how to cope when you don’t have an assigned work space

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I have a question for your readers, if you’re willing to throw this to them. My office is starting to mandate that we come back in person (the reasons why are a whole separate can of worms), and the model we’re returning to is not the model we left. Gone are the assigned cubicles and storage space — it is now the Wild West of finding an available cubicle on your in-office days, and we are permitted to leave nothing at the office.

As someone who likes, you know, comfort, this is proving to be an issue. In the Before Times, my cubicle contained my office shoes, extra cardigan, mug, tea bags, granola bars, cutlery, lip balm, hand cream, tissues, and a novel to read during lunch break. Now I have to cart anything I’m expecting to need during the day, plus my lunch and laptop, back and forth in my backpack. I’m also the only one wearing my mask, and finding that I get very dehydrated.

Could I hear from people with a similar setup? I’d love any advice on how to maximize space, what I should be packing, and if there are any hydration solutions I’m overlooking.


Read an update to this letter

{ 455 comments… read them below }

  1. Earlk*

    Would they consider providing lockers? That’s how it works everywhere I’ve worked with hot desking.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yeah same. We have hot desking and we each have a locker for our stuff. It works quite well and means you’re not having to take everything around with you.

    2. Velomont*

      Same with my company. We each get a locker (essentially one big drawer in a horizontal 2-high filing cabinet) and in mine I have a plastic storage thing with all my stuff so that I can carry it to whatever desk at the start of each day. It’s kind of like camping.

      1. Zebrastripes*

        My former company did hot desking years ago. We each had our own little 2 drawer filing cabinet on wheels that fit under the desk. It locked and it had a cushion on top so you could pull it out and someone could sit next to your desk when needed. It did work but you needed so much space to park them when not in use! It was an entirely open concept office.

        1. Anon the Fed*

          This is what my office is doing now, essentially. There are a couple of people in our office who have an assigned desk (they have their own cabinets), fewer have a private office (they have lots of space), and the rest of us are welcome to use the little wheeled cubby cabinets with the cushion on top along with whatever desk we can find space at for the 1-2 days per week we’re in the office. I’ve found that having 1 medium-sized drawer is sufficient for a spare cardigan, my tea, small over-the-counter meds stash, and the spare office supplies I have for myself (my personal nicer post-its, better pens).

          That said, if my office said we are “to leave nothing at the office”, I’d fight that with my coworkers who don’t have an assigned desk. Hill to die on style. Not being able to leave a single thing at the office means you’re hauling in 1 large, or multiple, bags stuffed with everything you could need during the day, and I’m not here for that anymore.

        2. Wheeliesare forever*

          @Zebrastripes, I used something similar about 16 years ago also with an optional cushion on top. It was a two high cabinent that fit perfectly beside me when I was working.
          It worked great. People would “park” their wheelies in a designated area when they weren’t working and the manager on shift had the a master key in case someone forgot theirs…which happened.

    3. Another person*

      Was coming here to say the same – I’m fortunate to have an assigned workspace but people who don’t in places I’ve worked always get lockers. I thought that was an informal standard most places. Sounds like your workplace didn’t think this through well; sorry you’re having to deal with this.

    4. Not A Girl Boss*

      I tried to push for lockers and was shot down by the higher ups. But my manager found a workaround by putting in a req for a large filing cabinet, and giving us each a drawer.
      So, the whole team has keys and its not the *most* secure, but if people want to steal my safety shoes and the odd protein bar, I guess more power to them?

      I also just gave up on cute office bags and went full backpack, which helps a lot. I bring a water bottle + a plastic bag style ‘hydration reservoir’ that I fill with water and then refill my water bottle with that (our water fountains at work are super gross).

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I’m glad your manager is on your side! I feel like if LW has a team that sits near each other consistently it may be easier to come up with a solution like this.

        LW, what sorts of reasons do they give you for going back to the office? If they’re mentioning anything about collaboration and face-to-face interaction, then advocating for a system where teams can consistently use the same section of desks might let you collaborate with coworkers to leave things in a desk drawer or get a small shared cabinet or something.

        One frustrating thing about hotdesking setups is that they run pretty counter to what I see as the main benefits of being in-person – being able to sit near and have casual and work interactions with the colleagues you work with most. Getting scattered all over the building kinda defeats the purpose.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          The crappy thing is that many employers don’t seem to care about any of this. They say that coming back into the office is about collaboration, then institute policies that undermine collaboration. Like you have to work from the office, but that could be at an office closer to your home, with none of your coworkers. (Though I’m not pointing this out, since, if anything, it would screw over my colleagues). They want butts in seats and DGAF about whether their rationale, plans, and policies fit together.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            By collaboration, they mean “the ability for leadership to walk around and force you to make awkward small talk with them instead of getting your actual work done.” Because leaders don’t really have enough to do if they can’t fill half their days with ‘engaging with the troops’.

            1. Or so I've heard*

              Or it means “we will have to pay back out tax breaks to the municipality if we don’t guarantee a certain amount of people commuting into the town 3 times a week”

          2. Lizzie*

            I find it funny a lot of employers say the reason they want everyone back is about collaboration, when most of the time I’m IN the office, I’m one of a few. Esp. today. I got here and the entire floor was pitch black, meaning no one was here.
            my job too is really very independent. we rarely even have meetings. Most of what is assigned, on top of our normal stuff, is via eamil, and if we have questions, I can just walk to my boss if they’re in, and ask for clarification.
            Thankfully, we are still on a hybrid schedule

          3. Hats Are Great*

            Yeah, love to commute 45 minutes each way to spend all day on calls to other parts of the country. Feel like I could do that equally well from my house.

        2. Cannibal Queen*

          Not to mention, if you have to spend the first 15 minutes of your work day looking for somewhere to sit, that can’t be good for productivity.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            In our (recently redone), we have lockers. We also can book a specific desk up to 30 days in advance so project teams can sit together; we can book full days or just hours as needed. It works much better than I had feared.
            We also need to check in within 2 hours of the booked time or the booking is released.
            In addition there are small, fully enclosed “focus rooms” if I need to either deeply concentrate or have a potentially disruptive call; those rooms can’t be booked.
            Every desk has two screens (we all have laptops and a personal Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, the latter lives in the locker when not in use).
            In a previous job, a coworker had a kind of toolbox (or vanity case?) with all her desk stuff neatly organized. It sat next to her chair during the day and went into her car overnight.

        3. whimbrel*

          I have a very, very strong suspicion that LW is a public servant in Canada, and if so there are reams of articles in Canadian media from about mid-January to now about the mandated RTO plans.

          But in short, yes, ‘collaboration’ is the main reason given but many, many people are showing up to the office to take Teams calls, in what are generally fairly open plan spaces, with colleagues literally everywhere else in Canada.

          And because not everyone is going in on the same day, and because there is no way to easily implement a system that would allow colleagues on the same team sit together on the off chance they would be in the office on the same days per week, people end up ‘collaborating’ exactly the same way they were when WFH.

          Lockers aren’t provided for anything more than daily use, there was no plan for any ergonomic or accessibility concerns, and basically they just threw us back in there with no plan or procedures or concern for health/welfare/etc. It’s been a disaster and it’s been truly disappointing to see how little those things are valued by the employer.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Absolutely backpack over cute bag, and go somewhere like REI where the bags are designed for ergonomics and carrying capacity rather than just looks. I invest in a new name-brand backpack (like Osprey or North Face) every 5 years or so and consider it money well spent.

        In terms of hydration, if you’re masking, I think a water bottle with a straw is the easiest – you can just lift your mask to take a sip more easily compared to the kind of water bottle you have to tilt your head to drink from.

        1. Alice*

          You might be interested in the SIP value

          I promise I don’t work for them — I just want to everyone to be able to stay as safe as they want to be while working.

          1. Michaela*

            I’m so glad I scrolled through these comments and found your comment. I’ve also been suffering a lot of dehydration at work, and have been trying to solve this issue without putting my immune system at further risk. I really empathize with OP on this.

            I still mask with my trusty KN95s because my mask-less coworkers are still consistently getting themselves and each other sick with Sars-Cov-2 and/or whatever virus their kids bring home from school at *least* once a month now! Over the last year, it’s been noticeably disruptive for our small non-profit, not great for productivity with so many people routinely out sick… and besides, who enjoys being sick multiple times a year? Not me!

            But we all need to hydrate consistently lol. I usually only drink water on my outdoor lunch break or – if things are slow enough – I’ll step away from my desk for a bit to get a little walk, fresh air, and water. This sip mask is a game changer for those days when I’m too busy to get away from the office. Thank you again for sharing.

        2. meezer*

          Yes! My Osprey messenger bag is comfortable to carry and has a spot for everything, it’s crazy how much I can fit in there and I don’t get stress injuries because of the way the bag is designed. (My current job has very few assigned desks – and I don’t have one – and no lockers.) I do have a tendency to carry more food than I need, just in case I do get extra hungry.

      3. Tattoo'd Librarian*

        I know you said you got your backpack already but if you still want “office cute”, I recommend the Lovevook laptop backpacks on amazon (the two-tone ones). I got my mom the red and cream one last year and loved it so much I got myself a black and purple one. They look cute and professional and were an upgrade from my…emoji backpack.

        The largest size has a lot of room, inside and outside drink holders (which I didn’t know I needed till I had it) loads of pockets for stuff, and there’s some boning in it for electronics so it’s sturdy (I don’t use it for a laptop, just wanted all the room!). Also a charger hookup usb for you to stash and attach a charging block if you want.

        I do not work for this company or amazon, lol just love the bag!

        1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

          I highly recommend them. I have the messenger bag and I’ve gotten so many compliments on it. It holds everything I need (although I’m no longer having to bring my laptop home).

    5. Caz*

      You have my sympathies! I’ve worked in a similar environment, but only for a couple of weeks (there were assigned desks but insufficient numbers of them, then someone went on maternity leave and I pinched hers. She never came back to claim it.)

      What worked for me was to consider my bag to be my mobile desk. Anything I needed on my desk was in that bag. This meant a pencil case, a notepad, my lunch, a water bottle, my ID, any keys I needed, snacks, etc. This did mean some comfort items had to go by the wayside, but the pens in that pencil case were some of my more whimsical ones, my notepad had some fun stickers on it…I adapted to what I had to have/could comfortably carry and made sure my personal stamp was on those things. Good luck!

    6. AnyaT*

      Our office moved to hot-desking and everyone has a locker (yes, it’s just like high school again!). Can’t imagine how this would work otherwise.

      1. Texas Teacher*

        My kids high school doesn’t have lockers now, so they’re basically hotdesking. It stinks.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Whaaaa? I guess maybe all textbooks are electronic now? I had a 10″ stack of books some years that was not possible to haul around all day.

          But still! Gym clothes, sports gear, lunch and snacks, winter coats… no wonder so many teenagers I see at the bus stop are only in a sweatshirt even in the dead of winter.

          1. Up and Away*

            My kids still had lockers, but backpacks weren’t allowed due to fears of weapons. They often didn’t have enough time to make a stop at their locker between classes, so had to carry around large stacks of books with them. It was not ideal.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              That’s what it was like in my kids’ high school (class of 2011 and 2014). I just assumed that no backpacks are allowed anymore ever. No backpacks and no lockers sounds awful and honestly not doable.

            2. Texas Teacher*

              They can carry clear vinyl backpacks which are hot and sweaty. But no coats, only school branded sweatshirts. They can leave band instruments in band hall, there are big lockers in there. No lockers for my guitar player, though. Even with most class work and books on the laptop, they need notebooks, personal items, some books, lunch, water bottle. Honestly I’m glad I’m not in high school these days, it’s a fairly joyless experience to me.

              1. Selina Luna*

                I teach high school. My students do have lockers, but they often carry everything in their backpacks. They use laptops for 90% of things, but some prefer handwriting, and find carrying notebooks cumbersome. Teachers who require notebooks provide space in their classrooms for these (and often did before the pandemic).
                Vinyl backpacks are a nightmare. They tear easily. It’s still easy to hide weapons in them (from personal, but thankfully not deadly experience), and it’s actually easier for students to hide illicit substances in them than before because vape pens look like pens.

                1. Chirpy*

                  My middle school did not allow backpacks in class, and also only had 3 minutes between classes. If your last name was near the end of the alphabet, you were assigned lockers at the farthest end of the building away from most classrooms, and you were basically screwed.

                  My high school allowed backpacks, so I carried mine mainly out of principle after that (and because our lockers for some reason were tiny, I basically exchanged half the books for my coat in there).

            3. Quill*

              I remember those days, except we had to share the locker with a randomly assigned person. So if they, for example, infested the locker with fruit flies by leaving bannanas in there, or stole your stuff, or tried to use it to store ilicit substances, you both got in trouble. High schools have not gotten any smarter, it seems.

          2. Gato Blanco*

            It is possible with a large enough backpack and it sucks. I did not grow up in the age of electronic textbooks, but my school back in the day was under renovations for 18 months, so we did not have lockers for 2 years. We carried 35+ pounds of textbooks with us every day. Yes, I did develop chronic back issues as a tiny 5’2″ 105-pound student.

            1. Neurodivergent in Germany*

              That sucks!

              Kids here ( no lockers, backpacks allowed) sometimes use a backpack on wheels, like those wheeled suitcases or they have a kind of little folding dolly that they can put their backpack on.

              And until year 10, they still have (almost) all their classes with the same group of kids. We have desks for 2 for them to sit at and neighbors will often agree to share textbooks so each only has to carry half the load.

            2. Emma*

              When I was at school, most kids just brought in the textbooks for the 5 classes they had that day. Usually at least one class would be something that didn’t require a textbook – like PE or music – so it wasn’t a huge amount of stuff to carry.

              I didn’t do that because my executive function was too poor to repack my bag every day, so I just carried a *lot* of books around.

          3. Cascadia*

            Yes the school I work at has no lockers. The kids lug everything around with them all day. Luckily no textbooks though.

          4. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            The school I work at closed the lockers during covid, they were trying to enforce one-way hallways (so going to lockers would have increased passing time a ton, and kids tend to gather at lockers), and bought into electronic textbooks and rolled out laptops. They still have not reopened them, despite no other covid restrictions remaining. There are only like two classes that have physical textbooks assigned to kids now. I think they found there was less tardiness.

            They do give out lockers in like November for anyone who wants one, but they’re only supposed to put a coat in it.

          5. KX*

            Our high school sends all textbooks home and has a class set in each room. They do have gym lockers.

            I like the books at home/class set solution a lot. Solves more problems than just “no lockers.” Passing periods aren’t so stressful and rushed, either.

          6. wanda*

            I went to high school in the 90s, and we did not use textbooks in class. Textbooks were kept at home to be used for homework and reference. In class, teachers lectured from slides or the board or used worksheets. My locker was in the far corner of the bottom floor of my HS away from all of my classes, and that was fine because I never needed it.

        2. Chocoholic*

          My kids high school didn’t have available lockers during COVID, and my kids didn’t opt to get a locker after COVID. They use chromebooks, textbooks stay in the classroom, or in some cases (Math) the textbook is assigned in the beginning of the year and it comes home for the year and is returned at the end of the year.

        3. Also Mimi*

          We didn’t have lockers when I was in school in the early 90’s. It totally sucked. This was in the before times so no electronic textbooks, we basically had a in class text book and a home textbook for every class. Seemed like such a waste of resources.

        4. Madame Arcati*

          We never had lockers at high school but it wasn’t weird; I think it’s pretty standard in Britain. There just wasn’t the sense of leaving possessions at school but not physically with you and certainly not overnight. Either you needed the books for the lesson or you needed them ar home for homework; you’d pack your bag with the necessary books for the day, along with your pencil case, packed lunch etc. Separate bag for your PE kit on the day(s) in question. Then you carried your bag to school (backpacks weren’t in when I was at school, the trend then was more for sports holdalls, but you see them now) and carried it to the different classrooms. There were pegs for coats (and PE kit), and you could hang your bag up during lunch, assembly etc, and a room to put musical instruments safely.
          Thinking back our school uniform blazers functioned as a sort of handbag really. I can tell you what was in mine! Inside left; purse. Inside right; calculator (expensive item not left around!). Outside left, often a paperback library book. Outside right; any letters or forms for parents to sign, possibly a bag of crisps until morning break. Breast pocket; timetable and any house points.
          We did have small lockers as a privilege in sixth form (age 16-18) but we used them mostly for personal items like a mug and teabags (our other 6th form privilege was a common room with a kitchenette).

        5. wittyrepartee*

          To be fair, I never used the high school lockers in the early aughts anyway. They were too far away from my classes. My friends all crammed out coats into one friend’s locker, because it was close to the door. All the other lockers remained unused.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        My office is getting ready to start hotdesking and there are no plans for lockers. I’ve already put in for accommodations because there is no shot I can carry all the cushions and medical items I need back and forth every day. It makes no sense.

    7. Dehydrated LW*

      There ARE lockers – which are for day-use only, no overnight storage. I suppose they’ll be some use for winter boots, but otherwise quite pointless.

      1. an infinite number of monkeys*

        SAME and it’s really stupid. (And we are in Texas, so winter boots are not a thing.) Honestly, I’ve just started leaving stuff in “my” desk. At least there’s no scramble to find one – we are only in the office 2-3 days a week; there are more desks than people on any given day, and I come in early enough to lay claim to my usual spot. Plus, I only take up one drawer, so it’s not in the way of anyone else who might use the desk when I’m not there.

        Still, just because I can make it work, doesn’t mean it’s not dumb!

          1. TechWorker*

            Maybe you should find a roll suitcase that’s precisely the same size as the locker. Unpack into the locker every day, on work time. Ok, ridiculous… but… is it?? The whole setup sounds a bit ridiculous.

        1. Kwebbel*

          That’s actually been my approach at the office, too. We do have lockers, but they’re too small for a backpack. But nobody comes and clears the desks off at night, so if I really can’t take something home and it’s not too valuable, I just leave it there. Worst I can imagine happening is an email a few months later reminding people of the clear desk policy. I try as much as possible to follow our internal guidelines, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

      2. Kazelle*

        I feel you OP – we are back under the same circumstances, and started office days during wintertime in Canada, where winter boots are definitely a thing! We also only have day lockers, though our leadership is looking into permanent lockers. Through some trial and error, I’ve found the best way of packing my bag. I use a backpack. I have a “go bag” cosmetic bag with lipgloss, face powder, bandaids, tampons, earbuds, charging cable in it that stays in my backpack. Over time, I’ve figured out what I most need and have added it – mini Advil and deodorant, for example. I always take the same shoes with me (I miss having options!) and I buy tea instead of making it. It sucked at first and took some getting used to, but I’m figuring it out. This week I was able to wear sandals on my office day, and didn’t have to take shoes with me for the first time. What a gift! So just give yourself a bit of time, and accept my empathy.

        1. Kazelle*

          Also adding – I’m a masker too, but I do make sure I’m drinking plenty of water during the day. I have a backpack with side pocket for my bottle. I hope you’re making sure you get fluids in. I did find that as time went in I became more comfortable removing my mask to eat and drink. (No pressure to mask less – do what you need to feel and be safe! But letting you know it may feel less frightening as time goes on, if that’s a concern.)

            1. Lime green Pacer*

              Another masker here. Sometimes I have to make choices that balance risks— like when & where to eat or drink. I try to find a spot with fewer people (a less-used room) or, if possible, outdoors. I also keep unmasked times as short as possible. But I have dry mouth, so sometimes I will quickly move my mask aside to pop a mint or a stick of gum.

            2. Kazelle*

              100% agreed! Which is why I said “feel and be safe”. Apologies if it came off otherwise.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                It didn’t, there was nothing wrong with your comment (as someone who still needs to mask to be safe).

              2. Kate, short for Bob*

                it was that you said ‘it may feel less frightening’, as if the LW was acting from anxiety rather than medical need

                1. *kalypso*

                  IDK, it’s pretty frightening to have a high risk factor and needing to mask when fewer people are, so your masking becomes a lot more important…

        2. Ophelia*

          Just chiming in that I also work in an office where I come in fairly infrequently, and it’s generally all hot desks (we do have a reservation system, so on the rare occasion I’m in for several days in a row, I can keep the same desk, usually – so maybe we are “hoteling”? Not sure of the terminology.). I also have gone the backpack/toiletry bag route, which helps a lot.

        3. Sydney Bristow*

          This is what I do as well. I’m also a long-distance train commuter, so I’ve had to super hone my system. I’m also someone who masks, but I haven’t noticed becoming dehydrated. My hydro flask has a straw, so I can slip that up under my mask.

