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Are you planning a ‘Covid-secure’ workspace booking system? As and when your workforce can return to the office*, here’s 4 top tips when it comes to how you go about identifying your Covid-secure desks.

*Tip 3 in this blog is even more important given the announcement of the new four-step plan to ease England’s lockdown

1. Walk the floor

It’s tempting to use CAD diagrams as a reference when numbering workspaces, however in our experience these can quickly become out-of-date.  Desks can get informally ‘nudged’ around and added or removed over the years.

You may also find there’s glass partitions or dividers that give extra protection that are not obvious in a CAD diagram.

There could also be some ‘desire paths’ (as opposed to the originally intended walkways around the office).  These will need to be taken into consideration (or blocked off) to avoid traffic passing too close to desk occupants.

If possible, the best starting point is to physically walk the floor with a tape measure and a critical eye.   Numbering each desk as you physically encounter them is also the best to ensure your staff can easily find the particular desk they’ve booked with minimal hunting around.

2. Treat your desks like hotel rooms.

It’s always a good idea to use familiar and intuitive conventions, and the way in which hotel rooms are (usually) numbered is worth emulating for your desks.

So:

  • Use the first number to indicate the floor, and the next digits to signify the workspace number. 3 digits will give you up to 99 numbers to ‘play with’ per floor.
  • If you have more than 99 desks on a floor, you will need to use 4 digits in total.
  • Ideally your numbering should count up in a clockwise direction as you walk around the office floor, starting from the main entrance (e.g., the main lifts).
  • Numbers should be allocated logically within a desk block, to minimise the amount of walking around to find a desk.
  • You may consider adding signage in strategic places (e.g. other entry points to the floor) to signpost desk ranges.

Consistency helps with this process, so number desks counting up clockwise around a block or zig-zagging across a block of desks, but don’t mix these ‘conventions’ up.

The above example shows the right way and the wrong way to number your desks.  Our great tip is to imagine you are walking along the floor using the main thoroughfares.   How would you feel if desk 19 was on the other side of the floor from desk 16?  Confused, we think.

Finally, even if you just have one floor of desks, it’s useful to include a ‘0’ on your desk numbering, so count 001-099, not 1, 2, 3 up to 99, as some desk booking systems sort alphanumerically.

3. Number all potential desks (not just the safely spaced ones)

We have seen (and thankfully, averted) more than one project where the intention was to only allocate a consecutive number just to the ‘safely distanced’ desks.

For example:

The key downside to this approach is that social distancing requirements may change.

For example, changes to Government social distancing guidelines from 2m to “1m Plus” came into play last year, and (given half a chance) you may have changed your desk arrangements accordingly.

*STOP PRESS – As of Monday 22nd February, Boris’ new four-step plan set out guidance on when we can expect easing of restrictions, but when we can return to work looks like it will follow a review into social distancing – which could see us well into June 2021.  

Even after this date, Sir Patrick Vallance indicated that additional measure may need to be re-introduced when we move into next Winter.   This could mean the wearing of masks, but also the increasing of social distancing measures in the office.

Of course, it may just be as simple as un-sticking your desk numbers and re-applying them as required, but this will confuse staff.

Also, if you use a workspace booking system you will have to change up your desk numbering accordingly.

By allocating a consecutive number to each potentially available desk on the outset, you won’t need to make any physical changes to your desk numbers at a later date.

Instead, you’ll just have to amend what’s bookable in your workspace management system.

By numbering each desk, you can also take advantage of auto-zoning technology.  To see this in action, check out this video.

As you’ll see in the video, when a user selects their preferred desk, adjacent desks are automatically ‘blocked out’ according to specified rules that can be applied across the board and updated as needed.

4. Prepare for something different altogether

With the home working genie fully out of the bottle, our physical office spaces will probably never be the same again.

Research carried out by Cisco indicates that 77% of larger organisations will adopt a more flexible working policy post pandemic.   It’s not surprising, therefore, to learn that 53% of organisations predicted a reduction in their future office space footprint.

