The ATO’s planned hot-desking scheme is about to go before the Fair Work Commission.

The Tax Office says it is trying to use space and personnel more efficiently by shifting them from set workstations onto shared ‘hot desks’.

The unions representing Tax Office will argue before the FWC that the new office fit-outs are in breach of a standing industrial agreement, as it only allows the ATO to require staff doing fieldwork to share desks.

Hot-desking is gaining popularity in the private sector, where some firms employ it to reduce wasted space and stimulate teamwork.

But the practice is gaining critics too, who say it disrupts their work and poses health and safety problems.

The ATO says it does not plan to convert all offices to the new design, but in new it-outs and new buildings, it will “consider how to design spaces in a way that creates a healthy working environment that improves flexibility, agility, collaboration and productivity”.

The Tax Office says trials at its offices in Melbourne received strong support, with staff keen to work in the new office layout.

“Our staff working in this environment have told us they have spent more time sharing their ideas and knowledge and believe they have increased their individual and team productivity,” its spokesperson.

ASU official Jeff Lapidos said staff had been able to volunteer to participate in the trial, so it self-selected people who would like it.

The trial site included hot desks in open office plan that also featured luxurious spaces, places to relax and have meals, which many other offices where hot-desking is planned would not provide.