Checklist "Desk sharing"

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, innovative space utilization concepts were in vogue. Due to the triumph of mobile working (for more information, click here) in the wake of the pandemic, these have gained further importance, especially desk-sharing concepts.

Among other things, so-called desk-sharing concepts offer employers the opportunity to save office space and thus reduce costs. However, not all employees enjoy flexible concepts such as desk sharing equally (since they have to do without their own fixed and familiar workplace). From an employment law perspective, however, there is no entitlement to a specific "own" desk. This is because the "how" and "where" of work performance is a matter for the employer and can therefore in principle be unilaterally specified by the employer. Special rules apply if there is a works council in the company.

The following aspects should be considered in any case when introducing and designing a desk sharing concept:

Legal aspects

Special attention should be paid to the legal regulations in this context. If a works council exists, consultation with it is essential. This concerns in particular:

  • If a works council exists: conclusion of a works agreement is necessary (§ 87 BetrVG)

  • Necessity of major conversion work: Operational change subject to co-determination pursuant to § 111 BetrVG?

  • Otherwise: Direction right of the employer (e.g. through a corresponding directive)


Organizational aspects

Furthermore, the introduction of sharing is not exhausted in the implementation of the law, but organizational or practical arrangements must be made. These result, among other things, from:

  • Definition of the group of participants

  • Definition of the space concept (retreat/rest areas? co-working spaces? home zones? sleeping zones?)

  • Creation of the necessary infrastructure (esp. IT)

  • Storage options for documents and personal belongings (e.g. through individually used roll containers)

  • Special workplaces with special equipment (e.g. for severely disabled employees)

What must (or should) be regulated by company agreement/guideline?

To enforce the regulations and facilitate the process, it may be advisable to issue a company agreement or guideline. The following should be taken into account:

  • Equipment of the workplaces

  • Special workstations (e.g. for telephoning)

  • Clean desk policy

  • Coordination of the staffing of the workstations (especially in the event of a shortage of workstations or a dispute over a workstation)

  • Regulation of the group of participants

  • Data protection (e.g. disposal of sensitive documents)

  • Organizational matters (e.g. mail distribution)

Other aspects

  • New/special risk assessment necessary?

  • Influence on comparability in the context of social selection in the event of dismissal?

What else needs to be considered:

Due to the possible involvement of the works council, employers are advised to think through the procedure carefully when introducing desk/office sharing and, in case of doubt, to seek advice on a case-by-case basis.

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