Whilst turning half of your office space into a fully stocked bar (like high-end tonic maker Fever Tree) might not be an option, shrinking or re-organising your office space to reflect your predicted future utilisation, should be on the agenda now.

If there’s any silver lining to this situation, it’s that pre-pandemic, introducing a desk sharing scheme (often referred to as hot desking) tended to be an emotionally charged affair.  In short, staff were happy to be able to work from home but were not at all happy about losing their desk.

Coronavirus has forced the situation, with workforce safety trumping desk ownership politics.

Given that ‘return to work round two’ could be a while off yet, enterprises like Fever Tree are taking action and re-mapping their office now.

Whilst a bar might be a popular attraction for your workforce, rearranging your office space to accommodate your future needs might be more realistic.

Figuring out what workspaces will be required going forward may need some analysis:

  • How many days in the week will staff typically want to visit the office?
  • Will staff want to come in for focus time? In which case, you may need to more quiet areas.
  • Is the main driver to meet with co-workers? If this is the case, you’ll need more smaller, collaborative areas?

It’s probably going to be a mix of both types, but the reality is, you may never return to a 1:1 ratio of desks to staff.

Covid-secure workspace management

Read more about services to help your enterprise book, provision & manage your workplace for social distancing & beyond.

Having a naming convention for identifying meeting rooms in a large organisation can be a challenge – especially when there’s 100’s of different rooms, floors, room sizes, room types, different locations and so on.

An example we saw at a customer site recently incorporated the following attributes into the actual room name:

‘RESOURCE TYPE’ + ‘LOCATION CODE’ + ‘BUILDING CODE’, ‘FLOOR NUMBER’, ‘ROOM NUMBER’, ‘CAPACITY’, ‘AVAILABLE EQUIPMENT’, ‘ACTUAL ROOM NAME’ resulting in, for example:

ROOM THAMES VALLEY PARK BUILDING 5 GROUND FLOOR 0.01 96 AV VC Chicago 1

Although this might be OK for ‘behind the scenes’ reference purposes, if you are planning to use room panels or interactive floor plans to streamline room and desk bookings, our advice is to present end users with a less onerous name.

Apart from being more aesthetically pleasing on a screen, it’s obvious the resource is a room, and hopefully the staff member will know what building they are in.

So really, the only relevant information is the actual room name ‘Chicago 1’ and its booking status (free/busy). Information like the room capacity and facilities can be included elsewhere on the screen – and not be part of the name.  

Here is a nice example of how a simple room name has been extended to the actual design of the room itself – all of which helps enhance the staff (and visitor) experience.

What about desk numbering schemes?

Likewise for identifying desks, you might contemplate giving all your desks a unique number, instead of using the floor level or wing as part of the desk number.

Why?

To give you an example: I spent ages hammering on the door of a hotel room wondering why my partner was refusing to let me in.  The hotel in question numbered its rooms starting from 1 on each floor, which did not account for the fact that I inadvertently got out of the lift on the wrong floor! Thankfully the occupant of the (wrong) room was out!

An intuitive numbering scheme that by design accommodates the ‘floor level issue’ is to prefix the desk number with the floor number.  E.g. 423 would be desk 23 on the 4th floor.

A further tip if you’re looking at desk booking (and therefore desk numbering) as part of your COVID-19 return to work strategy is to number ALL of your desks, not just those desks that are suitably distanced.

We have seen (and averted) more than one project where the intention was to only give the ‘safely distanced’ desks a consecutive number.  The problem with this is two-fold:

  1. It is not a future-proof strategy as distancing requirements change
  2. It will not lend itself to a flexible workspace booking system in the future (this being an inevitable outcome of the pandemic, as workspaces shrink and evolve to support a now ‘hybrid workforce’).

See our room & desk booking solution in action

There’s many other minor (and major) things to consider when implementing systems designed to streamline your room and resource booking systems, contact us to find out more.

