Desk booking software: a complete guide for the modern office
Desk booking software is a critical tool for creating a more efficient and effective office.
To pivot to flexible and hybrid work, companies need systems in place to accommodate the real-time needs of workers. Many different organizations can benefit from desk booking. But only when the proper software is used to make this process simple, trackable, and user-friendly.
Facility managers (FMs) therefore need to implement a desk booking system that can be tailored to their needs. This will help employees do their best work in a collaborative workspace.
In this article, we will explore desk booking software for the modern office, including the features that any new system will need in order to be most beneficial.
What is desk booking software?
Desk booking software is the system that makes hybrid work and advanced desk management possible.
Workspace booking is a flexible way of using the office that is growing in popularity because of the functionality and benefits it brings to both employees and employers. Instead of assigned seating, employees share desks and other workspaces.
Desk booking is typically managed using booking software in one of two ways. Whether used in combination or alone, these options manage the allocation of available desks among co-workers.
Companies can use a hot desking system, in which employees check-into any available desk on a first-come-first-serve basis. Alternatively, FMs can implement desk or office hoteling, in which employees use software to book spaces in advance.
Desk booking software is the crucial suite of integrated ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) that powers and simplifies these styles of office sharing.
Whatever hybrid workplace model a company uses, they will need a desk reservation system to implement it properly. Ideally this software will be cloud-based and available through both mobile and desktop apps.
What are the benefits of using desk booking software?
“How do I book a desk?”
“How do I make a reservation?”
“Why can’t I get access to the desk I need?”
It’s impossible for a company to derive benefits from desk booking when frustrated employees spend too much time asking questions like these, instead of focusing on their real work.
Desk booking offers many benefits to an organization, including real estate cost savings and more engaged workers, and it also nicely complements a flexible, cooperative company culture.
And by offering employees much desired flexibility and autonomy, it can help companies survive the looming post-pandemic ‘turnover tsunami’ by making it easier to attract and keep top talent.
But while there’s no doubt desk booking offers many clear benefits, especially when hoteling best practices are followed, these benefits can only be realized by using a robust desk booking system. Too-simple sign-in sheets or overly complex, unwieldy software systems can ultimately do more harm than good.
Great desk booking software, on the other hand, does more than simply make desk booking simple and pain free. It also offers the following benefits:
Time savings—and fewer headaches
The right software can make it easy for employees to find, book, and check-into desk space in real time. When a desk booking system is user-friendly and intuitive, it makes life easier for everyone in an organization. This includes both employees and space management teams. And by allowing for self-service desk booking, this type of software frees up employees to focus their time and energy on what really matters.
Easier social distancing
As we now know, our ‘new normal’ will be quite different from our old normal. We can likely expect some form of social distancing to be required in the office well into the foreseeable future. This presents challenges for any flexible workspace, especially those using hybrid models and/or activity-based workspace design.
Going forward, a powerful desk booking system makes it much easier to keep employees and visitors safe. For example, since social distancing became necessary, Randy Peterson, Senior Director of Real Estate and Facilities at AllianceRx, has leaned into desk booking in his office.
“It’s so easy to designate active and inactive desks to implement social distancing [with OfficeSpace Desk Booking],” says Randy. “And being able to see our occupancy rates with our revised, distanced floor plans has been very useful for us.”
Better decision making
Good desk booking software won’t just make it easier for employees to book desks. It will also make it easier for FMs to understand how employees are using desks.
When FMs are able to track seating trends, measure adoption rates and space utilization, learn employee seating preferences, and more, they’re better able to forecast future demand and continually optimize their seating strategy.
A future-proof office
As the pandemic has taught everyone, workspaces need to be easily adaptable.
Yes, a literal overnight, universal switch to entirely remote working is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But the reality is that whether it’s due to a rapidly growing workforce, a rapidly shrinking budget, buyouts, layoffs, or any number of changes good or bad, all organizations are continually in flux. By creating an infinitely flexible office, desk booking software can therefore future-proof an organization.
Good management software can help an organization quickly adapt ‘on the ground’ to whatever life throws their way. It should also be constantly innovating and adding new features.