          These are my specifics in case it is helpful:
          *Backpack. The Aer x Ministry of Supply Lunar Pack has been great for me. It looks fairly professional, opens completely, has a great laptop sleeve, and also has the ability to slip over my suitcase handle. The water bottle is held internally with a zipper that is on the side of the backpack, so I never have to deal with it falling out when I have to tie my shoe or something, which was a problem with my old backpack.

          *Cord organizer that I found on amazon. It is called Bevegekos Small Carrying Tech Kit for Electronics and Accessories. There’s spots to hold my various headphones, charging cables, dongles, and plug. I never know which item I might need and of course the cord for my ipad doesn’t also work for my phone, etc. I throw my laptop charger in the backpack on its own because it is bigger.

          *Small toiletry bag that contains a travel hairbrush, hair ties, tampons, little pill organizer with compartments for painkillers, allergy meds, etc, hand sanitizer, folding toothbrush and paste, folding mirror, flat pack of kleenex, flat pack of clorox wipes, and chapstick. I found it on Amazon and it is called ANGOOBABY small pencil case. It has been so useful, that I actually made a duplicate version for my purse.

          *20oz Hydro Flask fits in the backpack space

          *Extra masks

          *All my tech (laptop, ipad, personal phone, work phone).

          *Keys fit on a hook in the front compartment.

          *Both phones, small wallet, airpods case, and work ID badge all fit in the small top zipper space that is cushioned.

          1. Sydney Bristow*

            Oh, I also throw in things like jerky, trail mix, and granola bars that I can eat at my desk if I feel comfortable. I haven’t figured out how to bring a lunch because of my long train ride. It would probably need to be a separate lunch bag, although depending on the shape of the food containers, they might fit in the backpack. There are lots of food options around my office, so I can run out to get something if needed.

          2. Marillenbaum*

            Sydney, this is a truly incredible setup, and thank you for including the product names! I will be stealing this for myself (I have a dedicated workspace, but could use something better for my commute than the tote bag I got for being a bridesmaid four years ago).

            1. Sydney Bristow*

              You’re welcome! Those bridesmaid bags have turned out to be some of the most useful bridesmaids gifts I’ve received

          3. Dehydrated LW*

            I absolutely love these specifics. Thanks for the organization inspiration!

            1. Sydney Bristow*

              You’re welcome! Good luck!

              I forgot to mention that the backpack I mentioned does have space for a cardigan or two and depending on the shoes you might be able to fit those as well. It looks nice totally full as well as more empty because of the structure of the bag.

      3. constant_craving*

        I’m guessing the people who came up with this policy have private offices?

        It seems like use of the lockers would be a reasonable step towards solving these issues. Any chance you can get a group of coworkers to collectively push back on the limit to only keep stuff in lockers during the day?

        1. BitterGravity*

          At my work in theory they also have to have clean desks apart from high shelves. They don’t.

          Luckily they don’t enforce the clean desk rule or I’d actually be looking for another job especially since there’s like 5% occupancy in the office (I come in for convenience/I hate working from home).

      4. Jessastory*

        Can you push back on that as a group? If they’ve bothered to give you lockers, you’d think that they could assign lockers and let you leave things overnight. If they’re just concerned about perishable items, they should ban food in lockers.

      5. Taketombo*

        They blocked off 50% of the desk space in the reduced size post-COVID cubes with a giant filing cabinet/drawers thing.

        Which we are not allowed to use.

    8. Sparkles McFadden*

      I didn’t have an assigned workspace for the first 20 years of my career, and we always had lockers.

      If the company won’t provide lockers (because why provide lockers when you can squeeze another twenty people into a work area?), I am not sure what else you could do besides getting a good-quality hiking pack. This is something I did at a post-retirement job which had us working at a tables, not desks. We also commandeered the back of a couple of file drawers for tea bags and such, but that only works in a small work area with co-conspirators.

      1. sofar*

        Yep, this. I use the same backpack I use as my airplane carryon, plus a tote bag (which I use for my lunchbox, purse and spare jacket). I’ve gotten used to it at this point, having gone back to the office (which does hotdesking) in 2021.

        I’m lucky in that my office has a really well-stocked kitchen that has all kinds of tea, snacks, etc., so I’m not having to worry about all that stuff.

    9. Momma Bear*

      If they don’t provide a locker, what about getting one of those carts/crates that teachers use, or the carts that people haul groceries in? They fold flat and can be a contained unit for your stuff. It’s not ideal, but better than looking like the junk lady from Labyrinth daily.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        I second rolling cart, rollable backpack, or small rolling overnight case (I use this sometimes when I am doing presentations and need to haul laptop, etc, from place to place). Hopefully you’re not dependent on public transport and something like this can live in your car, packed with everything you need each day.

        It’s third-best to lockers which is second-best to your own space, but may help!

        1. Astrid Infinitum*

          My thought was to use one of those big collapsible wagons like people use to take their kids to the beach? We use them at work all the time when we’re hauling around banners and other bulky stuff. Even a foldable wheeled cart and a plastic tub might work. You could keep the sweater, work shoes, pens & pencils, and other non-perishables in the tub and leave it in your car overnight if it’s safe to do so.
          I think it would be visually arresting to see something that big rolling down the hot desk aisles, and it may make someone with decision power see how ridiculous it is to make people take EVERYTHING home EVERY night.
          Side note: I have a personal-use collapsible wagon that I use to bring groceries into my apartment so I don’t have to make multiple trips.

    10. raresnail*

      I HATED this move when my NYC office moved to hot desking a number of years back. Once I got used to it, I found working in a large office where sales people could not easily find me a positive thing as an introvert. Nothing to add to the above. Having a locker is a must!

    11. Medusa*

      Same. We have lockers and a booking system so you’re not scrambling looking for a desk once you arrive.

    12. Little Beans*

      Half the things on your list (mugs, tea bags, cutlery, tissues, sometimes small snacks like granola bars) are things my office provides for all staff in our break room. We have a fantastic office manager who is always asking what we need and restocking things. Could you ask your employer to do the same so you don’t have to carry or store as many items yourself?

  2. Bandit*

    This is how my company wants us to work, too. I am a note-taker and refer to one of my 10-15 notebooks at least 3 times a day for notes, etc.. I have to carry them back and forth to my office EVERY day. I love post-its as reminders on my monitors. Can’t use those because I am a desk nomad. No fidget toys, have to carry in my water and tea cups every day. I have to bring my workout bag every day. I feel like a freaking pack mule and I’ve started WFH exclusively because of this. Luckily, my manager and main team is in another state, so that works for me. But, I’ve expressed multiple times in corportate feedback comms that the back-to-office plan sucks if we don’t get to have our own desks. Culture is compeltely non-existant due to this.

    1. NorwegianTree*

      Have you considered reMarkable? I got my company to buy it for me to avoid multiple notebooks.

      1. Bandit*

        I’ve seen those! Very cool idea…I doubt my company would pay for one, though. Might just have to get one for myself! :)

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I have a cheap alternative called rocketbook, which is erasable–you take a picture with the phone app and then erase the pages with water.

          1. Tupac Coachella*

            I got a Rocketbook to start, and when I saw that I used and liked it, I got a ReMarkable. It’s a good lower cost way to see if that would be something you’re into.

            As for the ReMarkable, I loooove it. It’s replaced literally all of my (many) paper notebooks. I don’t even use a few of the major functions and it’s still worth it. I had to send it back once due to a charging issue, and I missed it. (Service was quick and easy, too! Just be sure to register it at the time of purchase.)

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            You can also synch Rocketbook with a variety of apps – OneNote, Evernote, OneDrive/G-Suite, and more. Mine has icons at the bottom of the page so I can mark which section of my OneNote notebook it gets added to, and it will also take a shot at text recognition (though my handwriting is sufficiently awful that this requires cleanup).

            The notebook I have has note-taking, blank calendar grid, dot grid, and other formats, not just lined pages.

          3. GlitsyGus*

            I love my Rocketbook. I am very much a “I need to actually write it with a pen to remember it” person, but then end up with this enormous stack of notebooks. The Rocketbook lets me send them to a designated dropbox folder based on topic- so much easier to find what I’m looking for! Plus, I can always look stuff up on my phone or laptop any time I need to.

      2. Violet Fox*

        IT person here. DO NOT buy a reMarkable. They don’t have data encryption and are *extremly* insecure. They also cloud backup to.. somewhere, but reMarkable won’t tell anyone who hosts them, so if you work on anything at all sensitive you are uploading your data to ??.

        It’s like buying an iPad, with only one function, a subscription fee, and zero security. We don’t allow them at all for work, because they are basically asking for a data breach.

        1. T*

          If you’re willing to get an Ipad, might I recommend GoodNotes? It has been a life saver for me, a person who previously owned 50 million notebooks and would buy another every month or so, and now owns none.

      3. PirateNurse*

        I know a bunch of people like reMarkable, but I have a SuperNote and I absolutely love it (and they have stellar customer service).

    2. Sunflower*

      There are fidget pens so you can have a writing instrument and not carrying around extra stuff.

    3. KatieKat*

      I literally quit a job over this, pre-pandemic. With an office move, we went from a normal office to a hybrid + hotdesk setup, and were expected to lug our stuff band and forth daily. (We did have locking cabinets, but with mixed in-person and at-home days, it was impractical to regularly leave much at the office. Plus, your mini-locker could be under any random desk that any random person was already when you arrived in the office.) And if you cared about your chair, monitor, mouse, keyboard setup, you had to waste time setting up your own peripherals every day you were in the office.

      I had already been considering leaving, and this was absolutely the straw that broke the camel’s back. If my daily quality of life doesn’t matter to you, that’s a pretty big deal to me.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        Just the loss of productivity as you have to re-set up all the time seems like an argument against this.

      2. Redactle*

        I worked for a law firm that moved to hot-desking, and I heard that ‘so I can get a f****** desk’ was the most common reason given for leaving in exit interviews

    4. Jolene*

      It may not work at your price point, but I was a paper person, and switched to – iPad Pro, with stylus, and take notes on app (Notable), which are automatically backed up to firm’s files (Dropbox).
      I’ve done this for about 3-4 years, and it’s changed my life.

      1. Violet Fox*

        At least price-wise, all iPads are Apple Pencil compatible now and have been for quite some time.

    5. Therese*

      Many many years ago I worked in an office like this – I only lasted six months before I bailed. The people who make these decisions usually HAVE offices and are the types to not carry much with them.

    6. lilsheba*

      oh hell no. Who in their right mind thinks it’s acceptable to have hot desking in the age of covid? And not allowed to keep anything there overnight? That is a big nope from me. There is absolutely no point to doing this, when working from home worked just great for 3 years. This is ridiculous.

  3. Chris too*

    They need to provide lockers, like factories and retail stores do. Expecting you to take all your “stuff” home every day is ridiculous.

    1. Bandit*

      My company supplies lockers…but you can’t leave things there overnight!? How stupid!

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I worked in a retail situation where they didn’t have enough lockers, so you were lucky to get one. I shared with a colleague I happened to be related to, so I got lucky in that sense. Other folks had to suss out if they could find a colleague they trusted enough to share the space for personal items. Some folks needed to bring medication with them, so it was a frustrating situation for them.

    1. Shoes*

      Not “where.” I need coffee

      Change your shoe wardrobe WEAR shoes you don’t need to change.

      1. rayray*

        That is a simple solution, but it’s possible they wear shoes for walking/commuting that are more comfortable and durable, but then want a more formal pair to go with their work outfit in the office. Maybe going from sneakers to heels or something. I could see that maybe a pair of New Balances wouldn’t pair so well with a pant suit but they want something they can walk around in while getting to work.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I used to swap shoes when I took mass transit – sneakers for the bus, and dress shoes for the office. LW might consider a shoe bag that clips to the outside of their backpack.

      2. OffDutyWorkerBee*

        Plenty of people need to wear comfortable shoes or sneakers on their commute, though, whether because of foot health or because their work shoes are thin soled and will get worn out, for example. I think the company needs to provide lockers—it’s part of the reality of making the employees spend all day at an office. People need their stuff.

      3. Lola*

        In the winter, I regularly wear winter boots on my way to work, which are almost never appropriate for my job. Sometimes that’s not an option.

        1. Fuel Injector*

          When I lived in a winter-y place, I wore my winter boots in and carried my office shoes to change into. No, it was not great. I have sympathy for people who would rather leave their office shoes at the office.

        2. allathian*

          Yeah, I wear boots for at least 4 months of the year and wearing them at the office wouldn’t be comfortable. Thankfully we’re a casual office so I can wear my Birkenstock sandals in the winter and nobody cares. In the spring, fall and summer months I wear the same athleisure sneakers indoors and out.

          I’m so glad I still have my own desk, but my employer’s definitely considering downsizing the premises, because on any given day, some 20-40 percent of the desks are in use.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        So many situations where this is not possible. I commute via rail/walking, and I wear sneakers for that, which are not office-appropriate in my company. Especially as I get older and in bad weather, something with grippy soles, support, and a bit of warmth is necessary to avoid freezing or falling. I can’t imagine this would work for people in snowy climates who likely wear heavier boots during the winter and may have to change those for business-dress or casual shoes in the office (or just not having sweaty feet).

        It’s really not that unreasonable for an employer who requires hoteling to give people a place to stash a pair of shoes and a handful of office necessities.

      5. GlitsyGus*

        That can be tough in a very professional office combined with a public transit commute situation. If I don’t do walking shoes for the 2 mile total trek in between building and busses I will be unable to walk by the time Friday rolls around. But sneakers do NOT cut it in any of my offices I’ve worked in. So I swap my shoes from sneaks to flats at the office, Working Girl style.

      6. wittyrepartee*

        Not a city slicker I see! Living in a major city and taking public transit, I often want a very different pair of shoes to pound pavement as compared to sit at my desk. Essentially, I have sneakers for the outside, and want reasonably attractive slippers for the office.
        I suspect this is pretty different when one takes a car to work though.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I did think, it sounds like OP needs to shift their workwear a bit to adjust to this new reality. Wear layers and very comfortable shoes because you can’t have an “office cardigan” and “office shoes” at your desk anymore (I had those for years too so I know it’s a thing! But not with hot desking). I think it’s extremely unlikely you’d be docked for dressing slightly less formally, but if you were, you’d just explain that you can’t wear rain boots and switch to loafers when you arrive anymore, or commute in flats and switch to heels.

      1. ceiswyn*

        ‘Wear layers’ is not a solution, though. In the summer, when the commute may be much hotter than the office, ‘wear layers’ just means you have to *carry* your outer layers in the backpack with everything else.

        There are plenty of disabilities that make it impractical to use the same shoes for work and commuting; I have arthritis and missing bone in one ankle, and though I can walk fifty miles in my (pro quality) trainers, I end up quite literally crippled if I try to do that in even comfortable flats.

        I do have a big backpack that can fit laptop, charger, notebook, pens, cardigan, lunch, reusable coffee cup and a pair of sufficiently-professional flats if necessary; but it gets heavy. Which is another issue.

        Expecting everyone to take everything home every night is not really realistic, and I would really like to know the logic behind this change.

        1. Tess*

          I also have arthritis and was in exactly this situation. I asked for medical accommodation and they gave me a small, locking filing cabinet. This is not a perfect solution (I was annoyed I had to go that far for something so basic), but there are many hidden disabilities that would qualify for medical accommodation if you are expected to carry things back and forth to the office.

        2. Quill*

          Same here. If I had to change shoes (I almost never have to) I would 100% not be physically capable of carrying all the shit that I needed for work every day, especially in winter when my joints are, at best, bad. I can walk about five miles in hiking boots. I can’t lift or carry fifty pounds (job applications consist of me lying through my teeth), and I definitely was at my max at last job carrying laptop, charger, lunch, and lab notebook three blocks to the train and back. Especially at the beginning of march when we were still encased in ice.

          Honestly the requirement to have no secure location to stash stuff and no set routine reads to me like the side effect of edging out people with any sort of disability or medical need is not an unwelcome one.

          1. Tess*

            Yes, I agree completely. When I brought this forward, my manager said “I don’t see how storage space is an accessibility issue.” My immediate thought was people with Crohn’s or menstrual problems who need a change of clothes, people with diabetes who need food and supplies, people with chronic pain or arthritis who can’t carry heavy bags, neurodivergent people who do better with their own space and routine. I could go on and on, but apparently no one thought of this policy from a disability perspective. It’s truly shocking and discriminatory.

      2. Kwebbel*

        On top of the points about outside weather and mass transit, there’s also the issue of office temperature. My office is freezing cold all year long; in summer I always go short-sleeved outside, but I need to bring a sweater to the office to keep myself from shivering.

    3. Spencer Hastings*

      It may not be as easy as that, depending on the climate where the LW is and what their transportation situation is.

      1. MochiMochi*

        Yeah, I live in northern New England and this would not be an option. Snow in the winter, salt that stains and ruins shoes, mud season in the spring, and then rainstorms in the summer. And finding shoes comfortable enough for commuting on public transport, that are also office appropriate, is hard and expensive.

      2. Christmas Carol*

        *CRIES in Michigan too, from Halloween to mid May* Parts of my state got 2 feet of snow just last week.

    4. Anne Wentworth*

      Yeah no, that’s not how any of this works.

      Business professional-style shoes aren’t good for walking (to the bus stop etc.), nor are they sufficient for extreme weather. Plus inclement weather could destroy them. Office shoes are not commuting shoes.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        If my office put me through this kind of situation, I would stop wearing business professional shoes. I’m going to start wearing what works for my entire day, including my commute.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          Reminds me of the time a former employer banned open-toe shoes (in an office environment in a very fashion-forward city)… I switched immediately to wearing Toms and only Toms except for major/occasional client events. All of my shoes back then were open-toe, I wasn’t going to go out and buy a whole new shoe wardrobe because someone in the C-suite had an issue with seeing women’s feet.

        2. I have RBF*

          This. When I was in an office I refused to change out to dressy ankle breakers or thin dressy flats. I got sneakers that were all black so they sorta looked office like. No one ever even noticed.

          1. Quill*

            Same but I wear stompy hiking boots, because I have an orthopedist to throw at HR’s face if they tell me anything about dress code. I like having my ankles not collapse under me!

        3. ferrina*

          I did that. I’m hybrid (mostly remote, no mandatory days in the office), and I’ve been slowly making my office wear more casual. I now wear sneakers and nice jeans and a business casual blouse (I started at ballet flats, nice slacks and more formal-leaning business casual blouse)

        4. wittyrepartee*

          ok, but… I don’t want to wear my calf high snow boots around the office all day. I also don’t want to walk a mile in my super soft and comfy work flats.

        1. GlitsyGus*

          I dunno, my male bestie has pretty similar issues doing the public transit commute in his hard leather dress shoes. I think men have more options that are a bit more versatile, and WAY more options in a business casual environment, but “professional corporate” shoes hurt everyone without a private office and expensed town car service.

      2. Seashell*

        Depends on the office. Most of the offices I’ve been in lean business-casual, so I wore comfortable flats when I had to go in.

      3. AngryOctopus*

        This. It gets really hot in the summer here, and I commute in flip flops, to prevent my feet (and me) from overheating. But I can’t wear flip flops in the lab, that’s both illegal and stupid. So I keep closed toed shoes at my desk to change into. I don’t want to have to carry them back and forth every day!

    5. Dehydrated LW*

      This is what I’ve started doing now that the weather has turned nice, but during the winter I have giant snowboots (a necessity in my city). So admittedly, this is only a problem for… seven-ish months a year.

    6. K8M*

      Also not an option for those of us who have to wear safety footwear during the work day.

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        Yes. At my last in-person workplace, we had lockers, but they were too small to store safety shoes/boots AND anything else. For those of us who wanted to use our locker for other things, they had a large open shelving unit for shoes *in the break room*. That’s right: we were expected to eat our lunch in the presence of around 25 pairs of well-used safety shoes! It was pretty revolting. Eventually they removed the shoe shelf to just outside the break room, but it didn’t help much. Bletch!

    7. Guacamole Bob*

      Not going to happen for me – on days I have to work out of a different location I have to carry my office shoes in with me. I have plantar faciitis and a mile-long walk to the train – I will be in serious pain if I try to wear anything but supportive sneakers for my commute, and those won’t fly in-office except on a very quiet Friday.

