The growth of hybrid working (aka flexible working, flexwork, blended working etc.) has changed the way we work. Employees want to take control of how they work, where they work and when they work. Employers are now more aware of this, which means they need the right solutions in place. These solutions are known as ‘Desk Booking Systems’.
This post aims to explain what exactly a desk booking system is, the benefits of a desk booking system, and how to develop your own system.
What is a Desk Booking System?
A desk booking system is a system for organisations to manage their office desk allocation. Put simply, it is a system whereby employees can personally book their desk space for a given day.
For example, an organisation which allows hybrid working can let their employees choose when they wish to work using a desk booking system. The employee simply picks their spot, choose the date and books accordingly.
These desk booking systems have grown in popularity immensely with the growth of hybrid working. Now companies want the systems in place to make hybrid working possible.
These systems come in all shapes and sizes and will be looked at in greater detail later.
What are the Benefits of a Desk Booking System?
Different desk booking systems will have their own individual benefits, but there are some common benefits. These benefits are:
Facilitates Hybrid Working
Desk booking systems are great for facilitating hybrid working. This means that the system manages the company’s hybrid working. How does the system manage this? By setting parameters around desk booking and allowing employees to choose their own working arrangements. For a look at how hybrid working can help your business read our recent blog post here.
A desk booking system empowers employees. “How?” you might ask. By allowing them to choose how they work. The desk booking system allows employees to book a desk space in the office on a given date. Giving employees the power to choose their own work location, either in the office or at home is empowering. It gives employees a choice, which for some workers is very important.
Some workers are more productive at home, others more productive in the office. There is no longer a one size fits all approach to how we work. