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How to Introduce a Desk Booking System

How to approach the introduction of a desk booking system, what to prepare, and, most importantly, what to look for in such system? Learn more about introducing a desk booking system in a company.
In this article

Year 2023 surprised remote work fans with a slight increase in office attendance, which slowly approaches numbers from before the pandemic. What isn’t coming back to pre-pandemic state are employees’ expectations towards the flexibility of their workplace. To be ready for a new wave of office work, it’s worth rethinking one of the basis of flexible workplace – desk booking.

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Is it really worth introducing a desk booking system?

According to reports, even as much as 94% of employees expect schedule flexibility, and it means that offices need to allow as much flexibility as possible. Unfortunately, permanently assigned desks are not enough. That’s why different forms of hot desking became a must for most of companies.

Now, deciding on hot desking is only the first step. In order to benefit from it, you will need some system to manage those flexible desks. Throughout the years we’ve seen many approaches, including using spreadsheets and putting it all on office manager’s head. In the end such equivalents of proper desk booking system always appear to be ineffective.

That’s why having a proper tool to manage hot desk booking is crucial while working hybrid. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of having a dedicated desk booking system:

  • Employees can book desks on their own, without involving office managers.
  • Users can see who is in the office on given day.
  • If they need the same desk for more than one day, they can easily book it in advance.
  • Employees are able to find their friends and book desk next to them, which boosts the ease of cooperation.
  • It’s easy to choose a proper workstation according to responsibilities for given day.
  • Admins can easily assign employees to specific office zones.
  • Desks can be marked as out of use when needed.
  • All the data about office bookings stays in one place and can be downloaded to spreadsheets.

So, answering the question in the title – yes, it is worth having desk booking system. It saves time, troubles, and makes office management easier.

What are the most important features and what is an unnecessary addition when it comes to desk bookings apps?

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Before starting any serious discussions about implementing a tool for desk booking, you need to choose the provider. While deciding on what solution a company should buy, decision makers sometimes prioritize particular features, assuming they will be crucial during desk booking process. In reality, some of them aren’t of any use and only generate additional costs. So what are the most important features of a desk booking system?

To answer that question, we need to think about the purpose of such solution, and the way people will use it. What’s more, we need to be realistic while doing that.

The general purpose of a desk booking system is to:

  • allow employees desk booking without generating additional work for anybody.
  • facilitate cooperation between coworkers and departments.
  • make office organization and reorganization easier for office managers.
  • boost office and work flexibility.
  • provide data on office utilization as a base for decision making.

Now let’s discuss some important features and unnecessary additions inside those points.

Simple desk booking

Booking office desks is, as the name suggests, the base and most important feature of such system. However, there are some important matters you should pay attention to, that are not as obvious before introducing the system.

Important: Simplicity of ad hoc booking

Previously I mentioned about being realistic, right? At first you may think that employees will sit down and organize their workweek in advance. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t that colorful. People usually book needed resources right before coming into the office. That’s why they value the simplicity of the booking process. The easier and faster it is, the better.

Important: Desk booking restrictions

There are solutions that let every user book any possible desk. At first it may seem as a flexibility boosting approach, but in practice it can cause a lot of chaos. Be sure that the booking system you are checking out allows the possibility of introducing booking restrictions.

For example, in the Tidaro app you can divide your office into zones, and assign groups of employees to them. This way you are able to create public and private zones, which gives you a better grip on how your office is organized.

Important: Booking from and office map

Now, this seems as an unnecessary feature, but believe me, it is really helpful. Built in interactive office map allows employees to decide where they want to work, and navigate among all taken workstations. It also facilitates office managers’ work while overviewing office occupancy. Lack of this feature might discourage employees from booking, as they have no control over where and with whom they work.