    8. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      It is hard to bike 12 km up a hill in work shoes (and apparently clomping around in bike cleats is “not professional” unless you’re a professional cyclist)

      1. Velomont*

        Cyclist here, and old enough (64) that performance is not really an issue anymore – have you tried mountain biking shoes? I have a pair of Shimano shoes and they’ve got SPD cleats. The sole/tread is thick enough that I can walk a fair bit in them. In a carpeted setting it’s a total non-issue and on a hard floor there might be the odd click. They’re totally different from road shoes. Mine are no longer in production but this is probably the closest thing to them.

    9. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This could work in some situations, but maybe I’m biased because I pick shoes for comfort more than style, expectations be damned. Couldn’t do it in winter, though, since I take transit and it can get very cold and slushy.

    10. Elitist Semicolon*

      I walk or bike to work and live in the Upper Midwest, where we routinely have winter windchills below 0º F. There are no shoes that would be comfortable and warm enough for the walk to work and also comfortable and not-too-warm for me to spend the day in.

    11. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      I feel like that’s the default, and if OP was not doing that, they probably have a reason.

    12. Me*

      Ive never been a shoe-changer but A. I don‘t work in offices that need dressy shoes (good thing, since I usually take public transit so some walking is inevitable) and B. I don‘t live/work somewhere with srs winter weather that regularly requires me to wear winter boots

      For many there’s no need to change your shoes out but there are some legit reasons to

  4. Bob-White of the Glen*

    I am so sorry OP. I’m not sure why decision makers are not seeing how this type of mandate/implemented change destroys moral and increases job hunting by employees. Hopefully enough people will push back and you can get back some of what you lost.

    Is there any place to put lockers in? It’s a fairly inexpensive way to give employees a secure place to store stuff (you’d just need a lock.) But that’s only helpful if there’s unused space, and they are willing to see your pain.

    Good luck OP, and you are absolutely right in not wanting to haul in your daily necessities each day. What a pain.

    1. Bob-White of the Glen*

      To be fair, there were no comments yet when I came up with my brilliant, but obviously not innovative, locker suggestion. :D

      1. Dehydrated LW*

        It is indeed a marvelous idea! I think I mentioned on another thread that we’re not allowed to store anything in the lockers overnight, which pretty much renders them useless to me. But I appreciate the thought!

        1. Bob-White of the Glen*

          Is there any chance you could push back on this? Go to management and explain why having a locker would be helpful? It seems like a silly policy, unless there are just too many employees. Again, I’m sorry about this easy-for-management-to-solve-problem-but-they-won’t.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Agreed. Even schoolchildren can leave things in their lockers overnight.

            The other part is that there’s no rhyme or reason to the desk selection daily. Does it take up a lot of time to find a desk and convey to others where you are that day? I used to hot desk at a client site, but always in the same bank of “visitor” spaces.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              One presumes that part of the point of enforced presenteeism is in-person teamwork. That’s pretty difficult to achieve if people are unpredictably spread around the building.

            2. DataSci*

              In our hot desking situation teams are assigned an area, so you don’t need to hunt through the entire office for your teammates. The first person in usually says “I’m next to the window” or something on Slack.

        2. Shirley Keeldar*

          The thing where you cannot leave stuff in the lockers overnight just…baffles me. I am baffled.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            I assume that there are fewer lockers than there are total employees, so whoever’s in the office that day can have one but they don’t have enough to assign them permanently.

            1. Shirley Keeldar*

              Okay, thanks, that does help…but still, I cannot help imagining the facilities manager giving everybody a PowerPoint on the new space:

              “Okay, here are the lockers. Everybody gets a locker. During the day, when you have a desk, you can leave stuff in the locker. During the night, when you DON’T have a desk, you CANNOT leave stuff in the locker. Everybody got that? The lockers are for WHEN YOU DON’T NEED THEM. Moving on…”

              1. ferrina*

                This. My office has just a handful of lockers, but they are for people that need to store things in the office overnight/for days when they are not coming in. That’s the whole point- so you don’t need to carry things back and forth on your commute. That’s been the whole point of lockers since elementary school.

        3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          This is extremely silly. What would happen if you just… ignored that rule?

          1. Kazelle*

            Not sure about OP’s office, but in my case, you sign out a locker key for the day, and it corresponds to the workstation you booked for that day. So they’d be able to trace it back to me if I left my stuff in there and kept the key. I think it might take them a while, to figure it out, but I would definitely get told it was not cool.

        4. Teapot Wrangler*

          Have you considered just “forgetting” to take things home from your locker and seeing what happens? People tend to use the same desks, lockers etc. day after day so unless someone is literally spot checking, who would know?

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I mean, it’s the result of many people WFH. Small price to pay, isn’t it? This is what a lot of companies are doing including many in my former building. No reason to pay high rent for a luxurious office with thirty seats when only two or four people show up on any given day. It’s extremely unlikely that many show up at once. I’m sure each company is doing their own math and renting accordingly. Also left more money for raises in 2022, at least at my job.

      1. Cyndi*

        To be fair it isn’t clear from the OP whether she’s going to be hybrid or full time in office. I’m definitely projecting like crazy based on stuff going on in my own workplace right now but…how is making in-person workers’ lives harder a “small price to pay” for the WFH people to continue working from home, unaffected by the changes?

      2. Bob-White of the Glen*

        “My office is starting to mandate that we come back in person” may mean once a week, or it may mean daily. I doubt anyone would be that concerned about carting in what they need for the day once or twice a week. But 4 – 5 times a week would be a grind. And you if have to cart stuff in all the time, because the majority of people rarely come in, well that’s problematic too.

        I do not think it is unreasonable for a company to provide storage space for full-time employees. The best way to not have employees is to do everything for the benefit of the company.

      3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Hotelling/hot desking without storage options is not the only way to accomplish this. Also, this “small price to pay” is often the result of companies forcing people back into the office after they’ve successfully worked fully remote for several years.

      4. ferrina*

        No, this is LW paying the price for bad office management planning. My company moved from 90% mandatory in-person pre-pandemic to purely optional office attendance post-pandemic. A couple times they’ve considered a back-to-office, but thankfully are allowing us to choose our own set-up. You can opt to come in every day, a couple times per week, a couple times per year, etc. We just ask that people are consistent so we can adjust our footprint. We’re in an office-share set-up where we share the floor with several other companies. We have a small number of assigned desks, then open desks that are generally where our people sit (if you don’t come in at least 3 days per week, you get a floating desk).

        A LOT of thought went into this. We took a lot of polls, had discussions, looked at how often people come in and what those people need to support them. We’ve adjusted our workflow several times, and adjusted our space every 6-12 months to reflect the changing needs.
        On a related note, our retention rate is the highest it’s ever been.

      5. That's Amore*

        Why should there be any price to pay, when it could easily be avoided by better planning? Install sufficient lockers for all the employees, done.

      6. Alice*

        Many people working from home –> smaller office space
        Checks out

        Many people working from home –> smaller office space AND no storage
        Why do you think this is a cause-effect relationship?

      7. Kevin Sours*

        It’s not the hotdesking that’s the problem. It’s the company half assing hot desking and leaving it up to the workers to sort out how to adapt to a terrible environment. If you are going to go with hot desking or hoteling as a solution you need to both make sure it makes sense for your situation and more importantly *commit* to it.

      8. Lucky Meas*

        “Also left more money for raises in 2022, at least at my job”

        The idea that companies in general are passing the savings of hot desking down to employee bonuses is genuinely hilarious.

    3. Chief Bottle Washer*

      This is why I hate hot desking. I am supposed to be going back to the office 2-3 days per week, but whenever I go in, I have to hunt for accessories like a laptop stand, adjust the desk and chair height, plug in all my bits and bobs and only then can I actually start working. So I stopped going in.

  5. Bo*

    One of those trolley shoppers with multiple compartments? If you are allowed to “park” it in a corner somewhere overnight.

    1. Dehydrated LW*

      Kind of love this idea. If they won’t make it convenient, I’ll make myself as in-the-way as possible.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Came here to say this. I was a teacher with no office or desk. I moved classrooms every period and had a rolling pull cart (size of a milk crate) from Office Depot with all my stuff. I had to take it home every day so I made sure I could lift it into my car. Sometimes I had a box on top that I would lift out first. I had to replace them at least once a year, usually 2x, because books are so heavy.

      If you have to commute, IDK what you would do! Maybe a rolling suitcase?

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        Make it a BIG suitcase so they see you and feel bad!

        (Yes, this is a joke.)

        1. I have RBF*

          Actually, I think they should see them and feel bad! Not joking.

          At one job I was in an open plan benching arrangement, with 36 inches of “bench” assigned, and a monitor and docking station, keyboard, and cheap mouse. No personal space at all! The place also had too few conference rooms, so everyone took conference calls on speaker or Zoom at their “desk”.

          They did provide us lockers, but they were far enough away from the benches that I just had my “office” in a backpack – lunch, trackball, notebook, pens/pencils, coffee cup, soda/water, post-its, laptop, charging cables, and sweater. I never did the shoe change thing – I refused to buy shoes just for the office to appease fashion people. I’m disabled, so no one pushed back on my walking shoes in the office.

          1. Lucas*

            I half-suspect Zoom and Teams calls will be what eventually kill off the office.

            I spend a fair amount of time in meetings, and since we first started edging towards hybrid rather than WFH, I have never once been in a meeting with four or more people that didn’t have at least one person dialling in (whether due to WFH that day or being in a different office.)

            And the kicker is that the moment one person dials in from outside, the session is better done remotely. Nobody has to find a quiet space, or wonder if their laptop will pick up the wifi once they unplug from the desk, or squint at a 7-point font on a 14-inch screen, or deal with extraneous noise from other people. Virtual meetings are fundamentally better when people are in their own separate spaces, and they’re so much simpler than in-person that the genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

          2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

            The change of shoe thing could be a winter/ rainy weather thing. For example, I cannot wear snow boots all day in the winter so the last 2 places I’ve worked I’ve kept a spare set of shoes to change into. Same thing with rainboots. I am physically not able to wear them all day.

    3. Whoomp There It Is*

      My old job did something like this. It was a law office and we moved to an open-plan space, furnished with table desks that had no drawers or storage whatsoever. Law is still a very paper-heavy profession, so it quickly became clear that this was a bad idea. HR compromised by buying everyone a couple of filing/storage carts on wheels to keep next to our desks.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I use one of those fabric craft trolleys for my teacher cart. It’s like a very stowaway-able weekend bag when the handle is down. Teacher tote bags are also good; it’s basically a bundle of pockets which you can park under or next to your desk. If OP is a driver, I would probably pull a rolling laptop bag (a colleague uses a great one from IKEA) in one hand, and carry a tote in the other. If they do public transport, I’d get the best backpack with all the pockets (The one I use has become my pencil cup replacement. I just need to leave the zip open to take my pens out of their section). I would also consider if there are any small acceptable places to leave the odd bit of stuff. We don’t have dedicated classrooms where we can leave allthethings, but no one cares about leaving teabags by the kettle, or a jacket on the coat hook. Just make sure you don’t leave anything too expensive or irreplaceable while you’re figuring out what you can get away with.

    5. GlitsyGus*

      I was thinking this. Yes, your office absolutely SHOULD supply lockers or something, but right now they aren’t so you need to adapt.

      What about a rolling carry on suitcase? You could keep your basics in there in plastic containers to make it easy to organize and move from desk to desk, ie. one box with post its, good pens, extra USB cable, other office supplies you use every day so you can pull that bad boy out and plunk it on whatever desk you’re using that day. Then one with “break room” stuff, tea, cutlery, etc. It’ll be a pain to set up, but once you have a system it will probably be pretty easy to maintain. Then add your sweater and office shoes. Leave it perma-packet by your front door, throw your laptop in the front pocket, and either put your lunch in the suitcase or get a bag that can clip tothe handle, and you’re all set every day.

      Plus, if you get a bunch of you doing that the embarrassment of having your office look like an international airport every morning with everyone bringing in their rolley-bags in and leaving them lined up against the wall or tethered to desks or whatever you all need to do with them during the day, will get the C-suite to provide a better option.

  6. Ihmmy*

    a water cup with a straw really helped me stay hydrated while masking at work – it’s a lot easier to slip a straw in under the mask than sipping from a cup or one of those water bottles you have to turn upside down to drink from. Plus they can come in fun colours

    1. Beth*

      Second the straw!

      And please accept my heartfelt sympathies, OP. Your situation sucks and your boss sucks rocks through a straw. I offer you a virtual solidarity fist bump as the only person in my own office who still wears a mask.

      1. Dehydrated LW*

        Good thinking – time to invest in some snazzy silicone straws! That said, my boss is as upset about this edict as I am, possibly even more. It’s my grandboss x … like, 7 or 8 who had this delightful little brainwave.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I’m sure that the grandboss is not personally affected by this. I think that a team discussion with your immediate boss should happen and that feedback go to the grandboss. Maybe if enough teams ask to at least tweak the system to make it more workable (and show loss of productivity) GB may come up with a better solution.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          This kind of nonsense can only come from someone with their own office.

        3. Julia*

          I have a hydroflask insulated cup with a straw built into the cup. It also prevents spills.

    2. Dumpster Fire*

      When we returned to school in September 2020, that’s what I started using. I suggested it to my department chair, who brought it to the principal, and within a week everyone was given a couple hundred individually-wrapped disposable straws for kids to use when they needed them. (And then my department chair gave us all our own insulated cups with straws and department logo, which I still use ALL DAY EVERY DAY. I should probably wash it someday….)

    3. ferrina*

      Agree! I have a water bottle with a straw, and I will absent-mindedly slurp water while thinking of the next paragraph in my report or whatever. It takes less thought than an open water bottle, and it’s fun to use.

    4. Katherine Boag*

      I wear a mask at work and in public/crowds and dont want to expose myself just to drink water. So I make sure I take regular outdoor breaks with my water bottle: during my breaks at work, halfway through tuesday night board games (7pm-10pm). At longer events I set a recurring 1hr timer to go outside with my water bottle :)

  7. Fuzzywuzzy*

    I’ve worked in a similar environment where the cubes were a choose-your-own-for-the-day and while that was how it went down in theory, in practice we were all creatures of habit and gravitated to the same ones day after day. I’d get some items that you feel comfortable enough losing or being used by someone else and leave them at your cube anyway. If management asks you to remove them or you get complaints about it you can revert to the lug-everything-home plan, but I bet it flies under the radar and your coworkers will be doing the same and it really isn’t a serious enough violation that you’ll burn much capital by going this route.

    1. ceiswyn*

      I second this :) Every ‘hot-desking’ office I’ve worked at, people quite quickly graduated to always using the same desk.

      1. Annabananapants*

        Ha – my office just went though this same thing. Whole big new facility (they signed the lease to build out a half-built building in early 2020! what luck), recalling office staff in spring 2023. Told everyone that unless you worked in office 5 days a week (…that’s none of us…) there would be no guaranteed desks. But…we all tend to sit at the same desk anyway – it’s been 8 weeks and it’s working fine with people personalizing their spaces and knowing that if you’re not there that day it’s very possible someone else might use your desk. If ever needed. (it is not, currently, ever needed.) Everyone’s locker suggestion is great – we settled on filing cabinet drawers but that’s fine. Even if I had a locking space, I wouldn’t keep anything at the office I wouldn’t mind losing forever – you’re on your employer’s property and stuff happens. My sticking point was the ergonomic wrist rest I need while typing – not a standard part of cubicles, so any time HR keeps talking up the “you can work anywhere in the building! sofas! quiet rooms! cubicles!” part I just point out that no, I can’t. If we ever truly have to start moving all the time, I guess the wrist rest will go in the same to drawer as my cardigan at night.

    2. Molly*

      This idea ^ gave me an idea – If you can’t leave stuff out on the desk, maybe you could bring a small box to put your stuff in at the end of the day and put it on the chair or on the floor (the only issue with the floor is when the floors get vacuumed or mopped).

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, by week two of this setup I’d be stashing a bag of tea and granola bars in a drawer or cabinet somewhere, or in the back of the bottom drawer of a desk that’s in the general area I usually manage to sit in, because in every office I’ve worked in I’d have been able to find somewhere like that.

        I wouldn’t do it with anything valuable, though.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Isn’t the whole point of hot desking that there are more worker bees than there are desks? What happens when two people each claim a desk as “theirs”?

      1. Kazelle*

        Yeah, in my case we have “neighbourhoods” (e.g. a floor in the office tower) where we book a workstation in advance. Way more people than desks, because we’re all in 40-60% of the time, and you can’t always get the same spot. I’m typically in Monday-Tuesday, and I can’t even get the same spot for both days, so leaving stuff at a desk isn’t practical. Also, there are no drawers at the workstation, so you couldn’t stash things there. It’s a whole new world…

      2. Waiting on the bus*

        We have an Excel sheet with a seating plan. We enter which desk we plan to sit at on which day. Basically, two of my colleagues and I prefer to sit at the same desk. We tend to come on alternate days, so it’s not an issue. If we go in at the same day, whoever reserved the desk in the sheet first gets it, the others pick other desks that are still free. Right now, we can reserve desks until the end of June if we already know we’ll come in on certain days. All three of us have already reserved our regular office days for June.

        I really like the system and I have just stayed home and WFH on days when I wanted to go in on short notice but the office was especially full and no desks in our part of the office were open.
        But the company does allow WFH days and is aware that we have about 20% less desks than needed, so WFH for part of the employees is unavoidable. And people have to use the sheet, which some people on other teams really take issue with, for some reason.

  8. HailRobonia*

    Even with storage lockers or something similar I think that hot desking is a terrible idea. Even if workspaces aren’t assigned, we all know that People Have Preferences and will claim spots as their own. It’s like in my old apartment complex that had a parking lot with no assigned spots… I made the mistake of parking in a spot that was “claimed” by another resident and it became A Thing.

    1. Bandit*

      Exactly this! You know it will happen…people will surely get possessive over certains cubes.

      Luckily, my company has an online reservation system. So, in theory you could reserve the same desk every day for a month. But, I still don’t trust everyone is following that.

      1. I have RBF*


        Most hot-desking places don’t even have the privacy of cubes, just desks in the middle of the room.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      There are tradeoffs and it depends on the situation. All too often it’s some bean counter thinking only 90% of desks are occupied on a given day because people are on PTO or whatever. And that’s just stupid. People who are in the office full time should have permanently assigned work stations.

      But if it’s an environment with hybrid WFH or high travel jobs where you’re it’s unusual to have more than 50% of desks occupied on a given day, that’s a lot of real estate that can be used for other purposes.

    3. Bethany*

      Hot desking makes a lot of sense when you’re doing hybrid work. Most people in my office work 2 days a week in the office. Are they each supposed to get a desk and let it sit empty three days a week, so people can feel good about having tissues and photos at their desks?

      Not to mention that fact that we are split across multiple different offices and project offices of choice. Someone might work in the main office one day a week, the secondary office one day a week, a project office one day a week and the rest from home.

      1. I have RBF*

        But three days a week is over half time in one office, and thus reasonable to assign a fixed seat.

        1. Bethany*

          Maybe you misread my comment, but in the situations I described nobody is working three days a week in the same office. If you work three days a week or more in the same office you get an assigned desk, but that’s <10% of people.

  9. Prospect Gone Bad*

    My company downsized to this arrangement in 2021 (the downside of too many people WFH, our previous office was lovely but expensive!)

    The issue for me was carrying everything and feeling like I was slouching from lugging too much around, in different bags.

    I simplified into one large laptop bag I found on Best Buy’s site (they have a good ecommerce site, not everything needs to be from Amazon). It has a lot of compartments and the back feels a bit solid if I put a notebook on the backside of the backpack, so if helps keep my back straight, and everything in one bag,

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, I think the LW can fit everything into a backpack based on my own experiences occasionally taking my laptop back and forth between home and office.

      My suggestions:

      – A laptop backpack, like Prospect Gone Bad suggests, where the laptop is up against your back to keep everything solid/straight

      – Two outside water bottle pockets for your water bottle (or cup w/ straw, as others have suggested for ease of drinking with mask) and for your mug (may be easier to switch to a travel mug–less breakable than a standard coffee mug, but may be less easily refillable with your office’s tea/coffee set-up)

      – The main pocket of your backpack should be able to hold your lunch, novel, shoes, and cardigan. I recommend packing them so the heaviest item is in the bottom of the bag. Tea bags and granola bars can probably also fit in here too.

      – The smaller/outer pockets of the backpack can hold lip balm, hand cream, and tissues.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Adding a thought on shoes:

        I assume that currently office shoes are selected on the basis of comfort, looking professional, and matching with typical office outfits. Two more considerations for when you’re bringing your shoes each day:
        – how much the shoes weigh
        – how resistant to squishing they are in the backpack

        1. Dehydrated LW*

          Love these suggestions, thank you! Extremely practical. I’ll be weighing my shoes and choosing a winner on that basis.

