Coming into the office in the morning and first looking for a desk because no one has its own seat and individual desk area. That is desk sharing – also called flex and hot desking. It’s a concept from the 1990s and it promises many advantages: For example cost savings because companies can save a third of office space because employees are often in meetings, on business trips or on vacation. Unused workplaces can thus be better filled. In addition, it should promote flexibility, productivity, interdepartmental exchange among colleagues and ensure better cooperation among the whole team.

But is this true? Has this concept only advantages? Our Managing Director Marie is experienced in desk sharing and now shares her insights.

What experiences have you had with desk sharing?

Marie: I’ll go into three practical examples that we’ve experienced with customers: in 2018 we had flex desks at a customer with about 700 employees. To be honest, that did’t work out at all. There were not enough desks. If you were late, you were just unlucky. Then you ended up working in the kitchen or in meeting rooms. And then you loose all benefits of desk sharing.

A year later, we introduced the concept of hot desks for another client because the team suddenly became so small that they had to give up the office. Luckily, the sister company still had space available, so we installed 8 hot desks for 10 employees. We could easily implement this while using an excel spreadsheet: Employees registered weekly when they were in Berlin and when abroad. This arrangement worked out well.

We are currently introducing a hybrid working model at one of our customers with approximately 150 employees. The first employees are coming back into the office after the lockdown, but by far not all of them. Desk sharing fits to the current situation quite well.

Desk sharing sometimes seems to be a good solution for companies and sometimes it does not work. What do you have to look out for make it working?

Marie: Of course, there should be enough desks available any time so that no one feels excluded. Desk sharing always goes hand in hand with flexible working models and if these are not lived holistically within the company, desk sharing will be difficult to implement.

In addition, old patterns must definitely be broken. You should focus on working on internal structures that forces employees to rotate. A mixed behaviour should be created. Because people are creatures of habit, and our experience so far has shown that even with your own roll containers, you will love to sit down at your favourite desk or next to your favoured colleague.

And for this you need to implement a clear concept. For example, we introduced a hot desks area where employees have a workplace where they want to sit. These are basically the same desks, but the rules are different: no phone calls, no talking over the desk, but really concentrated work – almost like in a library.

Are there other models than desk sharing that you recommend?

Marie: Yes, flexible working hours models and hybrid working models. Both are combinations of home office and office work. With the hybrid work model, you have exactly those employees in the office who depend on social contacts, the sense of togetherness and general exchange, and to the same time you have people who are good in working from home because they are no micromanagers and can be easily managed with objectives and key results.

If you have any more questions to Marie, please feel free to contact her: marie@doneberlin.com.