The HSE has recently amended their advice to employers on first aid to include a mention of mental health. While this advice is only that employers 'should' consider ways to manage mental ill health in their workplaces and is not a legal requirement, it is indicative of a move on the part of the HSE to address mental health and is likely to lead to intervention and prosecutions for failings in this area.
Employers therefore now, more than ever, need to be aware of all aspects of their employees' health and safety and consider the environment that they provide for their staff to work in.
The number of businesses moving over to providing hot desks rather than desks allocated to specific employees is growing.
The financial benefits are clear to see, with the number of employees often outnumbering desks, assigned seating can be a costly and inefficient use of space. Hot-desking can be used as a way of avoiding the cost of larger business premises.
Further, there is the cost of technology. Many employees are assigned laptops for remote working these can be used at a hot desk in the office reducing the need for additional desktop machines.
This way of working also fits well with the trend for flexible working, not only working from home, but working from where you need to be and therefore reducing the time spent at a desk in the office.
But what is the impact on the employee of the loss of that bit of personal space at the office?
Some argue that hot-desking helps create a more equal environment, where staff are free to sit where they wish regardless of seniority and encourages relationship with a greater number of other employees.
However, research into this area has not given positive results. Concern has been raised that this type of working may negatively impact behaviour. Recent studies have also raised the following issues:
- That hot-desking can decrease co-worker relationships and feelings of supervisory support;
- It can generate additional work by the physical act of moving desks or setting up machines each day;
- It may produce feelings of marginalisation impacting employees relationship with the organisation as a whole and their belief that they are being valued.
Hot-desking may work well for some companies but consideration, in line with the new HSE initiatives regarding mental health, should be given to the impact on staff before making such a move.
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Hot desking is becoming increasingly common, with an estimated two-thirds of 400 multinational companies planning to implement shared-desk workplaces by 2020. Touted as a way to improve productivity, improve professional relationships and save money, hot desking is when no-one in an office has their own desk – but sits wherever there is a free seat. But is it actually good for workers and businesses, or is it an unnecessary disruption?