          1. Kez*

            As absurd as it is to shop for things when you have perfectly functional versions that are simply more bulky or heavy, I would also recommend using travel blogs and sites as a shopping guide when you need to replace something like shoes or even certain office supplies!

            I needed to buy shoes I could pack easily but wear heavily and one of those “here’s what I keep in my kit for travelling internationally while working remotely” articles helped me find some ultra-light options that I also liked, and now those shoes are my go-to office option.

          2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            If they work for your feet, and are “formal” enough for your office, I recommend Toms. They’re very light and easy to compress into a small space without getting damaged.

      2. mli25*

        As a former business traveler, I highly recommend the Swiss Gear backpack/roller bags. I have two that have lasted more than a decade of heavy airplane/train usage. I only use them for personal travel now, but so worth the investment. Mine has three levels of pockets (laptop closest to my back; pens, gums, etc closest to the outside; lunch, sweater, cables, etc in the middle, with two side pockets (one for my water bottle, one for an umbrella). Adjustable straps and a solid handle.

      3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        If you need a standard-sized mug to fit in the coffee/tea dispenser but need something less breakable than ceramic, try looking at a store that sells camping supplies. Yeti makes a normal-mug-sized mug, for example, and it’s insulated so your coffee will stay hot for a long time. Or there are loads of cute enameled-metal mugs out there.

  10. Bee*

    I got a folding crate cart on wheels, stored everything I needed in the tub, and wheeled it wherever I needed to go. (I got one with a lid so people would be less inclined to “go shopping” in my office supplies.)

    1. Knighthope*

      Agree – did this for 10 years as an adjunct at a college. It was even hard to find a space to sit and work.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I posted this above but it fits here, I got the same folding crate from Office Depot.

      I was a teacher with no office or desk. I moved classrooms every period and had a rolling pull cart (size of a milk crate) from Office Depot with all my stuff. I had to take it home every day so I made sure I could lift it into my car. Sometimes I had a box on top that I would lift out first. I had to replace them at least once a year, usually 2x, because books are so heavy.

      If you have to commute, IDK what you would do! Maybe a rolling suitcase?

  11. Colette*

    I have resisted going back to the office so far, but if I’d pare down to the essentials (laptop, water bottle, etc.) and accept that I’d have to wear wet socks/winter boots/a jacket inside if it’s cold. I’d also be pretty quick to go home if I didn’t have something I needed.

  12. HR Chick*

    My husband and his coworkers asked if they could remain on one desk (eight person hot desk situation) permanently. Because of the type of collaboration needed to do their jobs, the company agreed they can use the same desk permanently. However, if my husband is out of the office, his seat/area is and can be used by anyone else.

    This option has allowed them to keep a few minor personal items on their desk. The rest of the items go in a locker.

    Do you have a group/team situation like this? If you can all band together and ask to remain on one desk all the time? It could work.

    1. Dehydrated LW*

      This is a good idea, and I am sort of hoping that we could… just kind of take over an area that’ll be only ours, and maybe no one will notice? Though it is possible that someone will notice.

      1. Kwebbel*

        Indeed, in my experience, this more or less will happen within a year. Unless upper management is hyper vigilant about enforcing their Great New Deal.

  13. kiwidg1*

    We went through this as well, but our office proved to be pretty smart about it. Maybe you can funnel in some of these suggestions?

    1) All desks are set up identically with docking stations, dual monitors, and power strips for personal gear charging.

    2) Everyone was issued a set of headphones so you wouldn’t take virtual calls on a shared headset.

    3) Some of the desks are “hot desks”, meaning first person to sit there in the morning gets that desk. (All our cubes are numbered, btw.)

    4) Other desks are “hoteling” desks, meaning you can sign up for them through a reservation system.

    5) All desks have a whiteboard style name tag on it. You put your name and the date on it so poeple can find you.

    6) Our office issued totes that fit inside our lateral file cabinets. Those of us who have them use them to store personal stuff – my wireless keyboard and mouse, mugs, snacks, office sweater and the like. We don’t lock the cabinets, but we can leave stuff there overnight. Our offices are not severely prone to theft, so it works out well for us.

    The biggest problem/complaint we have is rearranging monitors and chairs and sometimes resetting displays at a new workstation. Most people tend to gravitate to the same places when they come in though.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      One of the things I’ve noticed is that if you are going to implement hot desking/hoteling is that you have to *commit* to it. You *need* modular setups that allow people to plug in quickly. And you need to maintain them so that people aren’t hunting for things that are supposed to be there when they come in. You need desks/chairs that are easy to adjust. You need to have a solution for people’s stuff.

      Mostly you need to figure out how to minimize the impact on people.

  14. Feral Campsite Raccoon*

    Maybe buy yourself a super fancy bag with lots of compartments? It won’t help with the carting things back and forth, but might make you feel more organized and less sad about the whole deal.

    1. Tupac Coachella*

      Some of laptop bags (often marketed as “tech bags”) specifically have secure straps and pockets as well as holes to put cords through. If your work lends itself to it, you might consider creating a one-bag-office setup, where you literally just open your bag, plug things in, and get to work. A small one could fit inside a bigger bag to fit lunch, cardigan, etc. I also like weekender bags, which usually have a special compartment for shoes in the bottom.

  15. Kimberly*

    Is there a place you could stash one of those small tiered carts? Or space to piecemeal keeping your things at work? Like a cardigan and small shoe bag hung in a coat closet, or a small basket in the break room cabinet with your teas and mugs?

    1. Dehydrated LW*

      Short answer: Maybe, but not yet.

      Long answer: Our floor is very nebulous from an organizational standpoint right now. There’s no consistency about who’s supposed to be in what location. This will hopefully change later this year, but for now, there’s no permanent setup for coats, cabinets, or really any storage spot that we’re guaranteed permanent access to. If this sounds like a nightmare, that’s only because it is.

      1. Chutney Jitney*

        No setup for coats?! On the floor. Leave your stuff everywhere. Let it be inconvenient. Let people trip. But that’s only if management will be inconvenienced.

        I love how they demanded you come back before actually making it feasible. My sympathies.

        1. Sarcasm tag required*

          go one step further: leave a coat on the floor then report it as a near miss.

      2. I have RBF*

        When they moved us at a university job out of actual offices into a crappy open plan, there were no coat racks, and not even cube walls to hang them on. You were supposed to hang them… somewhere… away from your desk, or hang them over your chair. That just sucked.

        Fortunately, I had bought an inexpensive coat rack to go in my old office. Against “orders” for the pristine open plan that was supposed to be 100% “uniform”, I brought it with me and set it up in my group’s area. They started to gripe, but I put it in a corner that was otherwise unused, so they didn’t have a leg to start on about “clutter” or “blocking access”. My boss used it as much or more than I did, so when they laid me off, I willed it to him.

        But unused corners and inexpensive coat racks can solve a lot of “where do I hang my winter coat?” problems. Most open plan designers don’t think about the actual comfort of the people assigned to try and work in them.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        Ugh. That stinks. There’s only so much you can do, but I have some suggestions for working with absolutely no on-site storage.

        Ways to organize:

        – Set up a permanent “work bag” that you don’t have to unpack every day. Put in all the stuff you want on hand every day – chapstick, tissues, cutlery, etc. Ideally pack a week’s worth of consumables, so you don’t have to worry about restocking your bag mid-week.

        – Mesh luggage organizer bags are great for keeping your work bag tidy. You can get them cheap at discount stores.

        – Make a “landing pad” by your front door at home with a spot for your backpack and shoes plus a tray/basket. All work stuff gets deposited here on the way in. Anything you want to bring for tomorrow gets staged in the basket. You might also want to keep a box of spare snacks there to grab on the way out, a spare raincoat/umbrella, etc. This really helps me cut down on stress in the morning from worrying I’ve forgotten something… it’s all right by the door ready to grab and go.

        – If you drive to work, make a kit for your car where some of the bulkier items can live. For example, a spare change of clothes, office shoes, folders/notebooks you use, etc.

        Things to buy/bring (especially if you don’t drive):

        – Swap regular mug for a travel mug or thermos. This way you can put it in your bag without worry about leaking.

        – Leakproof, non-breakable tupperware are worth their weight in gold. Get one with a screw-on or latching lid – avoid press-on lids unless you like finding soup in your backpack. I find 3 cup (700ml) size is the sweet spot… big enough for a satisfying lunch, small enough it won’t crowd my backpack

        – Compact travel rain gear. Either a mini umbrella, or a thin jacket/poncho that packs down into a pocket sized stuff sack.

        – If your regular cardigan/sweater is too bulky to fit in your backpack easily, can you get a thinner one that folds down more compact?

        – Coat hook meant to hang over a door (those s-shaped ones). Hang it on your cube wall, nearby door, etc. so you have somewhere to put your coat each day, then take it with you when you go.

        – Can you commute in your work shoes? If not, can you find work-appropriate shoes suitable for commuting?

  16. KHB*

    I made a business case for why I (if not necessarily everyone else) need an assigned workspace where I can keep stuff from day to day: The way I work involves a fair amount of books and paper (the only way I’ve found to overcome writer’s block is to write all my first drafts out longhand before typing them up), and it’s not practical for me to pack everything up and take it home every day. Because I committed to work in the office (almost) every day, I’m getting to keep my assigned office.

  17. JSPA*


    There are several “sip” or “sippo” valves for adding to masks, or masks with valves built in, for drinking through a straw. I don’t know if the idea is to sterilize the straw repeatedly as well, or to assume that airflow-to-item contamination is so minimal as to be irrelevant (quite probably so).

    Not having a welcoming workplace that cares one iota about worker convenience and comfort:

    Ah, you know this part.

    If it were easy and convenient to leave, you’d probably already be doing it, so no lectures on that. But for the record, this choice of theirs does suck.

    In particular, it seems designed to quietly weed out

    a) anyone with more material needs than the minimum
    b) people without the physical strength and coordination to haul their lives with them all the time, or who are more exhausted than they were, say, in 2019
    c) people who don’t ascribe to a “car first” way of life
    d) people who are willing to stand up for their needs

    No pesky illegal medical discrimination needed, no age discrimination needed, no disposable income discrimination needed, no discrimination against pumping mothers, no anti-collective actions needed–they can just have the people in those categories disproportionately choose to leave, by making life a little suckier for everyone.

    On the off chance that they make a lot of noise about being supportive and inclusive, though, I’d send an email pointing out how all of the above groups are disadvantaged by the new normal. At minimum, they ought to provide lockers in a clean well-lighted space that’s easily accessed throughout the day, as needed.

    1. Minimal Pear*

      I’ve heard great things about Sip Masks! I’ll post a link in another comment.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I have to haul in my pump bag, my purse and my lunch every day. I feel this. And I have to drop the kids off first so before I even arrive at the office add two kid lunches and two kid bags go extra clothes/nappies/etc.

  18. Coco*

    Aside from providing lockers (which has already been suggested), would a wheeled cart/business case help? It’s smaller than a full piece of luggage, but larger than a standard laptop case. Rolling things around would probably be better for your back/shoulders than a backpack.

  19. a lawyer*

    Several attorneys in my office use a rolly bag instead of a purse or regular laptop bag. If you look up “roller bag for laptop” or “roller bag underseat” on Amazon you’ll see what I mean. That way there is plenty of space to fit the laptop, water, notepads, etc., if company won’t assign you a locker or stop this stupid policy altogether.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Roller bag FTW. I switched to one from a briefcase and my back is much happier.

      1. mli25*

        I love my Swiss Gear one. The only downside of it was when I traveled and has two rolling bags (one for my work stuff and one for my personal/overnight stuff). I actually switched to a backpack for work stuff. For daily commuting, the roller bag is a dream

  20. Beth*

    If you end up shopping for a really high-quality bag to hold your stuff, I’d like to make a specific recommendation of a company called Baggallini. I don’t work there and never have, but my wife and I buy a LOT of their bags.

    1. Dehydrated LW*

      I love bag recommendations, thank you! The casual observer might think I have enough bags, but the casual observer would be wrong, I always need more.

      1. Jezebella*

        FYI, Costco is currently having a Baggalini event. I want one of the backpacks but I do not NEED one of the backpacks. Such a sad state of affairs.

      2. Sarah*

        I love my Baggalini purses! I also want to recommend eBags for backpacks. They have a line called Motherlode that is super organized and extremely well made.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Just googled them and it looks like they’re having a 30% off sale on their website right now…

    3. miss_chevious*

      I second Baggallini, if they have something you think will work. Everything I’ve gotten from them has been very useful and durable. They seem to design with actual use in mind.

  21. Lemondrops*

    i’m in the same situation. no lockers for overnight useeither, and i take the bus in,

    I have learned to minimize what i bring where now it’s a water bottle, eReader, notepad, laptop, lunch, phone and charging cords in a backpack and tote (due to back injury I can’t have a heavy backpack).
    i’ve complained to management but they don’t emphasize, as he’s never experienced my situation

    1. Zarniwoop*

      “due to back injury I can’t have a heavy backpack”
      Ask for locker or other on-site storage as ADA accommodation?

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’d be in the same boat, Lemondrops. My body does not like having to haul heavy things on the regular and will complain to me if I disrespect its authority. Thankfully, chest and waist straps on my backpack help. (It’s from MEC and is blue and red; not f***ing up my back/shoulders > “professionalism”).

  22. The Eye of Argon*

    A hanging cosmetics or toiletries bag with lots of pockets will take care of the small items. They roll or fold up into a small package that you can put in a larger backpack or tote. Also check out camping supplies for cups and cutlery – they are meant to be carried back and forth without taking up too much room or being too heavy. There are flexible water bottles that roll up small – bring an empty one with you and fill it up from the water cooler when you get to work and empty it before you leave. An e-reader is smaller and lighter than a novel or an app on your phone or laptop will allow you to read without carrying a separate book.

    Unfortunately, if they’re not going to give you any kind of storage space, the extra shoes and cardigan might have to be a no-go.

    My brother in law is a runner and drinks a lot of water. When masking he’d use a piece of flexible tubing (I think it was aquarium airline tubing) about 2 feet long that he could thread under his mask at the chin and use as a straw.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      I love the idea of using an overnight kit to carry all the stuff that would normally be in a desk drawer! So organized!

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        I learned that trick from someone I know who splits his day between working in the office and out on the road. He got tired of never having what he’d end up needing so he just carries everything from business cards to Visine in his.

    2. Chutney Jitney*

      I can recommend the Vapur brand collapsible water bottle. I bought one like 5 years ago for travel and it’s still going strong. It has some sort of antimicrobial on the inside so the water never tastes stale, no matter how long it sits in there.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Bought an eReader in spring 2020 and it’s been a gamechanger because of how easy it is to bring with me. I chose a Kobo because it connects better with libraries in Canada than Kindle typically does.

  23. Jujyfruits*

    Lockers are a good idea. Can they also assign spots for people who come in most days? That’s what a company I worked for did awhile back – anyone who regularly worked at the office and wanted a desk got a permanent spot assigned.

  24. Ari*

    My office is similar though some people have assigned spots. I don’t and I hate it. Every day, I have my laptop bag, lunch bag, purse, giant water bottle to keep me hydrated, and coffee mug because they don’t have coffee. I’m holding all of that while trying to swipe my badge to get in, and I can’t let someone else open the door for me because they are counting swipes of individuals to make sure we’re here X days per week. It’s a pain and dangerous. My town is notorious for people having their cars hijacked or bags snatched while they’re trying to get in their vehicle. Sometimes I forgo the purse and throw the essentials into my other bags, but it’s always going to be a hassle. And they won’t provide lockers for us. I asked. :(

  25. Silicon Valley Girl*

    As others said, the company would provide lockers in an ideal world. But we don’t live in an ideal world, alas. So in the meantime, I suggest streamlining what you bring. Skip any ‘in case’ & ‘extra’ things. Check the weather so you can ID sweater & shoe needs. Scout out what’s actually available at the office — are there cups, cutlery, tea, snacks? You prob. don’t need to bring each one yourself. Download an eBook or podcast on your phone so you don’t need a paper novel to read on your breaks. Make sure you have travel-size hand cream & tissues. For dehydration, does the company have a water cooler / filtered water / etc? Always keep a cup with you (use the office’s paper cups if necessary to save bringing yet another thing).

    For carrying it all, there are lots of larger sturdy backpacks out there & even ones that are combo wheelie bags. Worth investing in a new carrying option if the office isn’t going to change, unfortunately.

    1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      +1, paring down and consolidating as much as possible is the way to go. Incorporate the granola bars and teabags into your packed lunch; you won’t need more than a couple each day, anyway. E-reader apps are great, and you can switch your phone to airplane mode if you don’t want to be distracted with notifications while you’re reading. Travel mugs and lunchbox utensil sets are designed for situations exactly like this one.

      It’s definitely an adjustment (and hotdesking sucks no matter what) but it’s doable. Good luck!!

    2. I have RBF*

      I strongly recommend a wheeled backpack. It’s usually light enough to put on your back, but if you need to you can wheel it around like luggage. The more pockets the better, IMO, for keeping organized. It becomes your desk drawers.

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      well, in an IDEAL world people who didn’t actually have to be in the office would not have to work there, and could work in their homes, surrounded by things that help them work effectively, that stay in convenient locations, and where they can control the light, temperature, aromas, and other environmental factors as they see fit.

      Because if you’re hauling a backpack of stuff to and from the office every day, why not just bring a sleeping bag and a camp stove and move in? It’d save a hell of a lot on rent.

  26. sunflowerdreams*

    I currently work at two sites and have a bin that is made to store hanging files so it can live at my desk without looking out of place. I have the core things I need in there like you mentioned- somethings live in my backpack purse for 24/7 use. Instead of the whole box of snacks, it’s generally one or two days worth as I migrate back and forth. I have a multi-use (hot or cold) tumbler that contains all of my liquids- it has a straw which helps me drink even when I’d be masking. When I log into my computer the desktop has all of my digital sticky notes in a OneNote that helps.

    The worst part of our current set up is when I’m at my other site (1-2 days a week), we’re short on computers so I ‘goldilocks’ at whomever needs their desk the least, often kicking out my boss who can use a laptop. So I roll into that site, check in with everyone on multiple floors and office spaces, and then sit at someone else’s desk and try not to accidently drink from their things or take/leave anything. It works for us because it *has* to for the moment, but we have a countdown to when our new office space will eliminate this issue.

    The very sassy part of my pre-coffee brain would be using the wagon I take to the farmers’ market with all of my creature comforts. But where I work, that would not be the weirdest thing, in fact, it probably wouldn’t make top 100.

    1. Our Lady of Shining Eels*

      Now I’m curious – what *are* the weirdest things happening in your office?

      1. sunflowerdreams*

        I work in a youth development setting so there are many things that seem weird to non-camp people but are just another Wednesday to us. So if I wore heels to work that would be a Top 5 Weird Thing of the Week, but wearing a tutu and fairy wings to have a dance party that wouldn’t be out of the norm.

        1. Our Lady of Shining Eels*

          I’m a young adult librarian – and just walked past a bunch of adult patrons while wearing a smock, carrying a small screen, and covered in purple paint. Before we were told to no office pets, I used to walk around the library before opening with our two library geckos perched on my shoulders.

  27. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    Hot desking/hoteling sucks (and is ableist). I have Very Strong Feelings about imposing needless discomfort on employees. I recommend mutiny, either overtly or in the form of — everyone gets together and decides on a spot to keep stuff (the file drawer of the least desirable cube, eg, or as someone mentioned, buy a locker for the department if possible). While it doesn’t prevent theft, it does give people a spot to keep things.

    1. Don Draper*

      I’m with you. I recognize that the LW asked for practical advice, and people are helpfully providing that advice, but I keep thinking, “Why is this the worker’s problem to solve!” A company that requires you to work on site needs to make it possible for you to comfortably work on site.

    2. Jezebella*

      It really is ableist. I need – and a lot of people need – a chair that meets their physical needs. I cannot work comfortably (or, I should say, without actual pain) in a chair that can’t be adjusted for my height, isn’t wide enough, etc. Having to figure out and adjust a new chair every day would absolutely be a waste of time.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Having flashbacks to working in an office where 90% of the chairs were one make. Which happened to have a seat that was too long for me and dug into the back of my legs just below the knee. I ended up commandeering a different chair from the conference room and nobody said anything.