As Covid-19-related restrictions are slowly easing around the world, many businesses are preparing to return to the workplace. However, infection risks remain high and employees are naturally nervous about increasing their potential exposure.

So how do you create a workplace that not only supports social distancing and keeps people healthy, but also reassures them that it’s safe to come back to work?

For those employees willing and able to consider returning to the workplace, businesses have a legal and ethical duty to create the safest possible work environment.

There are several areas where technology can help in achieving this, including:

  • wearables that monitor social distancing,
  • implementing a workplace management strategy, and
  • effective communication of your strategy to your team.

Wearable Proximity Solutions

Available as wrist brands and on lanyards, these devices give a warning when the wearer is within 2 metres (or 6ft) of a co-worker (also wearing a device). The various options available, such as Estimote, include the ability for wearers to push a ‘panic button’ to update management on their status. The system, in turn, can be used to identify and notify any staff members that have been in close contact with someone that has been flagged as ‘at risk’.

This technology is especially useful where staff are highly mobile: working in a warehouse or on a building site, however when working in an office environment, other safeguards may be more appropriate.

Implementing a workplace management strategy

One thing we know for certain is that a traditional, static office environment is not going to cut it in the time of coronavirus. Agile workplaces are going to be a must in order to support the kind of strategic timing, seating and movement plans necessary to ensure safe social distancing.

Essential has been implementing agile workplace management strategies for a variety of businesses for many years. Here are a few ideas to consider when compiling your own social distancing ‘plan of action’.

Stagger start and break times

Managing the most common staff bottlenecks is going to be important for social distancing.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to stagger arrival, departure and break times. This minimises the number of employees sharing lifts, stairwells and exits, and prevents overcrowding in pause spaces and kitchens.

Depending on the size of your business, you may need to embrace shift work to achieve this.

Implement desk and meeting room booking systems

Preventing staff from sitting cheek by jowl or clustering in meeting rooms is a challenge of slightly larger proportions, particularly if you’re dealing with limited floorspace. Modern, configurable resource booking solutions can be very helpful in maximising the safe use of the facilities that you have, by:

  • Enabling employees to pre-book a workspace securely from any device or browser
  • Ensuring desks are never booked side-by-side unless there is sufficient spacing
  • Limiting meeting room occupancy
  • Repurposing meeting rooms as extra workspaces if necessary
  • Flagging desks with specific attributes like standing desks, accessible desks, multiple screens, multiple docking stations etc.

Pro tip: A good desk booking solution doesn’t only help enforce social distancing. It also gives valuable peace of mind to employees by reassuring them that they have a safe, isolated workspace booked for the day.

See also how technology can help with ensuring socially distanced steps in this video.

Apply strategic seating policies

Above and beyond safe distancing, it’s also a good idea to apply a few strategic seating policies via your resource booking solution. For example:

  • Preventing critical employees from sitting in the same area to reduce the chance of them all needing to be quarantined at the same time.
  • Avoiding departmental clusters for the same reason.

As you plan your seating assignment, having a future-proof numbering scheme is vital.

Enforce sanitation windows

Sanitising workstations between users is vital to prevent the potential spread of infection. If you have cleaning staff on hand, consider using your resource booking tool to prevent successive bookings of the same desk, or enforce a short window between users to allow time for a deep clean.

If you don’t have a permanent cleaning team, a resource booking system can still help by reminding users to sanitise their workspace when they sign out of their desk for the day.

Automate parking assignments

With infection rates still sky high, it’s likely that people will be wary of using public transport for the foreseeable future. The result is going to be a big boost in road traffic and increased parking requirements at workplaces.

