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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hot-desking creates hot spots!

I would describe myself as an extroverted introvert.  My family, my friends and those that I work with would agree.  I get along with people well (most days) and I can be extremely engaging (when I want) and chat your ear off on a host of topics.  This serves me well when attending tradeshows, engaging in team work and generally getting through day to day life.  I will, however, hit my limit of how much “people-time” I can handle.  When that happens it’s like hitting a brick wall while going 60 miles per hour.  The crash is ugly and the collateral damage can be messy.   As a result I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms to make sure I do not crash as often.   For example, when I travel I give myself at least an hour between the conference and any evening function I have to attend.  My coworkers may decide to grab a drink, but I think they would all agree it’s better that I don’t.  That hour to recharge makes a world of difference!  At home my recharge time is “putting away the laundry”.  My husband knows I hate laundry so if I’m puttering around putting laundry away he knows I need some space.  At work, I close my office door.

We spend so much time at work that I think for many our office or our personal work space can be a haven or sanctuary against the mad onslaught of work, pressures or fires we face throughout the day.  If I think back to my “humble” beginnings, I was thrilled to have a cubicle I could call my own.  I remember the day I “grew up” and got my own office (with a window I may add)……   There is something to say about having your space, your stuff organized or strewn about the desk, your crumbs from breakfast, lunch or snack and your germs.  How many times have I itched my eye after typing on my keyboard - too many to count.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way, but in recent years, the design and layout of our office space has changed.  Today, a number of companies have jumped on the ‘hot desking’ bandwagon.  The premise seems interesting - you can sit wherever you want.  The concept has been touted to promote greater efficiency and teamwork.  In practice, many people find it pretty annoying.  It’s akin to being in High School where, at the end of the day you pack up your books and papers and go home.

As I have been taught over my years, when making plans or developing strategies you need to look for the unintended consequences or unobvious issues that could rear their ugly heads.  In the case of hot-desking, as much of this was thought of by “experts” not in the infection prevention world, the unintended consequence of their unobvious issue was the increasing risk of transmission of germs.  Think about it.  Not every office is cleaned every day.  That means from one day to the next you have different people, different germs attaching themselves to the desk, the shared keyboard or mouse, the shared phone….

I recently came across a study conducted by a company in the UK who specialize in hygiene.  For their study, they swabbed >100 desk areas of a company with fixed-desks (e.g. MINE and MINE alone!).  This company then decided to move to hot-desking and the desk areas were swabbed again.  They results speak for themselves.  They found a 41% increase in microbial contamination on the same surfaces.  The one area where the hot-desks did better was on the keyboard.  Surprisingly, the hot-desk keyboards were 6% “cleaner” than fixed-desk keyboards.  It kind of makes sense; if I were sharing a desk I would probably clean the keyboard too!

Does this mean the end of hot-desking?  Probably not, however, perhaps before moving towards this set up some consideration as to how to minimize loss of productivity due to illness will now be done.  I’ve worked with some call centers where each desk is equipped with a canister of disinfectant wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer.  The idea being that you clean when you leave and you clean when you arrive.  Providing that the disinfectant you choose does not require the use of PPE or contain chemicals that people know to be harmful, it’s not a bad practice to set up!   I’m never too sure who uses my office when I’m travelling or on vacation….perhaps I need to start disinfecting my area when I leave and when I arrive after a period of absence!

Bugging Off!


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