        Anyway, totally agree with you that this all sucks, the whole thing is poorly thought-out and causes problems for lots of people (especially those with disabilities), and it’s extra messed up that the people in charge seem so unwilling to deal with the legitimate problems their policies have caused.

      2. I have RBF*


        I am disabled, and I have RSIs, too. I need a chair that fits me, my trackball because I can’t use a mouse, and a better keyboard than those cheap chicklet ones that they hand out.

        But the worst thing is not being able to get a chair that fits. Yes I’m fat, age and disability do that to you. I can’t fit my butt into many “uniform” office chairs easily, and even when I can they are either too tall or too short, and with only one usable hand are a royal pain in the ass to adjust.

        If I have to travel/go in to an office, my backpack has my trackball, keyboard, laptop, mini-dock, headset, lunch, drinking containers, meds, first aid kit, spare masks, tea bags, pens, pencils, notebook, etc. I actually bought smaller gear bags to go into my backpack to keep it all separate. But none of that solves the chair problem.

      3. Sydney Bristow*

        We are hoteling now and one of my colleagues actually does have a different chair. I have no idea how he handles it when he is not here though. We don’t need to come in every day.
        Maybe we’re all just nice enough to not try and take it to use ourselves?

  28. Good Luck*

    I wonder if people will naturally gravitate towards the same desk everyday. For example in college, even though we never had assigned seats, everyone almost always sat in the same spot. Maybe see if this starts happening and see if you could just leave some items.

    Another option would be to pack this up with things and store it somewhere (in something like the link below). I am not sure if this would be feasible with the layout and storage options on your office.

    Otherwise I would bring this up to management, as a group and see if they can offer some solutions.

  29. Jaunty Banana Hat*

    For hydration, I like to freeze a half-filled water bottle then fill it up the rest of the way, and bring that in, and fill up as I drink it down. Mostly because I can’t stand my water to not be cold.

    You could add a straw(silicone or steel reusable ones if you don’t want plastic) to make it easier to slip under your mask.

  30. Frenemy_of_the_People*

    I’d lobby for everyone being assigned one locking cubby or drawer at least. If not, per your list, most of that honestly would fit in a nice tote bag. It isn’t ideal for sure, but if they’re not backing down… Is there a breakroom where you can keep your mug, tea bags, and cutlery? Maybe in a bag or box with your name on it or one that locks if theft is an issue there? We too have to “hotel” if we go in the office, so I get the concerns. But a lot of what you keep there (lip balm, lotion, granola bars, tissues, etc…) are just common items I keep in my purse or backpack at all times, so maybe keep those in a tote or backpack so the only thing you’re loading/unloading is the laptop itself? Again, I recognize none of this is ideal, but if they won’t change the policy…

    1. Lana Kane*

      I used a dollar store plastic bin that fit in the breakroom cupboard to keep my mug, silverware, etc. Hopefully that flies at LW’s workplace.

  31. Daisy Fox*

    I am about to be putting all our staff through this as we’ve assessed office attendance post Covid return and our occupancy rate is at 32%. We are therefore downsizing the office so we can save money and folk will need to hot desk. The comments here are very useful. Thanks.

    1. Silver Robin*

      If you can have a sign up system of sorts so folks can reserve a seat ahead of time, that is super helpful. Especially for people who come in often on a regular schedule. I come in 3 times a week, same three days, and always reserve the same desk. Our system lets me do it a month at a time, which means I can regularly use the same desk and other folks know that desk is taken ahead of time.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      I think it’s important to recognize a) that there are gradations between true hot desking and everyone getting assigned spaces, and b) that people need some sort of storage.

      In my view, anyone in the office consistently 3 or more days a week should have a permanent assigned space. There can be caveats about someone sitting in their space if they aren’t there that day, but they should have that stability.

      People in-office less often could have formally or informally arranged desk sharing (two people working opposite days in the office), a reservation system, or true hotdesking.

      In my experience, employees recognize that the flip side of work from home benefits may be that employers aren’t going to be able to have quite as much space dedicated to each person in the office. But there are better ways to approach it than treating the office as if it were the coworking space down the block where everything is first-come first-serve.

      Will teams arrange to all be in-office on the same days? Do they have a mechanism to ensure they aren’t spread out all over the place so that they can actually collaborate on those in-office days?

      For storage, some of it is about comfort and morale. There are also disability issues – people who need specific chairs or footrests or ergonomic setups, people who have a cushion for their back, and so forth. There needs to be a process to ensure that folks’ needs are met.

      1. Silver Robin*

        +1 on folks getting assigned desks if they are in 3+ days a week. My org gives everyone a default desk (even though we technically do not have enough desks for everyone). If you are going to be in the office, you grab that desk if available. If not, or you know you will be in meetings all day and need a space with a door, grab something else. But I sincerely appreciate knowing that my desk is prioritized for me. It means I can leave my notebooks, store some snacks, and put up some postcard decorations to feel less cubicle soul suck…

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Agreed. My number one question for Daisy Fox was whether they knew whether everyone was coming in about 30% of the time or if there are groups of people who are coming a lot and who are rarely there. People coming a lot should have their own dedicated space.

        One of my biggest complaints about how my organization has handled returning to the office is that they’ve gone for a one-size-fits-all approach. We have like 40,000 people, across a wide geographical area, with a million different types of jobs, in ~30 pretty separate divisions. When I was doing project management, we were told we had to come in (though it got repeatedly delayed) for collaboration. Well, the people I collaborated with mostly didn’t work in the same building as me and many were in other cities. So we would have all been having the same virtual meetings as before, just all sitting together and annoying each other. Ranting aside, I’d suggest taking a look at what different jobs require and taking that into account when making these decisions.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Since you’re about to implement this, if it’s at all possible: if you can adjust the schedules of the hot deskers so that they rarely have to come in, that would be ideal.

      To me, asking people to come in 2-3 days per week if they’re only working from home part time means they still need a dedicated desk. If I got to work from home for most of the month and only had to come in once or twice per month, I’d be much happier about hot desking because I wouldn’t be splitting my time so equally and would be less likely to need my “stuff” (or less annoyed at having to schlep so much stuff back and forth). But working on site part time still requires access to all my “stuff” and because of that, isn’t nearly as compatible with hot desking as a lot of decision makers think it is.

    4. I have RBF*

      If you are downsizing the office, just let people work remotely 100%, or only come in one day a week. Three times a week is more than half time, so those people need an assigned desk.

      But if they only come in once or twice a week, hot desking can work if:
      1) People have lockers where they can store their office stuff when they are not there
      2) People who need ergonomic accommodations can be assigned the equipment they need
      3) Groups are assigned “regions” so that when they are in they work near each other
      4) People are issued their own headsets/headphones for Zoom calls, and encouraged to use them
      5) There is a reservation system, or something, that lets people reserve a desk for a day, instead of milling around looking for a spot at the start of the day.

  32. GigglyPuff*

    For the hydration, maybe try a hiking hydration bladder? It would fit in the backpack, be a slimmer profile than any bottle while probably storing more, and they come with sipping tubes you could use under your mask.

  33. Mostly Managing*

    Hot Desking is a Bad Idea.
    What follows is Bad Advice, but I’m in A Mood Today.

    It’s is so important for your workspace to feel personal and not cold and stark. Find a large suitcase on wheels, and invest in a few storage containers/dividers. Every morning, spend at least 30 minutes setting up a few family photos, some knick-knacks, a couple of (fake, sadly, for practical reasons) plants, maybe some artificial flowers. Go all out!! lean into the need to set up a new desk every day.
    When you are (inevitably) called out on it, explain that you are sure corporate wasn’t trying to make every desk look the same, and that you just want work to “feel like home because we are all one big happy family”

    (or, you know, take the useful advice from other people)

    1. Dehydrated LW*

      This is just my kind of petty. I mean, I’m not going to do it, but I am going to contemplate it and laugh.

    2. She-ra*

      There is some helpful advice in the replies, but yours is my favorite, maybe because I’m also in A Mood today.

      We have hoteling, and just recently went back 2x a week. Although I don’t bring/unpack a bunch of personal items, I do spend time each morning I’m in the office wiping down the desk I’m using, getting my chair and monitors adjusted, etc. Such a waste of time, not to mention all of the other pain points.

    3. shruggie*

      Honestly, I think a slightly toned-down version of this suggestion isn’t half bad. Rolling laptop bag, involved sanitizing at the beginning and end of every day, leaving your shoes in the walkway when they won’t give you a locker, etc etc… all these suggestions are elsewhere in the thread, but you can implement them with your own internal sense of malicious compliance, and redirect complaints to whoever made the hotdesk decision or is standing in the way of getting lockers.

    4. Kez*

      In the same vein of Bad Advice Do Not Use, may I suggest reading up on historical smuggling methods? Start sewing pockets on the bottom of chairs to for stowing lip balm. Create a fake back to one of the lockers for keeping a sweater on hand. Begin learning some regular sleight-of-hand magic so if anyone asks how you suddenly got X item you can show them your mad skillz and just say that you’re magical!

  34. teensyslews*

    My last role I did 100% hot-desking and hated it – which meant I did WFH as much as possible. Recommendation 1!
    For hotdesking:
    – ask them to install lockers to hold personal items – but this will only work if the lockers are convenient. No one wants to schlep to another part of the office for hand lotion.
    – see if some comfort items can become “communal” – can they put lotion in the bathrooms, add more tea supplies, make sure tissue is at every cubicle?
    – get a bigger backpack *that is comfortable*. No laptop shoulder bag, this needs wide straps and preferably a hip belt if you’ll be walking long distances. Keep as many of your key items in there all the time so you never forget an item at home.
    – if you have a preferred desk area try to either: book in advance if possible or, if your schedule allows, get in as early as possible. I used to get in early to make sure I could grab the desk with a window so I wasn’t stuck in a windowless room all day.

    For hydration, on top of just drinking:
    – keep cough drops with you at all times – they help keep the mouth “moisturized” so to speak. You can even get some made specifically for if you have a dry mouth.
    – keep sugarfree gum with you at all times – both to help with dryness but also to help with mask breath after eating food or drinking coffee/tea.

  35. Bear Expert*

    I’ve moved to full time remote, but when my last office was contemplating this set up I asked questions about how ergonomic needs were going to be handled and got a “we will get back to you…” – half of my team had specific ergo set ups, and it’s not like rolling your chair, keyboard, keyboard tray, and installing desk risers every day was really a workable plan?

    Anyway, if it were me, depending on the commute, I’d pack straight up luggage. Roller bags are designed to carry stuff while traveling. You’re traveling. A hanging toiletry kit with the little bits (post its, pens, lip balm) a shoe bag to swap out dirty snow shoes for office shoes, laptop and files. Traveling office.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      When I asked about ergo chairs, I was told that the chairs they bought are comfortable.

        1. Quill*

          “It’s comfortable!” – management
          “Yeah, if you have NORMAL BONES and joints that are where they should be” – an amount of people that sadly surprises management.

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah, I’ve had management tell me that the “one size fits all” chairs were “comfortable” and “ergonomic”.

        But the damned thing wasn’t comfortable for me, and no amount of adjusting could fix it. Before 2020, I was going through a crazy amount of NSAIDS after they made us give up our personal ergonomic chairs for these “uniform” aesthetic chairs. It’s been 4 years and two jobs since, and I’m still salty about it.

  36. HotSauce*

    We have several people who use carry-on or under-seat size rolling suitcases. At first it seemed a bit strange, but now that a good percentage of people are using them it’s become the norm. People commented that they were easier on their backs than a backpack, easy to get on and off public transportation, and they allowed them to bring their laptops, files, water bottles/tumbler, lunch, snacks, etc. without too much trouble.

  37. Just Another Boss*

    I’m not in this exact situation, but I am someone who never left much of anything at work (I once worked with thieves and learned not to trust anyone) so I carted things back and forth for years. There are a few key things to try:
    1. Try to eliminate things if you can. The best example from your list are the office shoes. Find shoes you can just wear in so you don’t have to change.
    2. Ask your office if anything can be provided. Tissues, tea bags, and hand cream are all things my office had in stock for anyone to use, for example.
    3. For hydration, does your office have a water cooler? If so, you can carry a collapsible water bottle and refill it throughout the day. If not, I suggest one of those huge water bottles that can hold a day’s supply of water. Yes, it’s something else to carry, but it’s worth it to be hydrated.

    I’m sorry this is happening to you. Forcing people to return to the office and making it an uncomfortable experience is so 2023.

    office shoes, extra cardigan, mug, tea bags, granola bars, cutlery, lip balm, hand cream, tissues, and a novel to read during lunch break.

    1. allathian*

      Good ideas. That said office shoes are sometimes necessary, either because the climate is cold enough for boots to be necessary at least some months of the year, becuse they prefer to commute in shoes that are more comfortable than those required by the dress code, or because the office has installed a wall-to-wall hypoallergenic carpet to eliminate some of the noise.

      I have an assigned desk, but for how long is anybody’s guess, I’m glad I have space to hang up my coat and keep my office shoes. I go to the office about once a week, so I don’t consider a personal desk necessary anymore, even if I enjoy the fact that I still have it. My desk at home’s messy, but I keep the one at work uncluttered. I have a good backpack for my laptop and a lot of stuff that I used to keep at the office, like unscented hand lotion, lip balm, my work phone, computer glasses, sanitary towels, ibuprofen, notepad and pen, phone charger, cordless mouse, headset, and computer power cord. All desks have docking stations, but sometimes we spend long enough in a meeting room to need the cord.

      One of the reasons I go to the office is to eat food that’s been cooked by someone other than me or my husband, so bringing lunch isn’t an issue.

  38. Everything All The Time*

    May I suggest a rolling briefcase in the interim? I personally think hot desking is stupid for obvious reasons, but the briefcase can hold your devices AND comfort items easily.

  39. GreenShoes*

    So I’ve not been in a hot desking situation, but years of work travel has been similar. Here are my suggestions:

    Invest in a good rolling laptop bag. Look for a bigger one than a normal ‘carry around’ and use this daily. Bonus for finding a good size spinner.

    Make use of ‘travel accessories’ things like a drink holder for the rolling bag, cord organizers, small bags, shoe bags, stacking lunch bag, etc.

    Go paperless where ever possible (I use an app on my ipad for this- but realize that may not be affordable for everyone) I think there were some good suggestions upthread. Traveling was the single biggest factor in me going paperless. No sense taking notes if I forgot my notebook in the office.

    In other words, if you don’t get a locker, make your own on wheels that is portable.

  40. Ann Onymous*

    My company gave people the option to stay hybrid or remote (job function permitting) on a permanent basis. Anybody who is regularly in the office 4 or more days per week has a permanent desk, and they’ve set up hoteling stations for anybody who is in the office less frequently. I’ve chosen to be fully onsite because I don’t like working from home, but I’d probably be rethinking that if I didn’t have a permanent desk.

  41. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    A client I was working on site for was setting up so that the folks who were in part-time either were desk sharing or having assigned locking and rolling storage things – like two-drawer file cabinets. I hated working there because I couldn’t leave anything (a contractor, not an employee) and it was ridiculous not being able to leave a chapstick or umbrella or whatever.

    See if you can get with some others to push for management to figure out how people can bring/store basic things more easily. Can they have a coat closet converted into storage cubbies? Can some desks be assigned to two people to share? Can they provide a regular supply of cough drops, snacks, basic OTC medicines, and other stuff people commonly keep in their desks?

    It’s worth pointing out that hot desking is significantly worse than having cubicles for this reason.

    1. Drago Cucina*

      That’s what I did in a previous hot desk situation. Everyone had their own rolling, locking, two-drawer cabinet. The top drawer held office supplies, so people could have “their” scissors. No one was allowed to leave them at a desk at the end of the work day in the hopes of calling dibs on their favorite space. If they were there I would roll them to the designated area.

  42. QOTM*

    I have been in exactly this situation. My best solution has been to get a laptop backpack with many pockets and compartments for chargers, personal items, etc. If wearing a backpack isn’t feasible, look for something similar that rolls like a suitcase. I invested in organizing it really well and consistently keep everything in its place so I can reach in without looking to grab something. I stopped carrying a separate purse and put everything in the backpack, with a wallet I can easily grab when needed. I’ve also been to masking dehydration territory, which I managed by ensuring I had calendar breaks built in to go outside to eat/drink. I also made sure to load up on liquid before entering the office each morning. This sucks but is manageable with planning. I also recommend carrying a packet of Clorox wipes with you and wiping down the workspace and chair first thing; in my experience hotdesking makes for absolutely filthy conditions.

  43. Turanga Leela*

    Ugh. I would hate this. If they won’t give you lockers or a locking drawer, I think you need a big, ergonomic backpack with sub-compartments, as well as some smaller pouches/packing cubes/makeup bags etc. to keep your things separate. You’re going to have a makeup pouch, a pouch with snacks and teabags, a shoe compartment, maybe a pouch for a scarf or cardigan so nothing gets snagged.
    Is there a kettle or way to heat water at the office? If there is, you could stash a travel mug in your backpack–I really like my 20 oz Yeti tumbler. Otherwise, you might have to choose between tea and cold water, because it’s going to be hard to carry both. Have you invested in an absurdly large water bottle? There are gigantic bottles that carry 64 oz of water or more–they’re often marketed as “motivational” bottles.
    Finally, is there any chance you bring a car to work? If you do, you can stash some of this in your trunk and bring a smaller bag into your actual office.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      One more thing: Think about using items marketed to travelers. You might replace your existing cardigan with a lightweight-but-warm sweater or scarf designed to pack down small. Get travel-sized hand lotion and sanitizer, or buy a travel-size container and refill it from a larger bottle at home. If you have an iPad or Kindle, bring that and read e-books on your break instead of physical books.

      Employers should realize that hotdesking is not only unpleasant for employees, but also sometimes requires them to invest in a lot of new stuff!

  44. awasky*

    This is how my company works–and for our set up, it makes sense. I’m in the office one day a week. Dedicating a desk to me would make no sense. We have lockers you can store things in overnight, but not long-term. For me, that means I wear sneakers now. If they want me to wear dress shoes, they can give me a permanent storage space. I haul back and forth my laptop, an ergonomic mouse and keyboard, and my notebook, but that’s it. That’s a lot to schlep on the subway, weight wise, but it’s better than the crick in my neck if I don’t have it.

    Welcome to the office of the future.

  45. There's a G&T with my name on it*

    You say things aren’t allowed to be left in the lockers overnight – what happens if you do? Is it worth pushing back on this, or asking for clarification? E.g. is it to stop pests because people keep food in them, so instead of a blanket ban they could implement a ban on leaving food overnight or something? Otherwise they just sound like they’re being mean for the sake of being mean, and you should tote everything you need in a granny-style shopping bag on wheels, preferably in a nice tartan, and use it to accidentally maliciously trip up TPTB who came up with this system.

  46. Warrior Princess Xena*

    I hot desk! Here’s my setup:

    * extra clothes, gym bag, etc live in my car instead of the office if I know I’ll need to change – it helps that I can park very close.

    * I will only bring a day’s worth of food/tea bags – though in my case it’s very helpful that the office has a pretty robust food/drink setup with hot water, tea bags, etc, and there’s a designated employee fridge if we want to bring a larger bottle of creamer or something.

    * Notebook, laptop etc all live in my backpack.

    * There ARE lockers available for employees, though I personally haven’t used them.

    All this said, I’m a financial auditor, which is a job that has historically involved a lot of time on-site at clients rather than in the office, so when they set up our hotdesking stations they did it under the assumption that they only wanted us to have to schlep around our laptop. All of our desks have double monitors, are sit-stand, have reasonably adjustable and comfortable office chairs, and are supplied with hand sanitizer/tissues.

    I’d definitely recommend paring down the things you bring to the office to the bare minimum, and if there’s something you want to do before or after work, store the materials for it in your car (gym bag etc).

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I know the LW didn’t say, but driving to work and hotdesking is almost completely different from taking public transit to work. With a car, it’s barely a question for most people.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        This. Xena’s suggestions totally make sense for people who have cars and drive to work (which lots of people do). It’s a very different situation when you take transit or cycle.

      2. Fish*

        Yes. My ThenEmployer switched the staff to laptops a few months into lockdown WFH. I’m not sure they initially realized the difference public transit v. car made, in transporting the laptops back and forth each day.

