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The Health Safety Executive (HSE) released guidance around the main risks that may arise with hot desking and working with Display Screen equipment (DSE) as being musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain or repetitive strain injury (RSI) visual fatigue and mental stress. The guidance advises:
“that the environment should be assessed by carrying out suitable and sufficient analysis of workstations and risk assessment as required by regulation 2 of the Display Screen Regulations (DSE).
Risks to health may arise from a combination of factors and are particularly likely to occur when the work, workplace and work environment does not take account of workers’ needs.
A suitable analysis should:
(1) Be systematic and include investigation of non-obvious causes of problems
(2) Be appropriate to the likely degree of risk. This may largely depend on the duration, intensity or difficulty of the work undertaken
(3) Be comprehensive, considering both;
(i) the results of analysis of the workstation (equipment, furniture, software and environment) and
(ii) Organisational and individual factors, including things like workloads and shift patterns, provision of breaks, training and information, and any special needs of individuals.
(4) Incorporate information provided by both the employer and the worker: and
(5) Include a check for the presence of desirable features as well as making sure that bad points have been eliminated”.
Hot desking has been found to result having a negative effect on mental wellbeing with workers reporting higher levels of distrust, fewer co-worker friendships and decreased perceptions of supervisory support.
Hot desking can pose further risks depending on the nature of the work being carried out i.e. not all hot desks will suit activity-based work where employees can work flexibly and seek out a range of different spaces to undertake different tasks such as meetings collaboration, private work, creativity and concentration.
The practice of hot desking can present a risk of data loss in companies with multiple site locations or shared premises.
Hendrick and Kleiner (2001) states “designing the organisation of a large company sets up many people at different levels; all interact with each other, use various technologies and have different tasks and responsibilities. Hence, designing such socio-technical systems requires the involvement of ergonomics at a high and complex level; this is often called macro-ergonomics”.
Workplaces are far more connected with employees working across multiple unsecured devices, from office desktops, laptops, tablet and mobile phones. This is leaving sensitive digital information open to a higher risk of cyber security breach such as: viruses, data loss, fraudulent emails and malicious apps. Other concerns include speed and price of maintaining data security.
Achieving control of the risks by having a suitably laid out office workstation will assist workers to maintain a neutral body posture. This should be a comfortable working posture, in which the joints are naturally aligned and relaxed, reducing stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and skeletal system therefore minimising the risk of developing MSD’s.
The provision of a range of suitable ergonomic chairs and a variety of furniture to suit various needs, postures, working styles and workers with impairments also helps to prevent fatigue, eye strain, headaches and stress by controlling environmental conditions.
Balci et al., Neuffer et al. and Kroemer et al. (1997) reported that “taking a pause of 5 minutes every half hour is better than 10 minutes once an hour even though the total break time is the same”.
Public Health England released a document titled ‘The impact of physical environments on employee wellbeing’. The literature outlines the links between features of the office environment and employee wellbeing and their research suggests “that allowing employees flexibility in office furniture and work stations – in terms of both the adjustability of equipment as well as different working options – benefits organisations. It can improve attendance, job satisfaction and thus work performance.
Poorly fitting office furniture has been linked to an increase in the likelihood of workers developing musculoskeletal disorders. Current research underlines the benefits of providing models of office furniture and equipment that can be adjusted to meet individual requirements”.
When implementing hot desking there must be a clear strategy on how it will work this should consider: equipment, storage of paperwork, files and personal items, confidentiality of information.
As with any adjustment to staff structure or technology, proper consultation, planning and communication is key.
Before implementation of hot desking is fully rolled out across the business consideration should be given to the following:
Conduct a thorough suitability assessment
Assess the IT infrastructure to ensure it can support the new setup
Run a pilot project to assess it before it goes live across all parts and locations of the organisation
Create a change management strategy to ensure the shift to hot desking is a success
Implement technology to support the change – Desk scheduling applications to allow individuals to schedule a time at a desk
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