Just like with desks and meeting rooms, an automated resource-booking system can be invaluable in making the most of the parking space you have by:

  • Enabling “hot parking” – assigning bays dynamically on a daily/weekly pre-booking basis
  • Staggering parking bays assigned to employees starting or leaving work at the same time
  • Returning bays to the parking pool if employees:
    • have not signed into their desk for the day (off sick or working remotely)
    • leave work early
    • are on leave
  • Keeping security informed of who is where, and when (including visitors)

Track and trace potential infections

Chances are, no matter how good your health and safety protocol, someone, somewhere, is going to come to work sick. In this event, your resource booking tool can be invaluable in tracking and tracing any potential infection chains with a complete record of every desk, meeting room and parking space that employee has used in recent weeks. It’ll also be able to tell you who else used the same facilities or was seated near enough to potentially be at risk.

Manage visitors

Employees aren’t the only people you need to keep safe on your premises. Visitors movements also need to be managed for social distancing reasons. Consider using your resource booking tool to assign passes to restrict visitor numbers, pre-book meeting rooms and make appropriate parking available to ensure safe and easy entry and exit from your premises.

(Educating visitors on safety protocol before arrival is also important – more on that in a bit.)

Effective Communication of Your ‘Return to Work’ Strategy

The very best workplace management plan is completely useless without the buy-in of your entire team. That makes effective communication another vital component of health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s how to do it well.

Very few employees are likely to return to the office without knowing exactly how they’re being protected, first.

Engage with employees on measures to make them feel safe

Consulting with your employees before finalising any workplace management plan is a great way to make them feel heard, and bring to light any specific concerns they may have that you hadn’t thought about.

Tools like native Microsoft Forms are great for polling staff on their ideas and expectations for a safer workplace, and can also be used to gauge important metrics like:

  • How many people need/want to remain working remotely
  • How many people plan to return to the office
  • How many people require parking on their return

Communicate and educate employees on safety protocol

Once you’ve incorporated any employee feedback into your final workplace management plan, you need to communicate that plan to your workforce. Very few employees are likely to return to the office without knowing exactly how they’re being protected.

Here, the Microsoft-approved learning management system (LMS365) can be invaluable by:

  • Informing employees of all health and safety measures in place – check out the latest guidance from the Health & Safety Executive.
  • Training them on any new tools and procedures (e.g. resource booking) or personal responsibilities that they will have (e.g. hygiene practices and use of PPE)
  • Tracking their participation in the training and capturing their acknowledgment of understanding for peace of mind and/or liability purposes

We also like to recommend that our customers incorporate the presence of hand sanitisers and any traffic flow as part of their interactive workspace booking floor plans.  This will help reinforce the safety measures you have put in place and put minds at ease.

Prepare visitors prior to arrival

Visitors will also need to understand and abide by your health and safety rules while on your premises.  Again, you could use something like Microsoft Forms to achieve this, and:

  • Convey visitor procedures
  • Securely capture any pertinent personal details (subject to your pre-existing governance protocol)
  • Record consent to limit liability

Pro tip: Industries with more complex visitor protocol may prefer using LMS365 for its comprehensive training capabilities.

Conclusion

With the right tools and planning, we can protect our most valuable assets (our people), and minimise the anxiety of returning employees.

Returning to the workplace is going to be a challenging adjustment for many.  With the right tools and planning, however, we can ease that adjustment significantly, protect our most valuable assets (our people), and minimise the anxiety of returning employees.

Perhaps even more importantly, we can begin the transformation to a new and better ‘normal’ that embraces the flexibility of the workplace of the future.

Covid-safe workspace booking

Read more about using resource booking and learning management tools to support a secure return to the office.

To be honest, in light of the current home-working situation we thought that managing the booking of meeting rooms and hot desks would be the last thing on the agenda.

It turns out that some customers are now using our resource management solution to optimise their usage of video conferencing services.

If you weren’t already using Microsoft Teams before COVID-19 took hold, and are now relying on services like WebEx, GoToMeeting and Zoom, you may well have purchased a ‘limited host’ licence subscription. That is, where you pay so much per ‘meeting host’ per month.

With everyone now scrambling to use this resource to communicate with co-workers and clients, it’s easy to run out of host licences quickly, but buying a host licence for everyone in your organisation might not be viable.