  47. Rachel*

    This sounds pretty miserable and ableist. My former job had a strict overnight ‘clean desk’ policy, which was challenging without desk drawers and assigned file cabinets. There are camping and luggage companies that specialize in ultra-lightweight, water-resistant totes and backpacks. Switching from a leather tote bag to a less fashionable vinyl bag from a luggage company with built-in compartments for shoes and a water bottle made a world of difference. I also recommend keeping a checklist and running through it in the evening or morning before you leave. With a big bag and a lot more stuff to lug back and forth, I kept finding myself mysteriously without a charger or other important items.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Ableist, indeed! I walk with a cane, for limited distances only. Public transit, or even driving but not having nearby parking, uses most of my mobility for the day. (Yes, I have a parking placard, but if the parking garage is several blocks away, it’s not a big help.) I *can not* carry more than a cross-body purse, m.a.y.b.e. a kilo in weight, maximum.

      Requiring me to transport all my stuff back and forth every day? No, that would be the point I’d start the ADA paperwork for medical accommodation.

  48. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t know if this will happen in your office, but in many hot desking situations I’ve seen, people tend to just end up using the same desk anyway, so it’s possible things may settle into a place where it’s more or less the same as before.

  49. BBB*

    have you considered burning through your sick bank to avoid in office days while job hunting for a fully remote position? because that’s what I’m doing lmao

  50. Delta Delta*

    I’m a solo attorney, and I’ve had sort of a nomadic practice for about 6 years. I did this after about 15 years at a law firm with an office and a desk the size of a compact car; I had a lot of stuff around me all the time. Here’s what I learned:

    1. Carry only what you need for the day.

    1a. It’s good to have a small supply kit with aspirin, cough drops, hand lotion, etc. in your bag all the time and replenish as needed.

    2. A great way to carry the stuff you need is with a good backpack or other bag. I have longtime allegiance to North Face backpacks – they’re very durable and hold a lot of stuff. I use a Borealis; it’s got a pocket for a computer and 2 other pockets for stuff. My husband has a Router (which Prince Harry also uses, if that’s at all a selling point), which is also really nice because it’s got a very deep side pocket that can snugly hold a 32 oz Nalgene bottle. My husband once used that backpack to go away for several days and was able to fit his clothes and work stuff all into just that bag. You may not like backpacks, and that’s fine – just throwing out an idea. Also, don’t all come at me that not everyone uses backpacks; I know that. some do, some don’t, and I’m throwing out an idea.

    3. If you have indoor/outdoor shoe issues, you can get flats, like Rothys or similar. They can be made very flat and tucked in a well-constructed backpack/bag pocket. My flats slide into the side pocket of my bag very easily and take up very little space.

    4. I often have a scarf in my bag. I like scarves, and they can fold up easily and take up less space than a cardigan. I have one that’s made of very thin wool and is roughly the size of a bath towel. It folds into a small rectangle and is surprisingly warm when unfurled and deployed.

    It stinks to have to live like this, but once you figure out what works for you, it can be pretty workable.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I love your ideas and also have an image of someone waiting in the wings to come at you with not-all-people-wear-backpacks starting to step out and then reading your disclaimer and falling back into the shadows, thwarted again.

      1. Good Luck*

        I picture someone saying something about backpacks in Regina George’s voice. LOL

        “Not everyone likes backpacks ok, God you are so stupid KAREN”

        **in case it is missed the above sentence is joke and I am not implying that anyone that backpacks is stupid**

  51. Chair face*

    What about people who have ergonomic keyboards?
    What about ergonomic chairs? (We bought one for a staff member and they are expensive! I would be annoyed if I had to keep spending my budget on ergonomic chairs that get taken away to be used by other departments.)
    My coworkers come in different sizes and need different chairs.

    1. pally*

      Good point! Back in the day, my sister’s place of employment had folks “dropping like flies” from carpel tunnel due to lack of an ergonomically correct desk set-up. It was to the point of being half-staffed for long periods of time.

      A costly lesson learned for management. They hired folks to create ergonomically correct workspaces for everyone.

      Bet this issue will return with hotdesking.

  52. Lola*

    This seems like the opposite of how to make coming back into the office more appealing to those who have gotten used to WFH life. My department moved buildings during COVID and I am now going back to an office setup that is a serious downgrade from my previous one. My boss has done her best to make it welcoming, getting us plants for our desks (no gnats!) and upgrading our coffee station. It’s not perfect, but I appreciate the effort.

    I realize many employers don’t care about that, but it seems like they may lose employees with what the OP is describing. I’m sorry.

    1. Qwerty*

      It really depends on how often people are in the office. If only 20% of employees are on site on any given day, then it is a lot of wasted space to have a dedicated desk for each person.

      A good carrot is for people who are typically on site X days a week get a permanent desk. Usually that number is 3 or 4. Or certain desks get assigned to a team rather than a person so people start leaving stuff in their team area overnight as long as it doesn’t get messy enough for someone to complain.

      The reality is some system will get worked out for leaving items in the office over night, either as lockers or a rolling cabinet. One place just a had a shelf with cubbies. Or if enough people start spending most of their time reliably in the office, the office-wide hot desking sometimes goes away

  53. BamBam*

    Have you had problems with lockers?
    A friend who works at a hospital said that “everyone” knows not to use the lockers at work because they get broken into and your stuff gets stolen. (She keeps her wallet in her pocket and doesn’t bring a purse.)

  54. online millenial*

    My workplace implemented this, very needlessly as we have enough space for everyone, but they decided that… there might be visitors? Who needed half our desks? Even though we had maybe 1-2 visitors per year who needed to work out of our space pre-COVID?

    I don’t have any useful advice for you, as my department’s solution has been to quietly ignore the in-office mandate and just keeping working from home for the most part. And when people do go to the office, most of them either post up in a conference room or… sit at the same desk every time. Who’d’ve thunk.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Same, except people are assigned office spaces weekly and cannot choose which of the dozens of empty offices they’d prefer to work out of.

  55. Megan*

    Okay I noticed one person mentioned small rolling luggage, and I want to second this. It’s a very normal thing to see commuters with a piece of rolling luggage, as well as a bag designed to slide onto the handle. (In Chicago it’s normal anyway, especially for South Shore commuters.)

  56. You Can't Pronounce It*

    I recently invested in a laptop backpack that has a lunch box included in the bottom of it. I was able to go from 3 bags to just the one (I only take my wristlet purse to work and fit it in the backpack) and now my hands are free to carry my drink and badge with ease.

  57. A Simple Narwhal*

    It seems insane to me that you can’t leave anything at the office! We’re moving to a hoteling setup this summer and everyone is getting their own locker with a basket/tote to transport stuff between the locker and desk. Along with the stuff I need for work, I plan to keep a photo of my family, my reusable mug, water bottle, and maybe a small fake plant if I’m feeling fancy. It’s kind of a bummer to not have our own designated work areas, and doing this will let me add a touch of personalization to wherever I end up sitting that day. I’d really like to not have to carry all of that back and forth during my long commute on public transportation, and if I did I’d probably have to skip all non-essential items, which would make working from the office even more challenging from a morale standpoint.

    I know that’s not really helpful, but I think it might be worth trying to push back as a group to see if you could get some storage area to keep things at the office.

    Aside from that, I’m not sure if you’re driving into the office or using public transportation, but if you’re driving you could keep all of the stuff you need for work in a box in your car, and just carry that in and out with you every day. Essentially use your car as the locker your office should be providing.

    If you’re using public transportation, you could look into getting a big backpack to hold everything you need for the day. I find that cyclist backpacks are bigger without being massive like a camping/hiking backpack, and they usually have a lot of features that make it easier to keep things organized. It does suck to have to carry a big and heavy backpack, but if you need that stuff then a backpack is more efficient than multiple bags.

    Or maybe a rolling suitcase? Again a bit ridiculous but much easier on your back!

  58. Kate*

    I made it through teaching masked without Covid infection (post-vax for me and the students, and both with and without masks required for students) using a Hydroflask with a built in straw, which I’d slip up under my N-95 to take sips. That’s a small solution but I agree you should push back on not being able to keep any stuff at the office!

  59. thegirlintheafternoon*

    Assuming the company won’t provide work lockers and isn’t willing to budge on this (which they should! this is a not-great policy!), this seems like a rolling backpack/suitcase situation to me. Look for one with lots of mini-compartments and stock it with the stuff you need/want in a given week in some clear plastic cases like the kind you get for TSA travel, a couple of pairs of workwear shoes, a light sweater, etc.

  60. DisneyChannelThis*

    Rolling backpack or rolling tote bag or rolling grandma grocery cart. Can just store all your work stuff in your car trunk in it then lug it in behind you every morning at work.

  61. New Senior Mgr*

    If they’re not willing to provide lockers, consider a rolling briefcase where you keep everything in one place, always full of what you need and ready to go.

    This set up sounds awful to me. I’m sorry you’re having to work through this maze.

  62. Still Nameless in MN*

    What about a rolling suitcase? You’d have more room for the stuff you want to have with you and could fit your backpack or extra shoes in when you need to. Packing cubes could help you separate your things.

    It’s not as good as having your own assigned desk or locker and it still requires you taking it all with you every day… but it could possibly be a temporary solution until your management hopefully gets things together and provides something better.

  63. mb*

    This would be a nightmare for me – I have sooo many things I keep at work: hand cream, eye drops, mirror, tweezers & nail kit (to take care of one offs, not for general grooming- I’m not an animal), telescopic back scratcher, over the counter meds like ibuprofen, sweater, shoes, chargers, ……
    The only thing I can think of besides asking for lockers or using a filing cabinet drawer, is to use a rolling backpack or suitcase. There are a lot of different options and configurations – you can pack your tea bags as part of your lunch and use a travel mug that’s less breakable – and some rolling backpacks have a cup holder on them. This way you’re not carrying a big bag like a pack mule.

  64. bamcheeks*

    – boring-but-ergonomic backpack instead of a nice bag
    – spend ten minutes on the evenings before going to work making sure I have what I need, and only what I need– eg. making sure I put a cereal bar in my bag, because I can’t leave a box of cereal bars at work; refilling a little tupperware with 5-6 teabags rather than having a whole box; carrying mooncup/pads only at the time of month I need them rather than leaving them to hang out in my bag just in case; figuring out which notepads I’m most likely to need for tomorrow’s work rather than having several, etc.
    – lots of secondhand cashmere (very warm but lightweight)
    – take empty water bottle, fill up when I get there
    – very old-school 4th gen kindle that no longer talks to the internet but weighs barely anything
    – ask work to make sure all the desks have docks and power cables– it is NUTS how much weight a power cable add to my bag when I have to take it in.

  65. theletter*

    I went on a work-while-travel trip a few months ago and learned that the bag you carry your stuff in is everything. It’s also a really good idea to have a specific set of things (water bottle, charger, etc) just for the office, and each item should have its own bag or pocket.

    For food and drinks: meal prepping can go a long way – If you only need 203 meals, it’s still worth it to be able to have something you can easily transfer from fridge to lunchtote in the morning. Or you can make the most of being in-office and try to arrange small group lunch outtings (if that’s your thing). A good water bottle is a MUST.

    If possible, there should be a push-back on any overly formal dress code for the office. We survived a pandemic! We should have the right to wear jeans, tee-shirts and sneakers if we’re not client facing.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I consider that I did (push back on the overly formal dress code when RTO was required pre-vaccines for me in summer of 2020) a point in my favor.

      If I’m going to spend more of my time away from my house, when I’m still having to run down groceries (safe for food allergies, that severely limits some choices) in the midst of 2020 shortages and other limits, still dealing with virtual school with two who thankfully were sort of independent, and all of the rest that 2020 entailed? I drew a hard “nope. I no longer have time for additional laundry created by asking me to wear and maintain a wardrobe that I wouldn’t select ever if it were up to me.”, especially when we had to be here, but all meetings were online and NO VISITORS were allowed in the building (for the next 18 months).

  66. l*

    I would invest in a rolling cart of some sort with lockable enclosures, then padlock it to a desk overnight.

    Malicious Compliance FTW

  67. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


    I noticed that I was breathing much more through my mouth, instead of my nose, when wearing a mask. I fixed it by (a) adjusting the nose clips and the over-ear straps so it wasn’t squishing my nose, and (b) making a conscious effort to be aware of how I was breathing and to deliberately choose to breathe through my nose.

    If you wear glasses, be aware of how glasses on top of mask change the fit of the mask. Might need to adjust your glasses too.

  68. DannyG*

    In my adjunct professor days I faced a similar problem, with classes in different buildings. My solution was a small, wheeled suitcase (i.e. carryon size). It carried my laptop, binder, papers & exams, etc. The zippered pockets held pens, spare calculator, Zip drives, laser pointer, etc. would have had room for a jacket, etc.

  69. Thoughts from a chronic over-packer*

    I am the person whose daily purse is giant because “what if I need something?” (and so I have so many things in it).

    Here is how I would approach it:

    A rolling bag of whatever size makes it easiest for you to have everything you think you might need or want in an average week — like, not a week’s worth of things, just, if you might want it once during that week, you have it. You can do top-ups each evening of daily consumables (like lunch!) and weekend top-ups/change-overs (like rotating the granola bars and swapping out Office Sweater A for Office Sweater B). Just have all your stuff! It makes life so much nicer when you’ve got your things.

    Having a rolling bag of some sort (examples: a carry-on or even checked bag, or maybe one of those bags designed for teachers who have to switch rooms between classes) will make it much easier on your back and it’ll stand nicely next to your desk. You can still have a purse or small backpack if that’s how you want to roll (ha-ha, wordplay!).

    If anyone remarks on your bag, you can just say, “oh, I like having my things with me like my office shoes and snacks [you can list more if you want] and since we don’t have any storage space, I now have to bring everything in every day.” Do it matter-of-factly and it should make sense to the other person.

    Regarding hydration — I recommend a water bottle with a straw in it, so you can stick the straw up under your mask. Possibly even set a timer to go off periodically to remind you to drink?

      1. Therese*

        That’s what I did many years ago when faced with no permanent desk. Even animals have lairs, I need mine!

  70. Cyndi*

    Hi LW, I don’t know if I have any advice that hasn’t already been given, only commiseration and venting. My last two workplaces were fully in-person and all hotdesking–one let you at least bring your bag with you to your desk, the other required you to leave it in a locker and only bring small items with you in a clear Ziploc, for security reasons. One of the reasons I came to my current job was because I got an ACTUAL CUBICLE where I could ACTUALLY KEEP THINGS but after two years of this…we’re moving to a new office next week that will, again, be all hotdesking and “leave your bag and phone in your locker.” Laptops will be stored on site but we don’t know where yet. The lockers are apparently…not large, so we’ve been cheerfully advised to “give up carrying those big purses, ladies!” (By a woman supervisor, even.) Literally the only upside I was looking forward to at the new site was an onsite gym, but that’s only going to be a perk for people who have cars to stash their gym bags in, I guess?

    Anyway, here’s my MO in a more restrictive scenario than yours: I come in to work with my purse, lunch bag, and travel cup, and leave both bags in the locker, coat hung up in the locker room if it’s coat season. In the purse I carry my wallet, keys, phone, work ID, planner, mp3 player, glasses, makeup bag, and a charging brick, and maybe a library book to read, and I use the same purse almost every day so I don’t lose track of those things. I only pack food I can leave safely in a locker until lunchtime, because when I’m sorting myself out from scratch every morning a detour to the break room fridge can be an extra step I don’t want to bother with. I don’t carry spares of anything that won’t fit in the makeup pouch (eg band-aids, nail clipper). The things I absolutely need with me at my desk (planner, mp3 player, glasses, Chapstick) go in a separate pouch inside my purse so that I can grab them out and go. I have a large Tervis travel cup with a straw that I use to make iced tea in the fridge overnight, and I bring that to work and refill it with ice water when I’ve finished my tea; I’m not sure how well that system would translate for someone who prefers hot drinks, though. Oh, and in winter boot season I simply abandon the idea of “appropriate shoes” and wear my winter boots all the way through the workday; if they wanted me to look good they should have provided the space and policies to make it practical.

    **Please note I’m also ND, so some of my “grim hotdesking work environment” coping strategies have evolved in tandem with “executive dysfunction” coping strategies and I’m no longer sure which of these is which. But I hope something in there is useful to you!

    1. I have RBF*

      … hotdesking and “leave your bag and phone in your locker.”

      Oh. Hell. No.

      That would be an immediate resume generating event for me.

      If I am treated like a recalcitrant teenager that just escaped from juvy, restricting what I can bring to my desk, I will find a workplace that respects me.

      My phone stays with me, period. That is not negotiable. Unless I’m working in a literal SCIF, there is no reason to take my phone away like I was a naughty teen. I can turn it off if I have to, but I’m not leaving an expensive device in some locker because management thinks I might use it at work.

      1. DataSci*

        Came here to say exactly the phrase “Unless you’re literally in a SCIF”! I have prescription meds I need to take daily at 2 pm, I’m not leaving them out on my desk for the world to see.

        1. I have RBF*

          Great minds think alike!

          But yeah, not a SCIF, not giving up my phone. I have alarms and other comms I need on it, including the ability for my mother to text me for urgent problems.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, this. Thankfully I work for an employer that respects that employees may have personal stuff to take care of during the workday.

  71. I'm A Little Teapot*

    I see 3 basic options:
    1. they provide lockers or similar so you can store everything there.
    2. you get a container of some sort (bag, box, etc) that you put things in and take with you
    3. you drastically and permanently downsize what you need. I would recommend you do some of this anyway.

    “office shoes, extra cardigan, mug, tea bags, granola bars, cutlery, lip balm, hand cream, tissues, and a novel to read during lunch break”

    shoes – no more changing when you get there, so adjust as necessary. Yes, you’ll wear out the good shoes more frequently.
    cardigan – add a layer, do without, or put your coat on.
    mug/tea bags/granola bars/cutlery – what is provided by the office? if they have mugs, cups, and cutlery, use those. otherwise, throw a couple in your bag or do without.
    lip balm – keep in your purse
    hand cream – keep with you or do without. if your hands are so terribly dry that you can’t do without this during the day, then get good lotion and wear it overnight, potentially with cotton gloves. If you’re using it because it smells nice, please have pity on those of us who have issues with scents and cease.
    tissues – they make pocket packets, get those, or put some in a baggie.
    book – switch to ebooks and put it on your phone or computer.

    1. Dehydrated LW*

      Honestly, that’s not even the entire list. I left off my hand warmers (like long fingerless gloves) because the office is COLD. And the air is dry, hence the lotion. You’re right about the downsizing, though – I need to choose mini items or just do without. :(

    2. Harper*

      Yes, this is one way to handle it, but it’s also kind of extreme. 9+ hours (especially if this is every day of the week) is a long time to be away from home and just deny yourself access to basic comfort items like lotion, chapstick and appropriate clothing.

    3. GreenShoes*

      All of these items will fit in a rolly backpack or bag.

      I used to routinely fit the following in mine:
      Laptop, large mouse, cords, full size keyboard, hockey puck size speaker/mic
      Full travel toiletry bag
      Small bag for cords/ear buds
      knitting bag (small project)
      knitting notions bag
      And more stuff that I would shove in at the last minute. This was the bag I used, sadly it doesn’t look like they are for sale anymore, but might be in the second hand market. There are a lot of different but similar bags now that would hold the same amount of stuff. I used mine because I was traveling ~50% and I just used the same bag (and all of the stuff) when I was in office so I didn’t have to unpack.

    4. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I get where you’re coming from but a lot of this is not realistic. The OP said in the comments that they live in place where half the year they need winter boots. You have to change your shoes then, because it is extremely uncomfortable to wear winter boots all day long. They are not made for comfort and probably go against dress codes if the op is in a conservative field.

      Very few places provide mugs, cutlery, or granola bars. Plus if you have allergies or something you probably feel better bringing something you know you can eat. The hand cream thing is just ridiculous. Some people need and like to have lotion throughout the day. And the book thing wouldn’t work if you are looking at a screen all day you probably want a break. Or maybe OP Finds reading on the phone too hard and cant put it on the computer.

  72. H.Regalis*

    With that setup? A rolling suitcase, honestly. That’s the only thing big enough to hold all of your stuff.

    I have my own desk at work and I still feel like a pack mule walking to and from work because I have a giant-ass purse and a backpack.

  73. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    This is also a horrible model if you have a bunch of books that you use as reference material

  74. Daisy-dog*

    Re: Dehydration – I’m a big fan of Liquid IV. It’s very pricy for every day use, but I’ve used when I’ve been sick, for hangovers (and hangover prevention), and for super hot days. I usually mix it with 24 oz of water. I also like to blend it with water and frozen fruit to go with my breakfast when I’m going to be out on hot days. It comes in little packets, so you could keep a couple in your bag for if you’re feeling especially dehydrated certain days.

