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The death of hot desking? Employers encouraged to rethink office spaces

Published 1st August, 2023 by Neil Nixon

The death of hot desking? Employers encouraged to rethink office spaces

The younger members of Britain’s workforce could be putting an end to the buzzy 2010s corporate trend of hot desking, as new data reveals that more than 71% of white collar UK employees are working from an assigned desk in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most surveyed (58%) reported sticking to a designated desk because of a ‘nervousness of germs’ and of those, the majority were younger generations (63% of 18-24 year olds and 72% of 25-34 year olds).

The survey, commissioned by Dettol Pro Solutions - the B2B arm of consumer cleaning giant Dettol - lifts the lid on how workplace hygiene habits have shifted in the years since the pandemic, and what steps employers can take to help protect their businesses in the current climate.

It highlights nervousness among employees about the spread of germs in the workplace, which Dettol Pro Solutions believes could collide with ongoing staff shortages [1] in the cleaning industry to create a ‘perfect storm’.

“It’s a very interesting time for businesses on the whole,” said Jonathan Weiss, commercial director B2B at Reckitt - the company that owns Dettol Pro Solutions. “We’ve seen the likes of Tesla and Meta demanding blanket returns to office environments, and elsewhere, some businesses are foregoing their physical spaces altogether and moving to a fully remote model. The message is clear, however, for those fully returning or opting for a hybrid approach: germ concern is still rife among employees and to instil confidence, employers and landlords need to rethink the ways they’re keeping these spaces hygienically clean and asking teams to engage with them. Yet, achieving hygienically clean spaces could be difficult against the backdrop of staff shortages that we’ve seen across the hygiene sector, which means that there’s a risk of a perfect storm being created wherein employees are too nervous to reacclimate with their offices and businesses are unable to source staff to deliver targeted hygiene programmes which will help allay their nerves.”

A study has shown that post-pandemic, 91% of employees expect businesses to implement additional protective measures [2] - leaving employers in a tough position. Strikingly, the survey commissioned by Dettol Pro Solutions reveals that employees admit to having worse hygiene practices in the office compared to at home. Just 34.7% clean surfaces regularly in the office compared to 43.9% at home; and only 29% clean their in-office workstations frequently despite laptops and desks being notoriously unhygienic. Further, despite concerns over germs in the workplace, hand washing is on the decline among office-based Brits - with nearly a third of employees admitting to not washing their hands with soap and water every time they use the washroom at work.

Jonathan Weiss added: “There’s a clear need for employers to bridge the ‘cleanliness gap’ in the workplace. Despite consistent and widespread messaging being delivered to the public about the importance of hand-washing during the pandemic, it has not had a lasting effect and needs to be supplemented with corporate cleaning solutions. We should also be considering as an urgent priority the physical makeup of our office spaces. Pre-pandemic, for example, there was a huge shift towards making offices as open and collaborative as possible. However, with attitudes to hygiene continually shifting - and businesses at risk of employees not wanting to engage with their offices – landlords and facilities managers should consider whether strategically repositioning and re-zoning these spaces could work hand-in-hand with targeted hygiene to provide a solution, particularly with cleaning staff in short supply.”

Since launching in 2021, Dettol Pro Solutions has developed hygiene solutions for many businesses to help keep public areas hygienically clean, through high-quality products and science-backed protocols.

[1] British Cleaning Council (2023) ‘Furious business leader slams speech by Suella Braverman’

[2] Fleishman Hillard (2020) ‘COVID-19 Mindset: How Pandemic Times Are Shaping Global Consumers’

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