The office has changed—and with it, the room reservation systems needed to keep pace with hybrid and distributed work.
For many companies navigating a new hybrid office, their physical is becoming a collaboration hub for their distributed workforce. That’s because when employees return to the office, they’re often looking for collaborative workspaces… A place where they can connect with colleagues in all the ways just not possible over Zoom.
Of course, this desire for more collaborative workspaces comes with a challenge. How can facility managers (FMs) and space planners create the right (and the right amount) of collaboration space for an office that is sporadically used and constantly changing?
The answer is often using good meeting room booking software that makes it easy for users to make room reservations.
In this article, we explore seven best practices for managing room reservations in the modern office. These best practices are essential for creating a streamlined and effective room reservation system.
Workplace experts from Savills dive into the strategies needed
to make a smooth transition to hybrid work.
Before the pandemic, some companies offered a small amount of flexible seating options. These options were often in the form of hot desking or office hoteling.
But of course, the ripple effects of lockdowns and rapid pivots to remote work have dramatically (and permanently) shifted the role and function of the office. Many companies are finding that one-desk-to-one-employee and one big conference room for everyone to share, are no longer enough.
“The office is no longer the default place where you have to do your work, and employees have much more choice,” says Kathleen Williams, Senior Product Manager at OfficeSpace Software. “They’re going into the office on a variety of different days, for a variety of different reasons.”
And for many hybrid workers, those reasons for using the office often come down to wanting to connect and collaborate.
Like Gallup research shows, employees that prefer hybrid do so in part because they like having the option to occasionally work in-person with their coworkers.
Most workers today want both time and location flexibility. But the majority also want a moderate amount of office time on their calendars, too.
But without a good workplace strategy in place, in-office collaboration can easily be stymied.
And like one frustrated hybrid employee tells Vox, “if I go into the office and there are people but none of them are on my team, I don’t gain anything besides a commute.”
This all points to one of the biggest challenges of hybrid working: giving workers the resources they need when they’re in the office. Even when they’re in the office sporadically and on very different schedules than their colleagues.
The answer to this challenge is simple. Using robust desk booking and room booking software that makes it easy to access the types of workspaces you need, and that also provides better visibility into how colleagues are using the office, too.
In other words, employees need a way to book space in the office. And they need a way to see when other employees have booked space in the office, too. The right room reservation system is what makes this possible.
Although the workplace is dynamic and constantly evolving, workers want a connection with their colleagues. David Cocchiara, OfficeSpace Software CEO, Forbes
Although the workplace is dynamic and constantly evolving, workers want a connection with their colleagues.
Like we’ve covered, good room reservation software will let employees keep track of active reservations. This helps them make better use of the meeting rooms and other collaboration spaces available to them. This includes spaces that can be used for meetings, mentoring, and special events.
This software can also help companies get a better handle on how employees are actually using the office. Armed with this type of occupancy information, they can make better decisions around which work environment type is most efficient for their teams. And, therefore, how to optimize their modern office floor plan.
More and more companies are seeing the value of advanced analytics. By collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing complex workplace data from a variety of sources, they can make better informed decisions to support both their employees and their long term business goals.
Specifically, when facility managers (FMs) and space planners are able to see how employees are actually using the office in real time, they can take those insights to make recommendations to leadership.
Given that office transformations now cost up to $290 per square foot, and that so many companies are considering making sweeping changes to their office strategy, it only makes sense to use a room reservation request system that also collects useful data to inform future decisions.
Ultimately, if FMs and management can see exactly who is using the office, when, at which desks, and in which rooms, they can make more insightful real estate decisions.
Rightsizing your real estate portfolio in this way is good for the bottom line, of course.
It can also improve employee empowerment and workplace experience, making it helpful for talent attraction and retention efforts, too.
Creating a good room reservation system is key to optimizing both the hybrid workplace and the employee experience. The following seven room reservation best practices can help create a much more effective, streamlined, and enjoyable office. Especially for the people who use the workplace to collaborate.
Long gone are the days of paper reservation forms tacked to the outside of conference room doors.
People need to be able to book—and cancel—rooms and meeting spaces easily, often on the fly, and/or from multiple locations.
That means good digital workplace solutions need to extend to room bookings—otherwise, employee buy-in will be spotty at best.
