Branch Secretary :

Bite Sized Bargaining: ‘Hot-desking’

Unite members take up issues that impact all areas of our work - not just pay.  Unite recently produced this guide to 'hot desking', what do you think?


Bad for workers


Traditionally office workers have each been assigned their own desk and workspace. However, it is becoming increasingly common for management to introduce ‘hot-desking’ into offices – particularly in tandem with flexible working arrangements.  Hot-desking is when workers have to use whatever desk is available on any given day or book time at a desk in advance.



Lots of studies have shown that hot-desking can be bad for workers. In particular it can waste time, increase incidents of stress and musculoskeletal disorders and can lower morale and create unfair outcomes. If it is proposed in your workplace in most cases it should probably be resisted altogether or subject to bargaining in order to prevent unwanted outcomes.


Risk assessment


In either case you should have a proper risk assessment. If you already have hot-desking then it may be worth doing a survey to see how it is effecting your bargaining group and to raise it in your next pay claim.  When talking to management you could also point out the hidden costs such as new equipment costs, lost time, sickness and low morale.


Here are some specific issues to raise:


  • Are there enough desks to stop workers wasting lots of time looking for somewhere suitable to work?
  • Does the policy mean that staff have to carry, unpack and connect equipment? If so how is their health and safety ensured?
  • How do you prevent competition for the “best desks” or individuals establishing a desk as "their" space” and being hostile to other users?
  • How do you prevent workers being distracted by more moving about and more calls made between team members?
  • How do you stop the breakdown of team dynamics and people feeling isolated – when they have to move away from familiar environments and relationships?
  • Is it fair? Are senior management (who tend to spend less times at their desks anyway) exempted?
  • How do you ensure that workers who arrive later in the day (often women with childcare responsibilities) don’t end up with the ‘worst desk’ or nowhere suitable to work?
  • Are the hot desks and equipment properly adapted for all the different workers that have to use them? Are disabled staff properly catered for?


In bargaining some positive solutions to reduce problems include:


  • Establishing a booking system
  • Limiting the policy to staff who are rarely in the office
  • Ensuring hot-desks are available within each department
  • Having personal lockers and/or expanded storage space to reduce strains from carrying your stuff around
  • Noise protocols and quite zones


Remember, anything involving less days in the office, such as part-time working, compressed hours, and homeworking can assist in reducing stress. So, maybe it is also a reason to ask for shorter working week with no loss of pay.


Let us know what's happening in your workplace.


December 27th 2019


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