Over the last year or so, many office car parks have had tumble-weed blowing across them. As we navigate our return to work, however, managing how parking spaces (as well as office space) is used, can offer significant benefits.
Even before COVID-19 hit, a lot of companies are shrinking their car park sizes, not only to reduce real-estate overheads, but also to encourage staff to use more eco-friendly methods of transport.
Essential client, Airbus, enacted a reduction in car park space as one of their key “green initiatives” in their multi-million-pound Aerospace Park development in Bristol. Many of their employees now ride-share, use public transport, or even cycle to work, making a real impact on their carbon footprint with the support of their employers.
Implementing a solution for booking office parking is a great way to maximise the use of an increasingly scarce (and costly) resource, but it takes exceptionally careful planning to navigate all the potential complications.
First off, you have the practical issues.
For example: do you want your parking bays to be individually numbered and have those numbers correlate with your booking system to minimise human error? Alternatively, would you prefer the simpler approach of just providing a fixed number of bays (or pool) to be booked?
You also need to think about booking rules, such as:
- Can bookings be made at any time, or will they be limited to the day before or a specific time window?
- Will directors or senior staff get priority parking, and will they be allowed to block-book their bays?
- How will you handle visitor parking? Will these bays be separate from the general pool, or booked on a priority basis?
- Can staff book parking from their mobile devices?
What about when things don’t go according to plan? For example:
- The person who booked Bay 9 parks in Bay 6 by accident, setting off an unintended domino-effect of “on-the-fly” adjustments.
- An employee has a last-minute change of plans, or rushes off on a personal emergency, and forgets to release their bay back into the pool.
- A senior staff member with priority parking forgets to release their bay when they go on holiday or enters into an informal arrangement with a favourite employee or friend to use their space while they’re out of office.
- Somebody parks badly and takes up two bays.
And how do you plan to introduce the new system?
- Will you provide training on the rules and technology?
- Will there be a well-thought-out strategy to justify the change in behaviour?
- Will there be counselling for when tempers start to rise…?
If you thought desks were the most contentious resources that booking solutions could be used for, you’d be shocked to find out just how strongly people feel about parking spots.
You simply cannot ignore the emotive issues of car park booking. They can be even more challenging to unravel than the practicalities, particularly when subjective questions like fairness come up.
A great example that we came across recently involved a historic arrangement that gave female employees preferential parking after an unwelcome encounter occurred one evening after work. Male employees who had previously accepted the arrangement reacted quite negatively to its continuation under the new reservation system, voicing concerns over fair treatment for all genders in light of changing times.
While that specific situation may not be an issue for your business, broader challenges like declining public transport services, traffic congestion, and overly-enthusiastic traffic wardens affect us all.
Our best advice would be to brace yourself – switching from your car park space etiquette to a new regime can be a bit of a bumpy ride…
The importance of a game plan
Balancing seniority, fairness and efficiency to keep everyone happy in a limited parking environment is always going to be a delicate process. Technology goes a long way towards simplifying the practicalities, but it can’t account for the human factor without some kind of game plan.
Creating this game plan really should be the first step for any business considering the implementation of a car-park resource-booking system. We’d suggest running through as many likely scenarios as possible and inviting employees to comment on any challenges that could affect their day-to-day experience. (Who better to shine a light on the unique eccentricities of your people and processes, after all?)
From there, you can start to formulate a basic strategy for your reservations which can be refined with the help of your service provider. Together, you can ensure your technology is implemented in the most efficient way possible, achieves your desired outcomes, and keeps conflict to a minimum.
We suspect that the whole concept of having a dedicated desk or an allocated parking space will have to ‘go out of the window‘ in the wake of COVID-19.
Even the workspace or the parking bay normally used by directors – will need to become part of the available ‘pool’ when not in use:
- All available desk spaces will be required to enable the requisite social distancing, and
- All available parking bays will be required for staff coming into the office so they can avoid public transport.
Reverse hoteling (where staff can release their allocated parking bay to be booked by other staff when they are due to be out of the office) is one way in which this can be achieved.
Given that ‘out of office’ is likely to be the default position for a lot of your workforce, you may elect to make all available work and parking spaces bookable (subject to policies you might set) by those that need them.
The Essential Solution
At Essential, we’re very proud of the flexibility of our resource booking system and our ability to integrate almost any functionality our clients desire.
From basic reservation systems to time-based check-in/check-out procedures, and reverse hoteling, our team is ready to help you find the right solution for your needs.