A good desk and/or room booking system will therefore be accessible everywhere employees are. Whether that’s at home on their desktop, at work, or from anywhere via a mobile app. Better still if this software also integrates with other cloud-based software your team is already using (like workplace Slack and Teams integration, for example).
This ease of use is what transforms the room booking system from a chore, into a tool that employees actually use because it makes their lives easier.
Note that making it easier to book and cancel room and event reservations can also help cut down on the number of empty meeting rooms. This is because those canceled rooms can be automatically opened back up to everyone else, even when canceled at the last minute.
What rooms are available, when?
And, just as important, who else is using the office, when, and in what spaces?
People plan their work weeks around the tasks they need to accomplish and the people they need to collaborate with. Especially when they’re planning meetings and collab sessions!
Like we’ve covered, the physical office is becoming a destination for collaboration and teamwork for many companies. So it’s important that people know exactly who’s in the office when they plan to come in.
A tool like Who’s In, which lets employees see who else is using the office—on the exact same platform they’re using to manage their desk and room bookings—can dramatically improve employee experience and support many collaboration strategies in the workplace.
A visual directory can further enhance this visibility, helping employees easily find, book, and connect with the resources and people they need.
It’s not just employees who need enhanced visibility.
For an efficient office, FMs must be able to leverage data around who’s using the office, which rooms they’re using, and when. Are you always at room capacity, or struggling with low uptake?
It’s only when armed with this accurate, real-time data around office use, that FMs can make better recommendations to leadership around how the office can be better optimized for the future of work.
Optimizing for the future of work also means preparing for hybrid meetings to be the norm.
Employees need spaces that make it easy for people in a variety of locations (some in the office, some at home, some on the road) to still connect and communicate effectively.
This often requires updated equipment and hybrid workplace technology. Think digital whiteboards, Zoom meeting calendar integration, and good webcams, audio, and internet for everyone.
Companies may also want to experiment with new types of smaller spaces, like huddle rooms, which are specifically designed with hybrid meetings in mind.
Huddle rooms aren’t the only kind of new collaborative space that companies may want to consider when improving their room reservation system.
Meeting room design today has moved far beyond the stuffy, one-conference-table designs of the past.
While these rooms may still be useful for some organizations, many companies are also experimenting with conference room ideas that are more inviting (and often more casual) than meeting rooms of the past.
Flex room ideas in particular can reimagine the possibilities for collaboration in the workplace. Even something as simple as using creative room names can add a touch of fun to the office.
Wayfinding has always been important in the workplace, of course, but a hybrid and remote working ups the stakes.
Both employees and management need to be able to easily find their way to the meeting rooms they’ve reserved. But when people use the office less frequently, they’re less likely to be familiar with the space available.
Good wayfinding signage (including good meeting room digital signage) that integrates with your room booking system can instantly make your hybrid office a more inviting, easy-to-navigate space.
Finally, like we’ve covered, any room reservation system needs to be user-friendly.
Yes, this means it needs to be accessible, and employees need visibility.
But employees also need guidelines around how and when it’s appropriate to book which rooms.
This is usually best accomplished when FMs collaborate with HR. Together, they can establish and clearly communicate a room reservation policy, along with any specific room policies. Compiling an FAQ document is also always smart.
Employees may also need training on how to book rooms. Not to mention, how to properly use the new collaboration technology available to them.
OfficeSpace’s room booking feature is designed to make it simple for employees to find a convenient space to collaborate with coworkers. This is whether that’s every day, every week, or every once in a while.
Logged in on their desktop or via mobile app, employees can book a room by location (often helpful if they want to book something close by). They can also book by availability (often helpful if they’re looking for a specific room with specific features). The software also integrates with Google Chrome, Outlook, Microsoft Teams, and Slack.
Users get a mobile push notification to remind them of their upcoming meetings. They can check in to their room with the OfficeSpace Visual Directory, email, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and/or Room Displays. And they can typically check in 15 minutes early, and up to 10 minutes after the meeting start time. Companies also have the option to change these times).
Locating, editing, and canceling the booking is all managed simply through the same accessible platform. It’s also easy to add a video conferencing link to a room booking via Google Calendar or Microsoft Teams (to allow for easier hybrid meetings).
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Photos: skynesher, Natee Meepian, jeffbergen