Our customer Tindall Riley, the management company behind 5 insurance businesses, is now using Resource Central to optimise its ‘pool’ of available Zoom host licences by making them a bookable resource. This means their workforce can pre-book a Zoom host licence as and when they need it.

 

Optimising Use of Limited Video Conferencing Licences

If you’d like to find out more on how to use this service in Resource Central, get in touch.

Implementing a resource-booking solution for 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 numbered and have those numbers correlate with your booking system to minimise human error, or would you prefer the simpler approach of just providing a fixed number of bays 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.

Jokes aside, you can’t 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, more cars on the road, and overly-enthusiastic local traffic wardens affect us all.

Our best advice would be to brace yourself – switching from a no-rules parking scrum to a more formalised solution can be a bit of a bumpy ride…

Green Motivations

A lot of companies are shrinking their car park sizes not only to reduce overheads but also to encourage staff to use more eco-friendly methods of transport.

Essential client, Airbus, used 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.

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.

COVID-19 Update

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 desk or the parking bay normally used by directors – will need to become part of the available ‘pool’ when not in use:

  • All available desk space 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.

See our room & desk booking solution in action!

Discover how we can help you manage your meeting rooms & desk bookings in order to utilise your estates more effectively

Optimising real-estate utilisation is a great way for enterprises to reduce costs – especially as the growing trend towards flexible and remote working has lead to increasingly under-used office space.

We’re also now facing a situation where remote working (and therefore reduced office space) may become more a a norm, against a ‘perfect storm’ of COVID-19, environmental issues, flexible working trends and extreme weather events.

To help streamline the workspace booking process, Microsoft continues to encourage the use of resource mailboxes in Office 365, and is providing new features to assist with booking meeting rooms, Teams Rooms and individual workspaces with Microsoft Teams.

For example, it is now possible to book and schedule meetings using the Teams calendar (as well as via Outlook calendar).

There are still some ‘gotchas’ when booking meetings and meeting rooms using Teams, so in this article we have provided some tips and best practices to help navigate them.

 Teams features to help users book resources

Teams contains a calendar app that is a view of the logged-on users’ calendar.

Integration with Teams means that a meeting can be booked, with a room, attendees and Teams credentials all in one process.

Within the calendar app it is possible to create and edit meetings that contain room bookings.  Selecting the meeting time span required automatically opens a new meeting window.

Adding details to your Teams meeting

Here it is possible to find a free room easily using the location field.

This can be achieved using room lists, or if Microsoft Teams Rooms are being used (see also lower in this article), proximity detection can suggest a nearby room.

Check out this article for more information on proximity detection: https://www.microsoft.com/itshowcase/blog/click-join-internal-meetings-get-a-boost-with-microsoft-teams/

Attendees can be added and the meeting scheduled, which then acts in the same way as creating a room booking in Outlook.

Teams meeting details are automatically added to all meetings booked in the Teams calendar app.

There is also bi-directional synchronisation with the user’s Outlook calendar.  For instance, you can edit items scheduled in the Outlook calendar and have those changes appear in Outlook.

https://office365itpros.com/2019/08/26/teams-new-calendar-app/

Beware Teams Meeting Booking Limitations

For example:

  • the Teams calendar has no concept of multiple time zones
  • you can’t mark events as private, and
  • you can’t drag and drop meetings between time slots.

For this reason users should not expect to organise their diaries using Teams in the same way they can Outlook.

Watch out for Booking Meetings in Channels

A concept that is unique to booking meetings in Teams is the ability to select a channel in which to meet.

Channels are sub-sections of teams, a bit like a topic within a team.

A concept that is unique to booking meetings in Teams is the ability to select a channel in which to meet.

It is important to note that when a channel is selected, the meeting booking is made by the group email address of the channel, rather than the logged-on user.

Whilst the organiser in the Teams calendar app is displayed as the user who made the booking, the corresponding booking in the Outlook calendar shows the organiser as the channel.

