The Increasing Practice of Hot-Desking and the Impact on our Disabled Members

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2018 National Disabled Members' Conference
5 July 2018
Carried as Amended

Conference is concerned about the increasing use of hot-desking. Employer sell the practice as a way of saving money, at a time when they know saving jobs is at the top of our agenda, with little or no consideration of the impact on staff. However, there are obvious and significant issues with hot-desking that are manifesting on a daily basis in workplaces across the country.

It is clear that there is a significant risk to the health and wellbeing of Disabled Members who are adversely affected by hot-desking policies. The reasonable adjustments that we have fought to have put in place at our workstations do not fit neatly into the puzzle that is hot-desking.

Having to set up your desk every day in a way that alleviates pain while working is likely to have the opposite effect. Moving chairs, desks, adapted ICT equipment and footrests as well as having to adjust or find a desk every time you’re come back to the office, even if only for an hour, wastes time and money as well as causing pain and fatigue. While coming back to find your specially adapted chair has been altered (or broken) by someone else whilst they’ve been using it or changing desks every day or several times a day could trigger stress, anxiety or other mental health issues.

Deaf workers who use British Sign Language interpreters need to sit next to their interpreter and hot desking may not allow this. Deaf workers may also need to have a fixed desk which is in sight of a visible fire alarm signal.

Although studies have shown that hot-desking can lead to unhealthy workplaces and impact on productivity there isn’t enough information to understand the full impact on our members. We need to assess whether there is a link between increased hot-desking and the rise in work related stress, anxiety and mental health issues before deciding whether negotiating individual reasonable adjustments so Disabled Members are exempt from the practice is a long-term solution.

For disabled women members experiencing the menopause, hotdesking may mean being forced to sit in a warmer part of the office. Where menopause is severe or exacerbates an existing disability, a fixed desk might be a reasonable adjustment.

Conference calls upon National Disabled Members Committee to work with the NEC, National and Regional SOGs and Branches to:

1. Consult on the impact of hot-desking on Disabled Members and the wider work environment;

2. Produce a report on the findings of the consultation with particular reference to the impact of hot-desking on workplace stress and sickness;

3. Identify mitigating actions to reduce the adverse impact of hot-desking on Disabled Members and in the workplace; and

4. Produce guidance including best practice case studies for Branches to use when negotiating for a good working environment.

5. Publicise UNISON’s guide ‘The Menopause and Work’.