Unnecessary: On-desk devices and additional hardware

This is probably the biggest misconception when it comes to office desk booking systems. Let me put it straight: desk booking system DOES NOT need on-desk devices to work perfectly fine. I know it looks cool, and may seem more decent than the software only based systems. However, there is nothing more to that. What’s even worse, those devices are expensive and hinder you office flexibility. Nowadays everybody has a smartphone in a pocket, and it is the only device they need.

Overrated: Check-in system

A lot of potential clients heavily focus on check-in system while talking with us. They assume it is a must that will give them insight into who and how often is in the office. They usually want to introduce scanning QR codes after entering the office. Sadly, it doesn’t work as intended. Employees hardly ever remember about scanning those codes, and consider it as an inconvenience. As a result, they don’t do that and that’s where a realistic image of office occupancy ends.

Convenient cooperation between coworkers

From employees’ perspective, this is probably the most important part of every desk booking system. In the end, they want to meet their team members and colleagues in the office. Let’s leave working alone in the domain of the remote work.

Important: Overview on who is in the office

What is one of the important questions that pops up in everybody’s head before going to work? It is: with whom I will meet in the office today? It might be discouraging when this question remains unanswered. Tidaro has such a feature, and we can see how appreciated it is by our users. So, be sure that your solution allows employees to see who is in the office on given day, and let them plan their office visits with their colleagues.

Important: Searching for colleagues in the office

I’m sure you can imagine at least 10 possible situations when an employee needs to find a coworker in a hybrid office. Since everybody can book different desk every day, the task isn’t that easy. Without a dedicated feature to search for employees’ workstations, it can transform into wandering around the office and guessing. That’s why it is important for a desk booking system to have such feature. It saves a lot of time and frustration.

Unnecessary: Built-in chat

Let’s face it: in typical office, there are so many different communicators that a booking system doesn’t need to have an additional one. It might seem as a convenient solution at first, but in the end it only increase fatigue cased by too much information in too many places.

Easy office management

Every good desk booking system offers a set of administrative tools to help office managers organize employees and resources. Without it we can’t speak about increasing flexibility. Let’s take a look at the most important ones.

Important: Desk management

Absolute basic when it comes to administrative tools inside a desk booking system is managing desks. That’s what a good system should offer:

  • Booking desks on behalf of users.
  • Taking desks out of use.
  • Assigning desks to employees.
  • Dedicating desks for office guests.

Important: Booking management

This matter is often overlooked while deciding on desk booking system, because a lot of people assume it is the same thing as desk management. Booking management lets you customize the sole  process of booking, e.g. for how long a particular desk can be taken or how far in the future employees can book. We know from experience these features come in handy faster than anybody assumed.

Important: Employee management

Booking applications aren’t HR systems, so no one should expect anything too fancy. Nevertheless, features like grouping employees, giving them permissions to book particular groups of desks, inviting new ones or deleting them are too useful to be omitted. Requesting remote work is also a fine addition to such a system. However most companies already handle this with HR software, so it is not as crucial.

Office utilization data

It depends on the company and the industry what kind of data is important, so you should look for a solution that covers most of your needs. Although, there are some pieces of information that our clients find particularly useful, and that’s what I want to share with you.

  • Office occupancy: a complex desk booking system should give you an idea how much of your office is actually used by the employees. It’s even better if you can determine what are most popular parts of the office. This way you will be able to decide on e.g. downsizing the office, or enhancing less popular parts.
  • Employee activity data: it will tell you what are the patterns inside your employees’ visits to the office. What days they choose for office visits, what parts of the office they choose, what desks they prefer. This way you can adjust office experience to natural employee behavior.
  • Booking data: after introducing a desk booking system, you will probably want to know whether it was a good decision, and if employees really use it. That’s where booking reports come in handy.

How to introduce a desk booking system

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Now that you know what to look for in a desk booking system, it’s time to discuss the process of implementation. Mind that the introduction process may vary depending on a tool, although there are some universal pieces of advice that you want to be familiar with.