Also a Teams channel invitation does not automatically send invites to everyone in the channel.

If you want Team members to receive a meeting invitation you should:

Either way, it would seem that there is currently a bug if you want to book a physical meeting room from a Teams channel.  Check out this thread.

Microsoft Teams Rooms

Utilising a combination of resource mailboxes, the correct Office 365 licence and compatible hardware it is possible to create a Microsoft Teams Room which turns a regular meeting room into a fully video-enabled collaboration space.

No licencing is required for a regular resource mailbox, however, in order to enable a room as a Teams room, a licence is required.

It is possible to apply certain enterprise licences to enable a Teams room, however Microsoft have a licence type specifically for Teams rooms.  The licence includes (amongst other things):

  • Skype for Business
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Phone System
  • Audio Conferencing
  • Microsoft Intune

Once enabled and licenced, the room mailbox is ready to use alongside the appropriately configured hardware.

Working with & booking Teams Rooms

 

By using workspace more intensively and wisely we can reduce our use of buildings and thus our impact on the environment…

Sir Gus O’Donnell, former cabinet secretary and head of the Home Civil Service

Making the necessary changes that enable workforces to adapt to a shrinking office space – especially where that means adopting ‘non-territorial working’ – requires a multi-discipline strategy involving people, design and technology.

For example:

  • The personal benefits of working from home or having a shorter commute should be made clear as part of a hot-desking initiative – it has to be a two-way contract.
  • Office interiors should be designed to be more vibrant and flexible, with a variety of difference workspaces, storage options and fun areas for socialising – there should be compelling reasons to come into the office for team building.
  • Technology to help remove the stress of booking and finding free workspaces should be adopted.  The needs of other stakeholders such as the facilities management team also need to be addressed by whatever you choose.

If you use Office 365, the great news is that you already have the ideal platform on which to build and streamline resource booking and management.

The room booking benefits that Office 365 offers include:

1. A familiar Outlook & (increasingly familiar) Teams UI –These are the default collaboration and scheduling applications that are already embedded in users’ working practices.

2. Sophisticated calendaring – With Office 365 you have:

  • Support for shared calendars across co-workers
  • The ability to delegate calendar management to team members
  • Support for shared calendars across Outlook & Teams

4. Robust, centralised security –Your existing platform uses Windows auth and AD access rights/privileges to govern access and enable SSO.  This can be used to govern who can book what resource.

3. Advanced scheduling – Powerful tools like the Resource Booking and Scheduling Assistants and Cortana make it easy to find the right time for a group of people and coordinate schedules across multiple time zones.

5. Business continuity – Using regular Outlook calendar and other Microsoft-standard infrastructure means failover and protection against obsolescence is built-in.

6. A reasonably* robust room and resource booking model –You’re probably already using Microsoft’s native resource mailbox capability for booking rooms…

It therefore makes 100% sense that any solution you choose to streamline resource booking and management uses this functionality and doesn’t try to replicate it with a separately managed, secured and disjointed platform.

Available on-premises or in Microsoft Azure, our resource essentials solutions have been developed from the ground up to run in your Microsoft environment and leverage your existing investment in terms of user skills and infrastructure.

This means that issues like user learning curve, security, calendar privacy, delegate access, cross-time zone timings, integration with Microsoft conferencing, duplicate meetings, etc, are all non-issues.

Building directly onto your Office 365 platform we deliver:

  • Smart room and desk booking screens and devices for outside meeting rooms, receptions, lobbies, etc
  • Support for RFID badges and tags for on-screen authentication
  • The ability to book virtually any additional resources such as catering, special requests such as vegan & allergens, equipment, seating layouts
  • Facilities management dashboards for managing catering requests, rearranging meetings
  • Ability to strip meeting subjects out to avoid sensitive information being displayed on booking screens.
  • Management reporting including utilisation reports
  • *Fixing the shortcomings of native resource mailboxes, such as smarter handling of recurring meeting requests, a dashboard for FM/admin staff to manage and view all bookings, visitors, and much, much more.

