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As you may know, you can use dedicated Microsoft Exchange (Office 365) mailboxes to represent resources such as rooms, desks and equipment, and start booking them using standard Outlook calendar.

Microsoft Outlook calendaring has become a popular way for staff to schedule meetings. Using it to book meeting rooms and other resources such as catering and AV equipment is another way of maximising your current technology infrastructure.

This white paper looks at the ‘native’ functionality available in hybrid Microsoft Exchange/Office 365 and Outlook to aid the process of managing resources.

Importantly, it highlights tips for getting the most out of Exchange resources, including the best strategies for approaching a resource booking project.


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Switching from fixed desks to flexible working spaces is challenging on many levels:

Not only do you require an enterprise-level desk booking solution, that’s scalable and flexible enough to reflect your workspace booking needs, you also need to pay attention to the ‘people challenges’ of implementing a new regime for managing how your workspace is used.

When Notting Hill Genesis Housing Association decided to adopt a flexi-working environment as part of a relocation to its new flagship office in Camden, the people issues were much bigger than they’d anticipated.

If only a desk booking solution was as simple as a cube-shaped light

According to Jenny Quigley, Project Manager at Notting Hill Genesis,

In retrospect, the cultural change aspect of the project would have benefited from some external mediation. Staff were taken aback when we told them they wouldn’t have fixed desks anymore, even though we were trying to provide more flexible facilities.  Some even had to speak with management before they got on board with our proposals.

Assuming you’ve addressed the people-issues of change in culture, loss of territory, concerns over hygiene (especially with Covid-19), secure storage and so on, and you’ve cracked the IT infrastructure side of things such as providing laptops or virtual desktops and call-routing, the next challenges are around how you provision workspaces on a practical level.

  • Can staff book desks easily, both on the day and in advance?
  • How will you physically signpost desks?  Can they be located easily?
  • Is it possible to find a desk near a work-colleague or another resource you need to use, like the photo-copier?
  • Can desks be automatically put back ‘into the pool’ in the event of a no-show or early check-out?
  • Can desk bookings be linked with your calendar and ID card system?

These are all critical factors in ensuring flexible working spaces get used – not abused.

Unfortunately, a desk booking solution can’t fix what to do with the desk plant, the kids’ hand paintings, or where to put the team’s secret biscuit stash, and all the other political wrangling that you might encounter along the way, but our project team is on hand with guidance and best practices to help smooth over the ‘soft but hard’ issues.

Hot Desking booking software

Essential has helped hundreds of UK enterprises successfully introduce flexible workspace management initiatives through enterprise level workspace booking solutions

STOP PRESS: COVID-19 means that contactless operation for your room booking service across all functionality outlined in this article is now VITAL.

It’s an all-too-common problem:

You try to book a meeting room in Outlook calendar and there’s nothing available.  Then, on the day you needed the resource, you find yourself walking past corridors of empty meeting rooms.

Why does this happen?  Who are these wasteful people?  How can we stop this?

It doesn’t help that Outlook calendar makes it easy to book recurring meetings, and people simply forget to cancel a meeting, or perhaps they are off ill.  But that’s a huge expense you could do without.

Implemented correctly, Outlook-integrated room screens can help you get maximum room utilisation at all times and put an end to bad room-booking etiquette.

Here’s 4 essential room screen features that you should look for to achieve the best results:

  1. Check-In with Auto-Release – This is the ability to set up an on-screen room check-in function that works to a pre-defined time window.  The idea is that if no-one shows up within, say, 10 minutes after the meeting was due to start, the room is automatically released to be used by someone else.
  2. Check-In with Authentication – This is a next step on from above, where basically you capture the ID* of the person that booked the room as they arrive.  It stops the scenario where just anyone could press a check-in button.  It also gives you a very accurate fix on who is consistently wasting rooms, so that you can do something about it.  *Ideally you need an authentication mechanism that ties in with your AD system and lets you use an existing ID card, a short PIN number or confirmation via a mobile device.
  3. Auto-Blocking – Imagine someone defaults on a room booking 3 times in a row (or whatever number you want).  We can now register this fact and automatically cancel his or her subsequent bookings for the same room.  Admittedly, this action might be considered extreme – you might just want to flag repeat offenders so they can be tackled differently – but being proactive about repeat offenders could save you thousands of meeting room hours per month.
  4. At-a-glance Availability Status – Importantly, if a room is released, the room screen itself should show ‘at a glance’ that it’s free to be re-booked.  For example, staff should be able to see a ‘glowing green’ status light from the end of a corridor or see free rooms on a overview screen in reception.  They should also see clearly when the room is scheduled to be used next, so they know they’ll have enough time for their meeting.

There’s lots of other things you should look for when selecting a room screen that will save money and help staff get the most out of available facilities, but simply by releasing rooms when the organiser doesn’t show up on time is a great start.

This functionality alone is enabling an international aerospace giant to release 3,300 hours of meeting room capacity each month.

Another key thing you need to know is that although room screens look very slick – they aren’t an extravagance – especially when you realise how much they can save your company.  For example, our solution lets you use just one screen to represent multiple rooms – so you don’t have to have a screen per room.

Room Screen Solution

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