Flexible working arrangements both in and out of the office are becoming increasingly commonplace in the corporate world. Hot-desking is one such example of how being less strict in regards to the exact working environment of your staff can be beneficial to the company as a whole by giving them the freedom to find the space in which they best perform. However a study published earlier this month by Initial Washroom Hygiene has highlighted one particular negative aspect of such arrangements, specifically the inadvertent and detrimental effect on hygiene that stems from sharing your workspace.

For those that may be unaware, hot-desking discards to aged idea that every member of staff needs their own desk and set working location in favour of a more flexible solution in which employees locate themselves wherever they may prefer at that point in time, sharing workspaces and equipment with their colleagues as individuals move around throughout the day or week.

The problem with such arrangements, as stated by the study, is that this increase in traffic to each area will naturally result in a higher concentration of bacteria and an increased risk of spreading viruses or other illnesses.

These results came from a study involving one company with employee numbers exceeding 100. The swabbing study began with the company operating a fixed-desk approach before the tests were later repeated using hot-desking practices. The second round of testing took place 4 months after the initial phase. Microbiological concentration levels were then ascertained via the use of an ATP bioluminescence reader on 40 different workstations and associated equipment. On average, microbiological concentration was found to be 18% higher when hot-desking as compared to a fixed-desk office.

Breaking the results down further, some pieces of equipment were found to have concentrations much higher than that of others. Shared mice, for example, have on average a microbiological concentration up to 41% higher in a hot-desking environment. Meanwhile desk surfaces were found to carry concentrations around 32% lower within fixed-desk offices.

Dr Peter Barratt, of Initial Washroom Hygiene commented on the study, “People might see a lot of clutter and mess on desks in an office where everyone has their own assigned desk, and be surprised to hear that hot-desking is less hygienic. But, a clutter free hot-desk environment should not lull workers into a false sense of security, as just because something looks clean does not actually mean that it is.

“Levels of residual bacteria naturally vary between people, and when you factor in ‘al-desko’ dining at lunch time, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that sharing a desk space, keyboards and mice with colleagues or complete strangers comes with a potentially increased hygiene risk.

“Hand hygiene is really the key to mitigating the risks when it comes to the spread of germs in all offices, and those in hot-desking offices may want to pay particular attention. Poor hand hygiene is the major cause for the spread of common office illnesses such as colds, flu and Norovirus. Businesses need to ensure they have the right facilities in place to promote good hand hygiene across the company. This includes good quality soap from dispensers, hand drying equipment and hand sanitiser stations.”


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.
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