 

See our room & desk booking solution in action

Discover how we can help you manage your meeting rooms & desk bookings in order to utilise your estates more effectively.

There’s no doubt that the Outlook Calendar application makes a logical place for staff to book resources such as meeting rooms.

Apart from being convenient for end users, behind the scenes, Microsoft Exchange provides an underlying framework that makes it easy to scale and deliver an enterprise-wide solution.

Have you spent time investigating all the facilities in Outlook calendaring?

It’s got virtually every feature you could want of a corporate and indeed a personal diary.  It also has new capabilities that make it easier to book rooms and other resources such as catering.

But is your IT department making the most of newer functionality in Exchange to help with resource bookings?

For example, with Outlook calendar it’s now possible to:

  • Let users list & book meeting rooms according to location
  • View the facilities available in each room (e.g. built-in projector)
  • Request catering for a meeting
  • Inform facilities staff of resource bookings
  • Make bookings subject to approval (e.g. by a member of the facilities team)

Written by our resource booking expert, Jim Fussell, our white paper explains what is now possible in ‘native’ Microsoft Exchange or Office 365 and Outlook calendar in order to book your meeting rooms & desks.

It also provides tips aimed at technical staff to help them get the most out of these facilities.

See our room & desk booking solution in action!

Discover how we can help you manage your meeting rooms & desk bookings in order to utilise your estates more effectively.

Productive meetings have been a hot subject since that Elon Musk leaked email. But why did Elon chose to target meetings in order to increase company output?

Did you know that that the average Executive spends about 18 hours a week at meetings?

Yet, almost half of us view meetings as one of the biggest time-wasters at work.

Elon is not alone in thinking that effective meetings can increase productivity.

Why effective meetings are so important

Does that remind you of your meetings? Take heart because we’ve all been there.

Everything in business is about reducing costs and increasing profit. You will be surprised at how much a meeting costs and the impact they have on your bottom line. That’s why it is very important to aim for effective meetings.

Forward-thinking organisations and individuals alike have found several new approaches to drive effective meetings. Some approaches are straightforward, but some are more radical.

Most CEOs agree that being on time, reducing meeting times and setting the agenda early are ways to improve meeting effectiveness. Some have taken more extreme tactics including removing chairs and banning phones and laptops during meetings.

Technology can also have a positive impact on running meetings more effectively. From assisting with scheduling meetings to facilitating meetings altogether; there are several tools that can supercharge your meeting efficiency.

Streamlining the Scheduling Process

Finding the right time and place for your meeting can be a huge time sink before you even start your meeting. You get the endless back and forth emails to find the best meeting time or to reschedule double-booked meetings.

Outlook scheduling assistant can be a great start and help you save time finding a mutually convenient time slot with co-workers.

However, not all meetings are internal, and in most cases, you do need to meet with people outside of your organisation.

This is where tools like FindTime, Doodle or Calendy come into play. By synchronising your available or desired meeting times, you can quickly get to a mutually convenient slot.

We love using FindTime in conjunction with our solution, as it’s the free native Office 365 tool from Microsoft.

Booking Additional Services

What happens when you need to book meeting rooms and other resources and services like catering, AV equipment, or even parking? This can result in even more phone calls and emails to catering and reception staff.

Resource Management solutions enable you to book meeting rooms and other resources all in one place. On top of that, integration with Outlook Calendar provides greater end-user experience.

Making Sure Everyone is On Time

When people are late to meetings, this can result in unnecessary delays. There is the need to recap and to extend meetings to cover the agenda. Over-runs start interfering with other meetings, causing disarray not only to you but to colleagues.

Calendar apps notify individuals through email and push notifications, helping staff to be on time.

Yet, that covers only the meeting participants. What about all the other elements that come into play to get your meeting off to a fast start.

It would not be the first time a teleconferencing camera or microphone failed to work.

