preparation. Here’s how to protect your employees’ health and keep your hybrid workplace clean:

1. Improve Air Quality and Circulation

Indoor air quality drastically impacts the spread of germs in the office. You need to optimize your office’s air infiltration system with the help of plumbers to improve your office air quality for hybrid employees.

Other things you can do to improve air quality include using portable HEPA fans in the workplace and maximizing the amount of outdoor air that flows through the office by opening the windows. This will help you drastically reduce the number of pathogens in your office’s air.

2. Implement a Desk Hygiene Policy

Each hybrid employee must commit to creating a cleaner and healthier office for everyone in the workplace. This is a way for employees to look after each other — encouraging healthy work relationships.

a worker cleaning up her desk

Add a list of the best desk hygiene practices to your hot desking policy that each hybrid employee must read and agree to follow.

Make the rules clear on the cleaning methods employees should use to keep their desks tidy, as well as what they shouldn’t do at their desks (such as leaving personal belongings there). You can set up locker rooms in your hybrid workplace for employees to use instead.

You can easily create hot desking policies with a hybrid workplace management solution such as OfficeRnD Hybrid.

3. Use a Desktop Vacuum Cleaner

A desktop vacuum cleaner helps hybrid employees clean off dust and other particles from their hot desks. This tool can also easily clean up messes that previous employees may leave behind, such as hair or food crumbs.

Some of the best desktop vacuum cleaners you can use for your hybrid workplace include the Brigii Mini Vacuum Cleaner and the ODISTAR Desktop Vacuum Cleaner.

4. Implement Sanitary Wipes and Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer

A couple of simple cleaning tools go a long way in helping employees stay safe.

To ensure hybrid employees are made accountable for cleaning their office space, make sure they have sanitary wipes and antibacterial hand sanitizer available for them at their desks.

On top of keeping employees safe in the workplace, these items are also fairly inexpensive.

sanitary control

Sanitary wipes make it easy for employees to clean their desks and keyboards after work. And hand sanitizers can help them kill off any germs on their hands, thus making them one of the most important hot desking accessories.

5. Don’t Allow Employees to Eat at Designated Hot Desks

Your office should prohibit employees from eating at their hot desks on days they decide to work in the office. Instead, they should be eating in your office kitchen.

Eating at a hot desk can leave crumbs and facilitate the spread of germs in the office. Also, leaving a desk with food or food remnants on the table disrespects the employee who has reserved the spot next.

6. Let Employees Take Their Sick Days

A report from Theraflu indicates that 62% of American employees admit to still going to work despite feeling sick unless their symptoms are severe enough to prevent them from getting out of bed.

The research also discovered that 67% of Americans avoid calling in sick due to fear of receiving judgment from their work peers.

sick employee

To maintain optimal hot desking hygiene, this isn’t the work environment you want to encourage for your employees.

Employees who “power through” illness could spread it to others in the workplace. And, the truth is, they’re unlikely to perform their best at the office if they’re sick.

Instead, if employees aren’t feeling their best, allow them to take a sick day and stay home — and consider a more flexible sick-leave or PTO policy (such as “flexible time off”) that ensures they feel that they can take the day off without sacrificing their pay.

Improve Hot Desking In Your Workplace With OfficeRnD Hybrid

Prioritizing hot desking hygiene in the workplace does more than protect your employees’ well-being. I

t also helps create a work environment in which employees can deliver their best possible performance — which means everyone wins!

OfficeRnD Hybrid is a hybrid workplace management and scheduling software that can help your organization thrive.

It’s completely embeddable and includes a meeting room booking system, desk booking system, advanced workplace analytics and much more.

Click here to start for free with OfficeRnD Hybrid or book a live demo with one of our workplace specialists.


What are the Health Risks of Hot Desking?

Here are some of the health risks associated with hot desking:

  1. Increased risk of infection: Hot desking increases the risk of infection as multiple people use the same workspace. This can lead to the spread of germs and viruses, including COVID-19.
  2. Ergonomic injuries: Hot desking can lead to ergonomic injuries, such as back pain, neck strain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. This is because employees may not have access to the right equipment or may not be able to adjust the workspace to their needs.
  3. Stress and anxiety: Hot desking can cause stress and anxiety as employees may not have a designated workspace or may not be able to personalize their workspace. This can lead to a lack of control over their environment, which can impact their mental health.
  4. Noise pollution: Hot desking can lead to noise pollution, which can be distracting and impact employee productivity. This is because employees may be working in close proximity to others who are on the phone or having conversations.

What Is the Hot Desking Work Model?

Hot desking is a work model in which employees have no assigned desks. Instead, they can decide on which days they’d like to work at the office and which they’d like to work at home. The days they come into work, they can find a desk in an ad-hoc manner, rather than maintaining a designated office desk just for them.

Hot desking is similar to working in a library, where it’s “first-come-first-served.” But you’ll need to reserve your desk in advance using space management software, or your favorite spot might not be available.

What Is a Clean Desk Policy for a Hot Desking Office?

A clean desk policy is a set of guidelines that each hybrid employee must adhere to in order to keep the workplace clean. It’s a way of holding everyone accountable to maintain hot desking hygiene standards and ensure a respectful environment.

How Do I Ensure That Hybrid Employees Keep Their Hot Desks Clean?

Different ways that hybrid employees can keep hot desks clean include using sanitary wipes, not eating at their desks, and respecting the clean desk policy you’ve put in place.

What Tools Do I Need for Hot Desk Cleaning?

The hot desking tools you’ll need for proper cleaning include a desktop vacuum, sanitary wipes, and an air quality and circulation system in place. You can also use hybrid work software to keep all your hot desk policy rules in one place.

What Are the Most Common Illnesses That Can Spread in a Hybrid Workplace?

Some of the most common illnesses in the office include the common cold, influenza, stomach flu, strep throat, and pink eye.

What are the Rules for Hot Desking?

The rules for hot desking can vary depending on the organization and the specific hot desking policy in place. However, here are some common rules for hot desking:

1. Clean up after yourself: Employees should clean their workspace before and after use to maintain hygiene and ensure that the workspace is ready for the next user.

2. Respect others’ space: Employees should respect the workspace of others and avoid moving or rearranging items that belong to others.

3. Use headphones: Employees should use headphones when listening to music or taking phone calls to avoid disturbing others.

4. Don’t leave personal items: Employees should not leave personal items at the hot desk, as it may be used by others when they are not present.

5. Follow security protocols: Employees should follow security protocols when using shared equipment, such as computers and printers, to protect sensitive information.

6. Be punctual: Employees should arrive on time for their scheduled hot desk time and vacate the space when their time is up.

7. Report issues: Employees should report any issues or problems with the hot desk, such as broken equipment or cleanliness issues, to the appropriate person or department.

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".