By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Etiquette is a sensitive topic because the deeper you dive into it, the more people’s differences become apparent. We can all agree that “please” and “thank you” are etiquette standards. But do you take your shoes off when entering someone’s house or hold the door open for the person behind you when leaving a building? Everyone’s etiquette expectations are different, which is why defining office hoteling etiquette is so important.

Without a baseline set of etiquette standards, you risk turning your neat and orderly hoteling system into a battlefield. What’s acceptable to some may be appalling to others, and each disagreement adds a little more tension to your workplace. Left to their etiquette differences, employees will be at each other’s throats, invalidating the hotel desking concept and injecting toxicity into your workplace culture.

Here’s a set of five core hoteling etiquette rules to get everyone on the same page. We recommend using these as a starting point to build a more complete code of conduct everyone can agree on.

1. Reserve based on need 

There’s a difference between need and want, and even between need and might need. Giving employees access to desk hoteling software to book a workspace is convenient…but not if etiquette standards are muddled. Here’s a great example:

Jim knows he’s scheduled to work on a new project this week, but he’s not sure when the collateral will come through. To be safe, he books a workstation every day this week. Unfortunately, his project doesn’t come in until Thursday, and he didn’t use the workstation he booked for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Meanwhile, Cynthia needed the same type of workstation on Tuesday, but didn’t couldn’t access one because reservations were full. 

Make sure people are only booking workspaces they need. You’ll avoid inevitable conflict and equally respect the needs of all employees .

2. Leave it better than you found it

One person’s standards for cleanliness, hygiene, and organization will vary drastically from another’s. This becomes a major concern for shared desks.

Make cleanliness and hygiene a strong pillar of desk sharing etiquette. The best policy is “Leave it better than you found it.” Outline explicit hygienic standards and don’t leave them open to interpretation. Keep sanitary wipes, paper towels, and environmentally friendly cleaners on hand.

3. Don’t overstay your welcome

One of the fundamental concepts behind hoteling and hot desking etiquette is temporary occupancy. Workers occupy a desk for as long as they need it, then vacate for the next person. Hoteling software keeps track of what’s open vs. occupied to ensure those who need a desk get one. But things don’t always stay on schedule and employees may need a desk longer than they booked it for.

The first instinct of most people is to squat—use the desk until the very moment they’re kicked out by the next appointment. Encourage employees not to do this. Not only does it disrupt the transition from person to person, it hinders the next desk occupant by giving them less time to get set up and established.

One solution is a system for runoff time. If someone severely undershot their time estimate, make re-booking that space or booking a new desk easy. If they only need a few minutes to wrap up, offer transitory or touchdown spaces.

4. Be mindful of noise

Noise is a constant concern for hoteling. Just because an employee books a singular workspace doesn’t mean it’s subject to their own standards for noise and volume. Hotel desks are part of the larger workplace and are subject to its rules.

Set rules like “Phone on vibrate” and “Please use headphones” to control noise. If individual disruptions are a recurring problem in your hoteling scheme, privately address the issues with offending employees.

5. Respect and expect privacy

Make privacy expectations a central part of your hoteling etiquette standards—namely, reminding people to respect the privacy of others.

Much of the privacy in an open office needs to come from design. Arrange desks so people aren’t inadvertently looking at someone else’s screen. Provide designated private areas for phone calls. Post “Do not disturb” signs at each workstation. And, of course, encourage employees to  respect privacy rules and features.

Etiquette doesn’t need to be tricky

Etiquette standards focus on things that frequently disrupt hoteling desk users: noise, privacy, desk availability, and personal space. Keep these problems in-check and employees will reap the benefits. Make sure everyone understands and observes the office etiquette standards, and you’ll maintain a civil, tranquil environment where everyone feels respected.

Keep reading: A Quick Guide to Office Hoteling Best Practices