Technology For Workspace Planning

Room booking software and other tech tools empower employees to improve their working environments.

By Luis De Souza
From the October 2019 Issue

The 20th century model of a workplace doesn’t get the job done efficiently in the 21st century. Today, work is not a place we go to, rather it’s an activity we engage in wherever and whenever our customers demand. Work is now an agile, integrated activity that is so far from the clock punching drudgery of the past, that the two seem barely related. The truth is if your office personnel is required to work within a 20th century mindset, you most likely have a morale problem—that’s if you can hire the best talent to begin with.

Workplace software
Effective and user-friendly workspace software promotes collaboration and boosts productivity by making it easy for employees to book conference rooms, services, and other tools needed for productive work. (Photo: provided by NFS Technology Group)

Did you know the average employee spends several hours a year looking for the right space to work? An adaptive integration of processes and software can bring your workplace up to date and improve user knowledge. Workplace software helps employees control and improve the working environment to create collaboration, wellbeing, and productivity.

The working environment is defined as “the surrounding conditions in which an employee operates.” And as a workplace owner or facility manager how you control surrounding conditions can make the environment right or wrong for your business and your employees. Surrounding conditions can mean two different things:

  • Physical conditions (e.g., what type of space is available for meetings daily, how hot or cold the workplace is, how noisy it is); and
  • Equipment (e.g., are collaboration tools such as video conferencing or AV available? What other equipment do your workers need for successful meetings?).

When Does It Go Wrong?

  • When the workspace is not set up to support modern ways of working.
  • When workers are often looking for somewhere to sit down and work, or hold a meeting.
  • When employees are uncomfortable because it’s too hot, too cold, or noisy.
  • When meetings fail because no one attends.
  • When no one wants to arrange a video conference because it’s too much admin effort and the equipment isn’t always available when needed.

So, How Do You Make It Right?

The correct software for a workspace management system lays these issues to rest, making operations more efficient and delivering an agile working environment where people can do their jobs efficiently. Apps increase this efficiency by allowing the booking process to be done from a mobile device or smartphone. Since this solution has been designed to use touch as the primary interface, apps are ideal for busy employees who need to book rooms, desks, and services quickly with the same result from desktop software.

Here’s how finding a room on a daily basis can work:

  • Employees can use an app to locate and book a desk or room daily, even when organizing a meeting with participants across multiple locations or time zones.
  • If they need a quiet desk in a cool place, they can specify that when booking the space.
  • Up-to-date inventory control means users can identify the equipment they need at each location and book that, too. They can even add catering in the same transaction.
  • It can all be dragged and dropped into the familiar Outlook calendar thanks to integration, and any changes are notified automatically to everyone who is taking part (even the caterers).

A room scheduling software as described here will accomplish all this. It works for both agile workers traveling from one office location to another and permanent staff members who need to find available meeting rooms. Room scheduling software will:

  • Find and book workspaces/meeting rooms with day to day capabilities—it will inform workers of room availability based on their specifications every day.
  • Create well-run meetings, since the room scheduling software finds a room, books video conferencing within different time zones, books catering, and notifies participants if meeting times change. It then releases the room when the meeting is finished.

What about long-term space planning with room availability software?

Global law firm DLA Piper is an example of a workplace incorporating room booking software into long-term space planning. The firm moved its Chicago office to River Point, a 52-story office tower on Lake Street. The firm is presently leasing 175,000 square feet on the ninth through 16th floors in the tower. With hundreds of employees attending several meetings in 33 rooms in one business day, DLA Piper needed to find meeting management technology to help increase its office productivity. During planning stages, the firm requested room booking services as well as real-time sensors to perform the following:

  • When people enter a meeting room, sensors turn equipment on and instructions appear on the main screen alerting attendees how to project a laptop onto the screen wirelessly or physically plug in.
  • Equipment will automatically shut down when the meeting ends. The room will automatically be released and displayed on digital panels outside the meeting space for all to view.

The integration of meeting room booking technology with an enterprise management system for digital signage and building control created a connected workplace for DLA Piper’s new space. Thanks to the integration of the room booking software and digital signage, workers can find a suitable meeting space, book the room and services and bring remote offices into the meeting by video conferencing, seamlessly. They can even set up lighting, control temperature, and lower window blinds.

Sensors: How Do They Work?

A workspace software system can aggregate the data gathered from sensor technology—whether that is monitoring desks, meeting rooms, or social spaces. Using this data, it is possible to model and predict future space requirements. The system can send management an alert when space usage goes above or below user-defined levels.

Systems can also provide enough granular data to even suggest how the office should be configured. For example, using this data to deliver 10% in space savings an organization can delay future office moves and expansions or, similarly, looking at usage patterns may choose to reconfigure the existing space for more flexible working patterns.

Flexible workers can quickly see when a room or desk is available on the floorplan. Time is saved in having to look for a workspace and teams can find a collaborative area easily—the solution may also prompt the user should they need, say, a quiet space for concentration.

A useful feature of this type of solution could be that it releases a space automatically at end of use to the next employee who requires it. This can often increase space utilization by around 30%.

Based on business rules, space and desks can be automatically reallocated when you have a “no-show.” For example, a desk can be reallocated if unoccupied for two hours.

Given that the average employee often spends too much time looking for a space to work—workspace software technology translates to a major cost saving—creating a win-win scenario for facility management. And, sensors integrated with room booking software create a productive room management system.

Workplace softwareDe Souza is Group CEO and and Founder of NFS Technology Group, which provides the Rendevous Workspace software as part of its offerings. He studied engineering and then completed his MBA at the London Business School. De Souza’s business career has spanned work in major Companies like Ford, McKinsey, and ITT, before founding NFS as a hospitality technology business more than 20 years ago.

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