Similarly, visitors and co-workers from other offices can get held up in reception as they attempt to locate where they need to go.

Resource Management tools make sure that any service providers, such as technicians, reception staff and the all-important catering staff get timely notifications on exactly what meetings are taking place and what their role is in making them go like clock-work.

Maps and wayfinding displays can also help visitors navigate to the right meeting room.

Aside from helping get everyone to the meeting on time, these types of services make great first impressions, especially on visitors!

Stopping meeting no-shows

Nonetheless, getting people on time to meetings is not even your biggest challenge. Meetings that fail to take place are!

A study carried out by collaboration experts Atlassian found that 96% of the people they surveyed had at some point missed a meeting and this is money down the drain when real-estate costs are at an all-time high.

When our customer, Airbus, went through an estates rationalisation, they decreased the number of meeting rooms by 20%, but still had to facilitate the same number of meetings.

Through our utilisation reporting, they came to realise that people had a habit of booking recurring meetings and forgetting to cancel them.

That meant empty rooms that could have been used for other meetings.

Using meeting room display technology, Airbus is now automatically releasing meeting rooms when organisers don’t check in on time. This enabled them to release a staggering 3,300 hours of meeting room capacity each month.

Other companies are going more hard-core in an attempt to break the no-show habit. For example, with our solution, it’s possible to stop repeat offenders booking any more meetings for a while.

Apart from tracking actual room utilisation and check-ins, room screens enable a at-a-glance visibility of meeting room availability and create a great impression.

Remove the bricks and mortar constraints from your meetings

You should always test whether you actually need a meeting. Once you have established that, then you can decide the time and place.

Importantly, the place doesn’t necessarily need to be a meeting room. It can be a nearby café or, even better, online.

Leveraging tools like Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Zoom and many other online meeting tools can reduce the costs associated with physical meetings.

Resource Management solutions make it extremely easy to schedule virtual meetings and conferences. With the click of a button, you can turn your meeting into a Skype for Business meeting or conference call.

Keeping your meetings on track!

Meeting agendas, as we saw, was high on the list for running effective meetings.

There are lots of great tips to on how to create an effective meeting agenda.

However, having an agenda in place and making people stick to it are two different matters. And sometimes, removing technology can be a good thing.

To make your meetings stickier, as pointed above, you can eliminate laptops and mobiles from meetings.

Laptops and mobiles can become counterproductive, especially in meetings. by allowing people to hop on to other tasks (73% of us tend to do other work).

Our tip is to only allow laptops for the designated note takers and for presentations, thus gaining more control over your meeting.

Subsequently, to be even more productive with your meeting action plans, you can use several tools for minutes and note taking.

As cloud empowers collaboration, you can share note-taking and no other tool is more straight-forward or familiar than Word; and in this case Word Online.

And, if you are running a task management tool like Planner, Asana or Trello, you can easily attach a shared Word link to the appropriate task.

Final Thoughts

Recent advancements in Cloud computing and apps have enabled us to increase our efficiency. There are lots of tools that we can use to be more productive, and meetings are no exception.

It is important to choose the right tools, get the most out of them and make sure they tie in with what you currently use for your day-to-day calendaring and collaboration.

Add technology to your meetings, like the tools we mentioned above, and watch your meeting effectiveness skyrocket and your workspace optimisation improve.

Let us know in the comments if you know other ways that technology promotes effective meetings.

Streamline your resources with room & desk booking solutions

Getting an accurate picture of how your meeting rooms and work spaces are being used is the first step in helping your business make tangible savings in real-estate and energy costs.

See how ResourceXpress allows you to monitor and report on your resource utilisation by:

  • Delivering detailed reports on over/under utilised rooms and resources
  • Showing if late cancellations are having an impact on work space utilisation
  • Providing ways in which to free up unneeded resources, by using email check-in and out, RFID readers and on screen check-in and out options.

With all the charts and figures it soon becomes clear how to improve usage and optimise work space productivity.

See it in action by watching the video above!