    1. I have RBF*

      Yeah, it’s pricey, but I can often find the large bags of 30 at Costco for around $1 per packet. I take a 32 oz Nalgene, add one of those and one sugar free drink stick in the same flavor and I’m set for the day.

  75. Harper*

    This just sucks. As someone with a lot of anxiety and several annoying chronic conditions (not serious, but uncomfortable), I tend to keep a lot of things in my desk at work too – medications, snacks, tea, lotion, tissues, gum, mints, cleaning supplies. I’m also hot all the time, so a fan is a *must*, especially since most offices are kept several degrees warmer than my personal comfort zone. And just looking around, there are a lot of work-related items I use every day too – my keyboard, mouse, phone, headsets, notepad, pens, markers, binders. The whole concept of hot desking just sounds ridiculous and miserable. You would think that while forcing people to come back to the office, they would want to ease the transition instead of making it as miserable and uncomfortable as possible. Do they care about employee retention at all? Sorry, LW, I have no advice, but a lot of empathetic rage on your behalf.

  76. JB*

    I’ve been in that situation as a consultant. We were at a client site for over a year with a room more or less dedicated to us, but not allowed to leave anything overnight. And we were there 5 days a week. I kept a rolling bin in my trunk for my office stuff. Mine was one of those square collapsible bins made of plastic with the telescoping handle and optional lid. It wasn’t packed full so when I pulled it out of the car, I could still tuck in my laptop. Some days I didn’t carry it in, figuring I could run back to the car if needed.

  77. Qwerty*

    If you haven’t talked to your manager already, gently ask if there is a place to keep essentials like OTC meds, phone chargers, etc. Keep it to items that are generic and could be shared with the team. Maybe they’ll tell you about lockers for individuals or maybe the manager will use some capital to get a shared team box so you aren’t each carting the same items in every day.

    Will your team be in the office on the same days or will there only be <50% of you any given day? If the latter, ask if it would be possible for the team to have a subset of the hot desking seats (so that other teams can find the in-person representative for the day or so the two in-person reps for the day are able to collaborate or fill in whatever reason fits your team). I've seen a lot of hot desking rules get more relaxed because a manager declares "these two rows are for the Teapot Painting team" – effectively making those rows under the manager's domain.

    Be very careful to avoid any hint of complaining or negativity in your tone. Your manager is likely hearing a lot of griping about a decision outside of their control – you want them focused on "this is an easily solvable problem" rather than lumping your question in with the complaints. Avoid sweeping statements about the company as a whole and keep it to just focusing on how your team can work together to make this experience a little better.

    1. Alice*

      On the one hand — it’s definitely good advice to avoid being perceived as complaining.

      On the other — I am so sick of having to reassure my manager that I don’t blame her for the policies that she has to impose (but did not control) that make my work and life more difficult.

      In 1:1s, she asks, “how are you feeling about this policy?” You know how I’m feeling about this policy — the same way that I felt two months ago. The policy hasn’t changed and it isn’t going to change. I’m complying with it while I look for a job with better working conditions. What’s the point of talking about it again?

      (I think the point of talking about it again is because she usually hasn’t read my reports, so has no comments/corrections to offer about my actual work….)

  78. anon for this*

    (no really, don’t do this, but…)

    GIANT box of Tampax, front and center of the desk. Carry it with you as you move about the building. Get all the women you work with to do the same. See how long the hot-desking-no-lockers trend lasts.

  79. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    It’s been a minute since I’ve had to do this and my solution relies on driving a car to work, so many grains of salt. I also have ADHD so I needed a solution where I could create the setup once and keep it because relying on daily tasks is a no-go.

    I bought one of those foldable tiered carts that look kind of like shopping carts. I got baskets that fit perfectly inside the tiers but had handles for easy removal. I put little dividers in the baskets and I put everything I needed at the office in there and organized it basically like I would two standard desk drawers. I kept the whole thing in my trunk and would just unfold the cart, put the baskets on, and roll the set up into the office with me every morning. I added a folding lap desk so that I could use the cart as a desk if needed.

    Just like with my office now, I duplicate products instead of swapping them back and forth from my home office and mobile office. The key to this working for me was that after I set up my little baskets, all I had to do was roll them in every day. It was only ever a problem when I went on trips or had a big grocery day and had to move the baskets from my trunk and inevitably forgot to put them back.

    I hope you find a solution that works for you!

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Hah I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit; are you the type of ADHD person who everyone is wowed by how organised you are, and don’t really get it when you say: “I have to be?”

      1. I have RBF*

        Are you me? If I am not religious about organization, I get really, really disorganized very quickly. X goes in this place, always, Y goes in that place, always. If I change it I have to be very specific about old => new.

        1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

          Solidarity my ADHD comrades! The dissonance between people in awe of how much it seems like I have my life together vs me constantly feeling like I’m hanging on by the thinnest of threads.

  80. Petty Hetty*

    I mean I would immediately go completely casual dress so I wouldn’t have to change shoes. Anyone who has a problem with it is volunteering to hold all your extra shoes everyday.
    And since I’m petty I would forget at least one essential work item every day-oh golly gee my headset is at home, my mouse got left behind etc. Because honestly this is not how you get people to come back to the office. Hey C-suites, employees are people too, stop treating us like indiscriminate widgets that can get slotted in anywhere with no friction.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Sounds the sort of place where forgetting essential work items would get the OP dinged – losing EOY merit rise, first in line for layoffs, even a PIP

  81. HannahS*

    Yes! I generally do not have my own workspace. I’m also in Canada and commute by foot to work in all seasons (uphill both ways, etc.) Here are my solutions:

    1. Acknowledge that you will not be able to recreate the comforts of a desk without a desk. This is the biggest one. Figure out what’s really necessary versus what’s nice to have, bearing in mind that the tradeoff is the inconvenience of hauling everything with you (and possible back pain.)

    2. Wear clothes that work for both commuting and work. It is possible. My entire work wardrobe is structured around the fact that my clothes need to be suited to 1-2 hours of walking outside every day in all weather; they tend to be on the more casual side of “business casual,” with lots of layers and natural fibres, and VERY good coats and shoes/boots. But also, when I really needed two sets of shoes, I carried one pair with me. It sucked; see point 1.

    3. Find ways to leave things at work. Can you leave a mug and tea in the breakroom cupboard? If you drive, could you have a little basket in your car of all of your non-perishable comforts (granola bars, hand cream, extra cardi) that you just leave in the trunk at the end of the day?

    4. Find substitutes. Could you use the tissues from work? Could you read a novel on your phone while on lunch, or listen an audiobook? Could you wear a lightweight pashmina and use it during the day as a work cardigan if you’re cold? Could you get a travel-sized hand cream and slip it in your coat pocket? Could you keep three teabags and a granola bar in your lunchbag?

    Further to point 1, it’s worth remembering that having your own dedicated workspace with skincare and snacks and time to read is not something that most working adults have access to. Of course, it would be better if everyone was comfortable at work! But I am not, and most people are not. You seem like you’re asking the question with a totally reasonable goal of seeing what solutions exist to help you be more comfortable at work, and I hope you find some of the proposed solutions helpful! I just wanted to acknowledge that for most of the working people (including me), a large amount of discomfort is simply tolerated. Ultimately, we each have to weigh how much discomfort we can tolerate in exchange for the paycheque and (hopefully) job satisfaction/other benefits.

  82. Ruby*

    You might want to look into an N95 SIP mask — they let you put a straw though an air-tight seal. My most COVID cautious friends did some research and supposedly they are as safe as any other N95.

  83. Cruciatus*

    Honestly, I am a person who likes routine so I’d just (try to) start using the same area every day, hope that my coworkers do too, then start leaving my stuff on my desk. Then, boom, eventually that is “my desk”.

    1. Don't Do That*

      I will 100% remove things left on desks in a hot desk situation if I know that person has not arrived for the day & had just left things overnight to “reserve” a space, especially if it is a primo position. They will be located in a box near the door for you to claim.

  84. Chaordic One*

    My employer went on a (much-needed) hiring spree during the COVID lockdowns and assigned the new hires to the desks that belonged to the old hires who were now WFH. When the new hires were up-to-speed they were also allowed to work from home. They finally decided to have most of the employees do WFH 4 days a week and then come into the office one day a week. If they tried to have everyone in the office at the same time, they wouldn’t have enough room for everyone. Fortunately, we are assigned desks in cubicles, however, I share my desk with 2 other people who work in the office on the days I’m WFH. At least one of those people is a slob. Other desks are assigned to different people 4 days a week.

    Even though we have desks with storage, no one stores anything at their desks when they’re not there. I left a cheap dollar store calendar and some cheap posters that I wouldn’t miss if something happened to them in my cubicle. We were given computer cases with wheels and retractable handles to tote our laptops to and from the office, and they mostly work pretty well. There was a lot of pushback when they tried to have us bring in our monitors and the PTB finally relented and purchased a second set of monitors that are permanently assigned to the desk, so at least I don’t have to pack up the monitor in addition to the laptop.

    Still, I find I bring in a lunch bag; a backpack with my sweater, hand lotion, medicines, gum, extra post-its and pens, and stuff like that. Then I have a tote that contains 3 ledgers that I have to refer to in the course of my work. So that’s like 4 big things to carry in from my car in the parking lot into the building. It might be worth it to get some kind of a larger case with wheels and retractable handle, so as to have less to carry, but so far I haven’t done it.

  85. Arglebargle*

    I am a primary care provider who, at the beginning of my career, worked in a different office of the same healthcare system every single day—and sometimes two clinics in one day, one in the am and one in the pm. It SUCKED. I basically carried my “office” on my back and to make it more pleasant I made up small “kits” that I would carry in a bigger bag: lunchbox including cutlery and water bottle; notebook, pens, ID, stethoscope and other tools; personal stuff like lip balm, glasses, phone charger and battery, headphones, kindle (to read on commute), wallet, hand cream, etc. When I finally moved into an office 5 days a week it was such a relief. Having a decent locker or a place to store your stuff would be better than living a turtle life and dragging it all around with you.

  86. RuledbyCats*

    I haven’t seen much addressing how this would impact people with disabilities, but the idea of a wheelchair user having to navigate this makes my teeth itch. Or someone using crutches, temporarily or permanently. Limited upper body strength/ability. Back problems. Arthritis. Limited or no vision. Pregnant. Post-surgery limits. There are SO MANY challenges here for people with any sort of limitation.

    I really appreciate people coming up with a lot of good ideas here for OP, but as is often the case there’s a tendency to forget the barriers already in place. I wonder OP if there’s a way you and your boss might make some arguments for considering a wider abilities view and get some improvements ahead of possible legal accommodation issues being raised? Get the top levels to maybe think a little more about things that impact staff (I’m quite confident your highest levels are not turning the C-suite into a hot-desking free for all for the VPs…) and plan to alleviate most obvious barriers ahead of time? And maybe help make this alternative temporary.

    1. Chaordic One*

      In my workplace people with disabilities are allowed to continue to WFH full-time and do not have to come into the office, even one day a week. WFH is considered a “reasonable accommodation.” (I have a co-worker with Crohn’s Disease who does WFH 5 days a week as a reasonable accommodation of their disability.)

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        But that kind of sucks, too? It might be the preferred option for some people with disabilities, but others might want to be in the office some or all of the time for the camaraderie, visibility to management, mentorship opportunities, etc., especially if the rest of the team is in-person at least part time.

        “We don’t want to provide you with adequate workspace even though all you’re asking for is a place to store some stuff and an ergonomic chair available to you each day you’re in. Sorry, you can’t fully participate in office life at our company.” Not a great approach.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I suspect that raising barriers may be a subtle but deliberate strategy to get rid of the less able-bodied.

      Not having lockers is extraordinary for regular hot-desking.

  87. Sara M*

    Slight tangent, but this is fascinating to me. Everyone who’s describing their work backpacks–you’re describing my daily “purse” (backpack) as a disabled person, because of the amount of gear I have to lug around anywhere I go. I’m hotdesking through life!

    I have to be ready for all sorts of things. Of my tricks, here are ones that may help.

    –a quality backpack with proper back support. I like Osprey packs (they replaced it for free when it broke). I have a Nova style. You can find these at REI or other camping stores.

    –Speaking of camping stores, REI has tons of travel gear. I am fond of Eagle Creek packing bags because they keep each item in its own place. Container Store also has lots of great travel packing gear.

    –Pack a duplicate of every cord you need. (shorter lengths pack better, but don’t go ultrashort unless you’re sure). USB to USB, USB to Lightning, etc. Different color cords make this easier.

    –Ultralightweight first aid kit is useful for band-aids and the like, though the company ought to have those.

    –Get a pillbox and assemble your own kit. Some people need three compartments, for Advil and Tylenol and Benadryl or whatever. Others of us need… like, 10 compartments for… too many medications. :)

    –Hydration: There’s actually backpacks that have built-in water bottles for hydration. But that’s maybe overkill for an office. If you get the good kind of backpack (fully supported) there’s plenty of places to put a water bottle. I like Hydroflask myself, but there’s plenty of good ones.

    I’ll do another post with a bunch of links to stuff I like. No profit for me, just offering from my experience.

    1. Quill*

      Seconded, but also: I keep my micro pharmacy (daily meds, painkillers, allergy meds, bandaids, antiseptic) in a series of very small altoids cans in a makeup bag. It keeps them from being crushed!

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I often just toss multiple kinds of pills into one pill bottle. So it says “Advil” on the outside but inside there’s also Sudafed and Allegra in there. I know this isn’t necessarily best practice, but I know what each kind is by appearance.

        1. Quill*

          Unfortunately one of the daily meds looks enough like an NSAID… would work for the others though.

        2. SpaceySteph*

          I always laughed, there was a line in our annual training about not being allowed to bring more medication than what you’d use in a day in an unlabled/off-labeled container. Tell that to my bottle with a handful of like 8 different pills. I’m not restocking Advil every day, my dude.

          1. Quill*

            Right. Like, if you are in a position to know what / how many pills I brought we’d better have a medical provider and patient relationship. Because otherwise you’ve crossed SEVERAL boundaries.

          2. Sara M*

            I take 50 pills a day of various things, per doctor guidance (vitamins, prescriptions). I have to fill my trays biweekly. I fill the largest organizer I’ve found, and spill into another one. Mine has removable day-boxes so I can carry them one at a time, otherwise my bag would be very heavy.

            Do I know how to party or what? :D

        3. Schnapps*

          Not gonna lie – I use an old prescription bottle for my advil and tylenol that I schlep around. One bottle, both mixed in together. Advil is orange, tylenol is white. I also write A&T on the lid in sharpie.

        4. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

          WOW! that’s a whole new level of micromanaging. That’s like elementary school level! Are they looking at your purse every day? Oops, you have 8 Advil, and the recommended dose is only 4 a day. There’s a write-up.

          And what about prescriptions? I have a week of my afternoon meds in my pill box. Would that get me in trouble? Because I sure would get a note from my doctor explaining that I have to have these meds and because I have to cut them in half for the afternoon it is best to have them precut. And I’m not taking my huge prescription bottle that hold 200 tablets with me with only 1 half pill.

    2. Sara M*

      This is comparable to my daily Osprey backpack/purse:

      Here’s a hydration backpack:

      Eagle Creek packing cubes. There’s others like this, so search “packing cubes”:

      Light first aid kit if you want one:


      Water bottles (I like wide-mouth Hydroflask):

      Good luck!

  88. Dasein9*

    Seems to me that if an employer is not providing employees with any storage that can be used overnight, etc., they must not value the perks that come with employees having storage, such as professional clothing/footwear and supplies.

    Hey, if the employer doesn’t have a problem with you arriving in whatever is most comfortable, and not carrying more than is reasonable, enjoy a radically relaxed dress code and having longer to work on things, since you don’t get optimized supplies and peripherals in a consistent workspace.

    If any of this is a problem for the company, they’ll find a solution.
    They certainly won’t seek one if it’s not their problem, though.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This was my exact thought as well. If the company expects that the employees have to give up something, the company will have to give up on some of their expectations also.

  89. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    When my workplace (a school) first came back to in-person in fall 2020, we didn’t have the normal break room and reusable dishes in the cafeteria. They did provide lunch, with compostable cutlery, but I hated the waste. I started packing a bundle of cutlery every day – I got some cloth napkins (actually I used bandanas) and rolled up my silverware inside, secured it with a loop of elastic, and tossed it in my bag. After lunch I could bundle it back up and put it away again.

    Still, my sympathies. It’s obnoxious that your workplace is making you have to decide between doing without little material comforts, or adding to your routine of “stuff to pack in my bag”.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I like this very much! I’ve become a fan of cloth napkins as I’ve gotten older, and this is a great way to use them.

  90. CR*

    My office is hybrid and before they installed lockers, tbh I found a closet nobody was using and put my extra shoes, etc, in there.

  91. Elaine Benes*

    I work in several different locations for my job so I don’t have a desk. I have bag of the comforts I like to keep with me and then keep that in the car to grab as needed. I will say, I was also ruthless in deciding what I REALLY needed (extra outfits – no. Fresh socks (I work at a gym) – yes). But my essentials always include a book, coffee mug, and water bottle. Also someone else mentioned using a book bag and I agree with that 100%.

  92. Nea*

    I’m going to recommend a rolling sewing machine tote for these reasons:
    – rolling protects your back from hauling all that stuff around
    – it’ll be big enough to contain everything you mention
    – it has lots of little dividers and pockets that will organize your smaller objects
    – the padded section for the sewing machine will protect the laptop
    – the tote itself can act as an extra shelf to hold lighter objects (up to a 9-pound cat in my experience)

    My sympathies, because hot desking is The Worst, but you might as well take advantage of the thing specifically engineered to haul a large expensive computer while also keeping track of little spools of thread, cutters, patterns, and mats, and still have space left over for both an iron and a project in progress.

  93. L*

    I am confused about how this relates to hydration. Wouldn’t you have the same problem in a regular office set up? I assume there is a kitchen somewhere, or you can bring a water bottle with your stuff.

    I used to work at a place like this. We had lockers.

    1. Schnapps*

      I think its more about wearing a mask and finding it difficult to drink with it.

  94. spaceelf*

    Like if a company insists on mindless hoteling, they need to provide a way in which people can coordinate space usage.

    Otherwise, it’s A.) pointless to go back to an in-office space that’s chaotic and less productive B.) just have assigned places again or C.) Go back to remote

    Some orgs are so goddamned stupid

  95. Pink Candyfloss*

    We asked our company for daily lockers, and they put them in, so we do have places to put your coat and store things overnight as needed.

  96. Bitter Melon*

    My workplace has enlisted a desk booking system, so you may reserve a desk before coming to work every day– if you are expected on site 5 days a week, we can repeat the reservation.
    We’ve also been given lockers to use for personal storage during the work day, given we do not have our personal desk.

    The problem we have, given we are quickly outgrowing our space, is there are more people than space, so sometimes there isn’t enough desks. However, we can sometimes be provided flexibility to work from home if appropriate.

  97. SpaceySteph*

    I have always had a desk but used to have a job where 2-3 days a week I worked onsite at a different place which was not my assigned desk (mandated coverage of a shared workstation). I carried a big backpack with everything I needed: backup snacks (granola bars, little tubs of peanut butter), teabags, emergency money for vending machine, pens, tampons, lotion, hand sanitizer, the documentation I needed at that desk, a sweater, my headset, small umbrella, backup shoes, and so on. And I also carried an enormous lunch box with snacks for the day.

    When I was breastfeeding I also carried another bag with my pump, pump parts, cooler, etc and looked like I was moving in every day.

    We were permitted a small amount of group storage so we collectively stocked plastic silverware (99% of the time I bring regular silverware but sometimes forget), tissues, napkins, and kcups.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      Oh and hydration-wise I carried 2 containers a day- one for hot drinks and one for water. We had a coffee machine and keurig as well as a hot water dispenser (I don’t drink coffee and brought my own teabags), and a water fountain.