Step 1: preparation for implementation

Every desk booking system is a software solution, which means that you want to discuss it’s introduction to the company with your IT department. In case you are confused about what to ask, here is a little list of questions that you should have covered:

  • We want to introduce a desk booking solution XYZ. Do you see any technical issues considering this topic?
  • Do you have any requirements for the product we want to implement?
  • Will the provider need to complete a safety questionnaire?
  • Do we have a security policy or technological requirements the provider should know?
  • Do you require installation on company servers?
  • Who will take part in app testing?
  • Who on our side will supervise the implementation and tests?
  • Also, if the provider enables any integrations, it’s worth asking IT department if they are ready for a technical configuration.

Step 2: Providing required information

Before setting off with a desk booking solution, you first need to configure it for your company’s needs. Type of information needed varies depending on chosen provider. Below I point out matters that will be tackled with a great probability.

  • If the solution offers office maps, the provider will ask you to deliver them maps or plans of your offices. Also, the number and locations of your office desks will be needed.
  • If you are not going to use Single Sign-On technology, then the provider will need a list of your employees to register them in the app.
  • You will need to decide who is going to be an admin.
  • If the tool provides features like dividing office into zones, you will need to decide on how to manage it in the app.
  • You should also let the provider know about any customization you want to be done during the implementation.

Step 3: Employee training

In order for a new tool to work efficiently, you will need to train your employees on how to use it. Some companies offer employee training, so it’s best to use this opportunity. If the provider doesn’t have such service, be sure to ask about any training materials (like videos and manuals) they can provide you.

Step 4: Testing and feedback

Most of desk booking solutions have a free trial period for their clients to check if the system meets all their requirements. If you want the whole company to test it right away, just implement the tool and see how it works. However, a lot of companies first assign a group of people to test the tool and deliver feedback. In case you want to do the same, be sure to create such group before starting trial. It can take a while and you don’t want to waste your trial time.

What’s left is giving feedback to the provider. Be sure to point out every reported issue and share your opinion on the system. A good provider should be open for a discussion and adjusting their tool to your needs. This way you will get exactly what you want, and test a bit the provider’s customer support. If you are not pleased with the cooperation, don’t worry, there are different providers on the market. There’s no sense in investing time into cooperation that will eventually fail.

Desk booking system implemented, what’s next?

That’s the step not many think about. Although, introducing a desk booking system doesn’t necessarily translate to instant benefits. My advice is to play around different office setups and all the possibilities a new tool provides. With proper data gathering and analyzing, you will be able to see what works best for your office and employees.

To give you an example, our customers usually check how different booking settings influence employee experience. Some of them want to see if leaving the whole office free for booking will pass the test, and sometimes come back to the idea of private zones. Others observe for how long and how far in advance employees book desks, and how it is related to fulfilling bookings. There are also those who check employee activity data to set the most optimal days for face to face bookings. Possibilities are many, be sure not to leave the desk booking tool on default settings.

Last but not least, gather employees feedback. Send anonymous surveys and ask for honest opinions about the new tool and office organization. Maybe not all complaints can be easily resolved, but there are often small things that can be done to enhance employee experience.

Conclusions

When considering a desk booking solution for your company, be sure to do a complex research. Don’t be afraid to contact providers and ask them questions before finally deciding on the tool you want to buy. This stage can save you later issues and inefficiencies.

Stay in contact with the provider during implementation, employee training, and testing processes. Be sure to gather feedback and report all the potential problems, because unresolved they will only grow in next months.

Finally prepare yourself for some experimentation with the new tool to see what setup is the best for your employees and offices. Remember to gather feedback about the new system, and adjust it accordingly.

If your company covers all those steps, benefits of flexible desk booking approach will soon start appearing.

Picture of Wojciech Feliks
Wojciech Feliks
Every company has its story, and I love telling stories. Privately a big fan of horror movies, ramen, and tea. I wouldn't say no to a journey around the world.