By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

Shared desking requires rules. Desk sharing guidelines represent the divide between an organized, flexible work environment and one that’s prone to friction, chaos, and stunted productivity. Rules keep everyone on the same page and set acceptable standards.

As you consider a transition to shared desking, evaluate these eight important desk sharing rules and how they’ll affect the stability of your new office arrangement.

  1. Leave no trace. It’s important that the end of the day results in a full reset of the workspace by the last person to use it. Create a checklist or standard practices sheet to remind employees of what a baseline reset looks like. Things like emptying trash, turning off devices, and wiping down the desk are standard.
  2. Silence devices. Noise control is central in any desking sharing policy. Because the workspace is open, disruptions are more plentiful. Having employees silence their devices and respect loudness rules helps nip avoidable disruptions in the bud. It’s also conducive to general etiquette. The workplace doesn’t have to be silent, but it should maintain a noise level appropriate for everyone. For employees sensitive to distractions, consider recommending or providing headphones.
  3. Bring your own equipment. Employees transitioning from more traditional workspaces may be accustomed to keeping oft-used items at their desks. With shared desks, they’ll need to be cognizant of the supplies they bring with them. Encourage workers to think proactively about equipment so they don’t bother those around them or go without. Conversely, make sure to provide the basics—items you expect every employee to have and use.
  4. Be friendly. There’s no place for a sourpuss in a collaborative work environment. Successful desk sharing stems from positive attitudes and the willingness to be social. Common courtesy is a staple in desk sharing environments, and “please” and “thank you” go a long way. On the reciprocal side, employees should make it a point to positively welcome desk mates and neighbors.
  5. Observe hygienic practices. Personal hygiene is a must in any shared environment. Because shared desks are an intimate space, it’s especially important. Good personal grooming and hygienic habits are top of the list. General workspace cleanliness is close behind. Cover topics like food, behavior, and general etiquette as part of your shared desk hygiene policy. Hygiene is a sensitive issue, so an anonymous complaint system is usually a smart idea. It allows managers to address discreetly hygienic concerns.
  6. Know your space boundaries. Delineate clearly within your desk sharing policy what constitutes personal space and public space. Especially if your desking options are non-traditional, make the boundaries known. This prevents employees from spreading out too far and impeding other workspaces, or stepping on the toes of nearby workers. As a bonus, it’s also useful in determining the square footage allotment for each shared desk for space planning purposes.
  7. Socialize where and when appropriate. While shared desks foster a collaborative, social environment, make sure there are rules about where socialization is recommended. Having social areas reminds workers that others using desks around them may be hard at work—whereas people in a more social area may have time to chat. Don’t be too prohibitive with socialization rules or you’ll squash one of the biggest benefits of shared desking: camaraderie.
  8. Be mindful of illness. An open, collaborative office environment is a playground for germs. Plan ahead for cold and flu season. Encourage ill employees to stay home and have plenty of tissues and hand sanitizer available to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. It’s not a bad idea to schedule more frequent office cleanings during peak illness months and work out special arrangements with sick employees to work remotely.

An important tip to keep in mind is having a way to reinforce these rules. It’s advisable to delegate authority to an office manager or facility manager. They can resolve disputes, maintain order, and prevent troublesome habits from arising around how shared desks are used. They’re also the perfect option to report on trends and feedback regarding the evolution of the shared desk environment.

These eight rules, in conjunction with an officer to maintain order, are the keys to building a shared desking environment that works.

Keep reading: hot desking problems – including solutions and how to prevent them.

Avatar photo


Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.