  98. Schnapps*

    I started a new position in December in a rapidly expanding organization, with a shortage of desks, so I didn’t get one. There is construction going on, and people are being moved around – it’s basically jungle rules for people who don’t have an assigned seat (like me!). That said, things that help:

    -I asked someone with an assigned office (which I often share when they are out of office) if I could stash some stuff in their office. It was all contained in a soft basket that I could schlep around from space to space.
    -I eventually comandeered an orphan mobile filing cabinet that no one was using. It lives in a corner of my manager’s office, but is easy enough to move around as needed – he knows that since I don’t have a space, I need somewhere to stash stuff. I keep various toiletries, books, a pair of heeled ankle boots, a pair of pumps, my french press, etc. in there along with a few paper files.
    – I switched from my love of the ARC notebook system (beautiful but takes a lot of space) to using an iPad with stylus and OneNote. I can sync it to our work sharepoint and it’s fine. We are mostly paperless so it fits in with the work culture.
    – Lightweight but sturdy backpack that carries: sunglasses, umbrella (using one of the bottle holders), laptop, iPad, phone, cable organizer with cables, keys, pens, small notepad, office pass, etc. Also inside a small toiletries pouch (Dollarama) with various meds and toiletries (antihistamines, bandaids and polysporin, tylenol and advil, eyedrops, tampons, lip balm, etc). Right now I’m using the backpack they gave me with the corporate laptop, but I really like the look of some of the ones mentioned here!
    -I replaced the giant power supply and cables for my laptop with a Digipower 60w charging brick and a special usb-c to usb-c cable that’s rated for laptops (all available from amazon). The charging brick has both a standard USB and a USB-C slot so I can charge two things at once. The special usb-c cable works on my laptop and phone, and I just tuck in a usb to mini, and a usb-c to lightning for my iPad and stylus. The one brick will charge all my Things. The iPad doubles as an ereader during the day, or if I want to watch something instead at lunch, it’ll connect to netflix or prime
    -Tuck a foldable reusable shopping bag (or plastic bag) in the backpack in case you end up with some extra stuff at the end of the day, that’s goopy or just won’t fit.
    -Hydration: get something with a straw, like others have suggested. If you’re driving, just keep it in your car and carry it in daily – presumably you can refill in the office.
    -If you manager has an office, ask if you can keep a basket of stuff in there overnight. Get all your coworkers to do the same thing, and keep asking.

  99. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Assuming from the OP that (in the short term at least) you can’t find another job or push as a group for WFH or lockers….

    Cut down to the essentials, ditch the “nice to have” & “feel at home” & “look my best” – restrict yourself to a small light backpack you can very easily carry.

    If you have to be in office, they should supply laptop, mouse, pens, stationary, all supplies required to perform your work.
    If not, request this.

    Use their water to drink – even cold tap water is better than commuting with heavy bottles of liquid.

    Bring only what you need for that day.
    If you can leave anything in the kitchen cupboards or fridge, do so.

    Download your novel to your phone or a small tablet

    Leave all makeup, brush etc at home and just bring a little nailscissors and nailfile set for emergencies.

    Wear the same shoes and clothes for office & commute; hang up outerwear.

  100. Some Lady*

    It depends on your situation and you as an individual, of course, but some things that could help with shoes –
    – Get a pair of tiny ballet flats; there are even tiny ballet flats that can fit fold and fit in a smallish purse. Wear more comfortable commuting shoes most of the time and put on the flats when just for higher level meetings, presentations, public-facing work, etc. Of course, that works best if you’re in an office that doesn’t care too much about footwear and/or doesn’t need a more dressy look except on occasion
    – Others have mentioned this, but get sneakers/walking shoes (or event walking sandal-type-things) that ‘pass’ for dress shoes under work pants. Monochromatic Skechers, Keds, Toms, etc. might be an option. It won’t help when you need boots or galoshes but could be helpful some of the time. Again, dependent on situation.

    I feel you — carrying stuff on my commute really ruins everything!

  101. GreenDooor*

    A long time ago, I worked in an office where everyone but me had a permanent desk. I never knew where I’d sit day-to-day. That place sucked and the turnover was so high that I’d just sit in the desk of whoever had quit that week. I bought a small divided basket and put my favorite pens in a jar in it, a small pint-sized mason jar of candy, and a small framed picture of my brother that made me laugh. Every morning, I’d unpack my pen jar, candy dish, and personal photo and set them out on whichever desk I was assigned and every night I’d pack them back in the basket and take them home. I was treated like crap but I wasn’t going to let them keep me from having “my” set up. I sure hope they install lockers or something. Because, like OP, there are a lot of things I just like to have on hand at work and it’d be a shame to have to lug them back and forth everyday.

  102. Dragonfly7*

    My workplace rotates 1 week onsite with 3 weeks at home, but we hotdesk for the week we are there.
    What I do:
    – Bought a commuter laptop backpack that includes hip and chest straps. Work is its sole purpose.
    – Certain personal items live in that backpack full time – tissues, work ID, extra pens and a notebook, hairbrush, lotion, etc.
    What my workplace does:
    – Identical tech setup at each work desk. I just bring my laptop, and, as a backup, my headset.
    – Provided us each with a reusable, leak-proof coffee thermos at on-boarding as part of environmental / sustainability efforts. There are a limited number of mugs if we forget ours.
    – Provides small things like menstrual products in the restrooms, and a hospitality desk with other small things (not sure which, I’ve not used it).
    – Provides very small lockers where things can be left overnight, but they MUST be emptied on Fridays.
    – Occasionally provides “thank you” gifts. Reusable, leakproof lunch containers and cutlery have been options.
    – There is little to no paperwork handled at my site, so the only paper I haul back and forth is any personal notes.

  103. RB*

    Sounds a lot like what our office did during shutdown. Completely remodeled the entire building with a switch to hot-desking/hoteling. No overnight lockers, just day-use ones, except for a handful of overnight lockers in another part of the building that isn’t near people’s workspaces. No personal items can be left in desks — they will actually have the custodians remove them. Nothing on the walls, very little ergonomic accommodation. No one likes this and people have chosen to stay 100% WFH rather than return to such an unwelcoming environment. We no longer have the cohesive work group we once enjoyed and when we do come in it seems pointless.

  104. Dances with Flax*

    Look into getting a “weekender” size soft-sided rolling bag – perhaps the size advertised as fitting under an airplane seat. You can fit a lot into one of those and then stash it in the coat closet or under the coat hooks.

    But I have yet to hear anyone who’s experienced “hot desking” and who really likes it. Here’s hoping that your next job will have real, assigned desks so that you don’t have to be an office nomad anymore!

  105. Crentist*

    When I was a consultant (in the pre-pandemic days), and had to go to different offices each day of the week. I did a few things for personal items that I carried everyday in my work backpack or bag:
    – A pencil case for my personal office supplies – writing utensils, cute sticky notes, a mini stapler, etc.
    – A toiletry case for lip balm, travel size deodorant/toothpaste/toothbrush/lotion, extra tampons/pads, ibuprofen, a phone charger, and a variety of tea bags/instant coffee packets (because terrible coffee was universal in all my offices, but they always had hot water).
    – An extra sweater for layering
    – For beverages, I had two reusable bottles – one for water and the other for hot drinks. I like the hydroflask insulated travel mugs because their lids are the best for being leak proof and relatively easy to clean. And when the lid is closed, the hot drinks will stay hot for hours!
    – An insulated lunch bag with a travel set of reusable bamboo cutlery (fork, spoon, knife, chopsticks – bamboo pretty light compared to metal).
    – I was lucky to not need to carry a laptop back and forth.

    Now that I have a dedicated workspace again, I realize what a luxury it is. Sorry your office is making this switch, but I hope any of these suggestions help it be as comfortable as it can be.

  106. Johannes Bols*

    Do the bosses have their own offices? If so, it seems to me they’re treating you like you’re flying a no frills budget airline. It’s like being in prison or something. The injustice of the way employees, whom mgt. expects superior work output from, but treats like they’re of a lower social cast, enrages me. Corporate America destroys your soul.
    I’m sorry that I don’t have any answer to this problem outside of doing something illegal. I’ve known only a handful of managers who weren’t overall a disordered total package: mentally, intellectually, emotionally (bringing baggage from their personal life into the office).
    I read posts on this site and am eternally grateful to be permanently divorced from being an adult treated like a lower life form by sick heads.

  107. Orange You Glad*

    I have nothing to add except to say I’m so happy my company hasn’t moved to hot desking. That type of setup just doesn’t make sense to me if people are coming into the office more than once a week. I can see it for a mostly remote workforce that comes in occasionally for meetings, but not as a regular work environment.

    We have a small “hotelling” section of desks that rarely get used. Management was really excited for them and did everything they could to prevent moving regular in-office workers to that area (even though we were out of cubes in our work area) but we’ve finally been forced to encroach on it due to growth. If anyone uses them it’s because they are in town for a few days and they can leave whatever they want at the desk while they are visiting.

  108. Samantha*

    I use a backpack that is packed the night before with all my essentials, including a mug, my favorite tea, pens, paper, etc. The backpack is large but I use it as my own personal “locker”. It took some adjusting at first but now it’s so easy! You just have to plan for your day and pack accordingly.

  109. Jesicka309*

    I must be in the minority because I love hot desking. Been doing it since 2019. It used to be first come first served for snagging a desk, but since 2020 it’s been by booking only.
    I have a locker but haven’t used it in about 2 years. It’s rarely near where I actually sit so better to just take what I need in my bag.

    Why I love it:
    -no one gets stuck next to that one pain in the ass coworker all the time.
    -I can move around the building depending on which team I’m working with that day (most teams have neighborhoods but I’m cross functional so need to work with diff folks)
    -no food at desks means no food smells while working. No toiletries drawers means no stanky perfume or deodorant getting sprayed. No personal plants means no gnats in the office. Literally half the letters in AAM immediately don’t apply.
    -I buy less crap for work. No paper trays or organizers. No special cutlery or crockery. No office shoes or cardigans.

    Why I hate it:
    -when people don’t follow the rules and start leaving stuff on their desks, or camp at desks without booking (aka the advice most people gave here!?!). Nothing worse than booking a desk in the area I need with the equipment I need next to the people I need, only to find some jerk has left his stuff all over it because he’s “making a stand”.

    1. Best Regards, T*

      +1 !! This is very relatable Jesicka309! Agree with your pros and cons, especially the annoying campers who leave the drawers stuffed to the brim so there’s no where to store my own things for the day when I sit there. People who do this with unassigned desks risk having their items thrown in the trash.

  110. Silverose*

    I roam between multiple sites, depending on where I’m covering any given day; I’m only in my set office location maybe one day a week if I’m lucky. I accepted that set up when I accepted the promotion. I requested and was granted a sturdy and spacious backpack with laptop sleeve (previously just had a sleeve shoulder bag that was tiny – barely held the laptop) for ADA accommodation reasons. The bag has the laptop and cord section that opens flat (for anyone who flies/has to send it through an X-ray conveyor belt), a large compartment, multiple smaller pockets, and 2 side water bottle pockets, and also came with a tech cord organizer that is separate but easily slides into the computer sleeve section. I keep a TSA-approved size plastic zipper bag of essentials – OTC meds, lotion, lip balm, etc – in the large compartment that I can easily transfer to my purse on weekends along with my wallet (which I keep small enough to fit in the mesh water bottle pocket on the backpack). My lunch box will even fit on top of that bag in the same compartment as that pouch, but it’s fairly small. Pens, business cards, sanitary needs, fidget all go in the smallest pocket on the outside. Glasses case, ID badge, work keys (sometimes 2-3 lanyards worth of keys), face mask, other work odds & ends go in the next smallest pocket. I can fold up a flannel or lightweight cardigan inside the large compartment with my essentials pouch, even if my lunch box is also there. There’s a tiny padded pocket on the top of the bag meant for sunglasses that I use for my inhaler or other small, super quick access needs.

    I use a cane so the more I fit in the backpack, the easier walking and using doors/keys is for me, even if the backpack is a little heavier. A backpack with more pockets makes it easier to keep things organized. The tech/cord organizer pouch was the icing on the cake – I also carry a hot spot, head set (wireless over-ear), and another small tech device for portable real time language translation, plus cords for all those and my work phone. All the devices and cords except my phone and the laptop cord fit in that pouch, and the pouch fits in the computer compartment with the laptop, it’s cord, and my wireless mouse.

    It’s been an adjustment to not have a set location anymore, but having my stuff organized in a backpack with enough space has been the key for me.

  111. SB*

    Companies expecting people to come back to the office then treating them like this is part of the reason “no one wants to work anymore”. Lockers are the obvious answer here but that requires your employer to give a crap about their employees.

    1. anon for this*

      It’s also a really, really great way to filter out employees who aren’t young and able, and that’s the huge elephant in the room that the C-suite ignores when this sort of thing comes up.

  112. Bethany*

    I have the same issue, and I walk to and from work so I don’t like to carry a lot. I find it’s very easy to work around, especially as there are things here your office should be providing:

    Office shoes – mine are ballet flats and are small and light. Easy to carry in.
    Extra cardigan – we have a communal coat cupboard where I keep mine.
    Mug, tea bags, cutlery, tissues – your office should provide these, you shouldn’t need to bring them in.
    Granola bars – keep in the office fridge if you don’t have a pantry, they’re fine cold.
    Lip balm, hand cream – these live in my handbag anyway.
    A novel to read during lunch break – carry in.

    This way you’re only taking a pair of flats and a book (if you choose) extra to work every day, which is not a big imposition. And carrying a laptop and your lunch is very very normal.

  113. Kate*

    Out office has a kind of hotdesking situation, and like you I like to have my snacks and tea, water and hand cream etc nearby. The way I get around it is having a little wooden caddy with compartments and a handle, so I can store all my goodies in it on my desk during the workday, but can easily move it all if needed. They have given us lockers to store our stuff in overnight and weekends. Though functionally I have left the stuff on the desk for the past few months, haha. I would look out for how strongly they are enforcing this. What if you “accidentally” leave something on the desk one time and see what happens? If they do enforce it strongly, I would ask for lockers, because it is ridiculous they expect you to cart all your stuff in and out each day.

  114. Ranon*

    I’m in a hot desk/ free address/ hoteling/ whatever else you want to call it office, and I think it works as well as it can, but I want to call out what we have in the environment before I say how I work with it because I think that makes a big difference:

    – Desks are all height adjustable with quick dock stations and a mix of large single or smaller double monitor stations
    – Teams are assigned “neighborhoods” so you generally know where to find folks, we are only required in the office 2-3 days a week so there is some natural mixing and some folks having “their” desk
    – Lockers by request
    – Cold climate so we have a giant shared coat rack with room for boots below in a convenient back hall
    – Break rooms every floor have ample supplies of mugs, coffee, tea, and ice and water machines (with pellet ice), cans of seltzer, and plenty of fridge and freezer space for your lunch

    I have a locker and it contains what our office designer calls the “three S’s”- snacks, sweater, shoes. This time of year it’s 95% chocolate as I don’t need the sweater or to change shoes. And a random hand lotion although actually our bathrooms have a decent option too.

    My backpack was company provided (a Solgaard model) and I carry my laptop, mouse, headphones, note pad, and pens in there, plus some miscellaneous charging cables. I’m a laptop keyboard person so that makes things easier. The office has spares of pretty much everything besides the laptop if I forget something. I carry a separate bag for my lunch most days and generally carry my purse separately too.

    Because I’m not in the office every day it’s useful to always have my laptop on me as it lets me decide on a given day that there’s too much snow or whatever and actually I’m working from home, and because our culture is flexible that’s not a big deal.

    But the main thing is I’m working in like a three or four star hotel in terms of amenities and environment quality and you just don’t need as much stuff as when you’re at, idk, the motel 6 of offices

  115. Love to WFH*

    Not having a locker to store things is ridiculous. Does your office stock menstruation supplies in the bathrooms, or are you just expected to carry a day’s supply in your purse to work?

    This isn’t safe. When I did training to be on a Community Emergency Response Team, one of the instructors emphasized that every woman who wears fashionable shoes at work needs to put a pair of sneaker under her desk so she can get home by foot if there’s a transit problem.

    I’ve hot-desked, and my locker had an umbrella, comfortable shoes, and snow boots. I took the bus to work, and if the weather changed during the day, I needed the right stuff to be able to get home dry and without blisters on my feet (or slipping in the snow). I did walk 5 miles home once when an unexpected snow storm shut down the roads.

  116. Caren*

    I’m not sure if anyone else has mentioned it, but have you heard of a Sip Mask? It’s a wee valve you can install in a mask so you can drink through a straw. Dehydration is awful, you don’t want that on top of wearing a mask all day!

  117. Queenie*

    Aiming for a touch of levity here…

    One up side to being forbidden from leaving anything in a desk overnight is you don’t have to worry about how to take home your personal items without being noticed when you start job searching?

    Seriously, though, I wish you all the luck. I could never survive in a hotdesk environment.

  118. Molly*

    If you want to hydrate without removing your mask — try a Sip Valve. They can be installed in any mask, and allow you to drink through a small straw via a valve that closes to maintain the seal of your mask when not in use. The straws are tiny so won’t work for anything much thicker than water, but they’re fine for hydrating.

  119. Not Op*

    You are me? Me are you? I carry backpack – ergonomic mouse, headset, travel and work comforts (lip balm, sunscreen, hats, gloves, mask, spare change, hygiene, travel cup, etc), laptop, and sometimes an umbrella.

    I take my breaks outside and drink water from my own cup. I eat pbj sandwiches for lunch.

    I object to re-implementing my student days. But at least I don’t have exams!

    1. Not Op*

      to add. I have 3 mandatory days in-office, work in 1-2 different buildings/offices, I am shorter than 5ft, sometimes I have to wait over 1hr for commuting bus (public transport sucks where I commute) and for the past 5 months my commute has flood gridlock every few weeks (thanks Human-induced climate change!)

      sometimes I wear black gumboots to the office, and keep wearing them. No-one notices because they look like black boots (but not stylish).

      I am appreciating this discussion, as I am definitely needing to downsize the weight I carry.

  120. Art*

    All of those items would fit in a backpack and a lot of backpacks have subtle, office-friendly designs. So that’s one problem solved maybe?

  121. CLC*

    Do you have lockers? If so buy an art storage box with a handle and keep all your small items there. If not… well still trying to figure that out myself.

  122. Scenic Synth*

    I get the logic behind hot desking. Still, it hardly makes for an ergonomic office where people traditionally come in various sizes and shapes. And from a sociological viewpoint, what better real-life Lord of the Flies scenario than letting people compete for the “good seats”?

  123. helihu*

    I hang a bag with my keyboard, mouse, water bottle, and some other stuff from the coat rack in one of our shared rooms and just keep it there between weekly visits to the office. That only works because few other people do it and because I can be fairly confident things won’t disappear from the building/room. Now if it was just more predictable which monitors will successfully connect to my laptop!

  124. JustMe*

    Never officially had to hot desk, but in both my old and current workplace I’ve had to change my office space so many times it basically felt like it. Now, honestly, I have my small collection of work supplies in a little box at work (and they’re things that are obviously mine, like some extra business cards and rubber stamps with my name) and keep all other necessary things I might need in my purse. You eventually find that you really don’t need that much to work.

  125. Problem!*

    Start recording how many hours you waste a day packing and unpacking your stuff. I was in a similar hot-desking situation and I spent about two weeks timing how long it took to get my stuff set up and taken back down daily and presented it to management. I had two computers and a full set of peripherals for each and by the time I had unpacked all of it, hooked up both my mice and keyboards, found an Ethernet cable and HDMI cable (which would always vanish overnight) and then got everything powered up and logged in I was wasting at least 30 mins every morning. Then I had to do it all in reverse in the afternoon. So about 45-60 mins a day every day compounded by number of employees is $$$ in the long run. They eventually walked it back and allowed office regulars to claim a desk of their own they didn’t have to share and let others continue WFH unless there was an actual need for them to be in the office.

  126. Best Regards, T*

    I tolerated hot-desking for 9 years until covid (no lockers either.) I wasn’t even guaranteed to claim the same desk 2 days in a row if someone beat me there. It was infuriating at times. Then after 3 years WFH, I came back to the office part-time and finally got my own desk with my name on it. Such a basic thing that was deeply meaningful to me.

    But, old habits mean I have not fully moved into the space and I probably never will. With hot-desking, you learn that you don’t need much. All my daily essentials would fit into one bag and a lunchbox where I kept a stash of my favorite sweeteners, tea bags and snacks. If you drive to work, you can leave extra items in your car.

  127. Jackie*

    I’m seeing a lot of comments suggest lockers but this company seems slow on the uptake and that could take forever. My company does hot dealing and I book the same desk every time, even pre book it for weeks. Every desk still has a drawer and I leave all my stuff there (my makeup, my snacks, comfy shoes, a blanket) and I put a note that just says “this is my stuff leaving here and contact me if you have an issue” so far zero people have noticed and it hasn’t been a problem at all. And everyone around me is delighted when I share ny desk snacks!

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