According to Alicia Murrell, Workplace Experience Manager at Shopify, “As a platform, OfficeSpace is constantly innovating and adding new features. I’ve seen their platform grow right alongside ours. That’s not always been our experience with the other programs and systems we use. It’s great to know that our workplace management software will continue to evolve as our needs grow, too.”
What is the best software to use for desk sharing?
So how can a FM pick a solution that offers all these benefits?
As we’ve covered, the best software to manage desk sharing will be user-friendly and cloud-based. Beyond this, look for desk booking software solutions that offer the following key features:
Each worker will have their own preferences and circumstances, so don’t assume everyone will simply want a mobile app. Instead, pick a desk booking solution that works on mobile, desktop, touch screen kiosk and even Slack. Doing so and ensuring your software works on every device can dramatically improve uptake and accessibility.
Your team likely already relies on tools like Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, Zoom, and Slack.
That’s why FMs should opt for desk booking software with an advanced API. This will allow for customized integrations with your other critical apps, platforms, and intranets.
Meeting your team ‘where they are’ in this way can make them much more likely to not only use, but also enjoy, new hot desk booking software.
Advanced search features
Don’t let the name ‘desk booking’ fool you. Desks come in all shapes and sizes. And they can be across multiple office sections, floors, or even buildings. Workers may also need conference or meeting room booking in addition to desk booking.
As such, employees will need advanced search features to be able to seek out and book the exact right workstation needed for their given activity.
Like these office neighborhood examples illustrate, this type of advanced search features can be particularly useful for office neighborhoods.
Reporting and analytics
‘User-friendly’ may mean different things to different team members. For workers, it can mean hassle free check-ins, single sign-on, and interactive floor plans. For an FM, it likely also means reliable real-time data they can use to continually improve their workspace.
Good desk sharing software should therefore also offer robust reporting and analytics, so that FMs and organizations can conduct contact tracking, ensure desk sanitation, and leverage insights about occupancy to make well-informed decisions that can affect the bottom line.
For example, Scott Moitoza, Senior Director of Real-Estate and Facilities at Procore, relies on occupancy and headcount reports to manage his organization.
“I used to manually create these reports in Excel, but I could never pull them together as quickly or accurately as I can now with OfficeSpace,” he says.
Any software, especially any as complex as desk booking software, will require occasional support.
FMs would be wise to therefore choose a software option that lets them partner with a proactive, invested team that listens to their requests for new features and improvements, while also offering quick and responsive solutions to any problems that arise.
The best reservation software provides flexibility and visibility
Like OfficeSpace VP of Product and Strategy Luke Anderson explained in a recent interview on optimizing flexible working, many companies have struggled with offering visibility for when people should and shouldn’t be coming into the office, creating a big barrier to hybrid work.
This lack of visibility is due to what most pre-pandemic workplace software was missing.
More dated models of desk booking software relied on one of two approaches to organizing hybrid workers. In the first approach, employees were mapped to seats in a one-to-one relationship. In both reporting and usage, employees and desks were treated the same, offering no meaningful flexibility.
Otherwise, software would map employees to an entire group of open seats, which created more flexibility, but almost no visibility.
“Our idea around this is that people need both,” says Luke. “They need better visibility from a workplace side of how space is being used. They also need flexibility, because everyone has been organizing their workplaces and hybrid office layouts a lot differently.”
With OfficeSpace’s desk booking software, offices get flexibility to use any combination of seating and tailored setups. It also provides clear visibility around how employees are using seats.
“This lets our clients better plan and understand their space in a very detailed way, rather than at a floor or department level which may be less meaningful or more difficult to change,” says Luke.
With these enhanced features, workers and FMs alike will be empowered with a deeper and more actionable understanding of how to use their office, along with who is using it, when.
What is a collaborative workspace?
When discussing any software solution, it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees.
Desk booking software and other workspace tools can contribute to a collaborative workspace.
But more than shared desks, a collaborative workspace is one in which all team members share a vision for the company and are enthusiastic to meet it together.
As such, desk booking software is critical, but how it rolls out is just as important. To ensure uptake and employee satisfaction, FMs and organizations should therefore implement any new desk booking systems in a thoughtful and methodical way that includes workers and their feedback at every step.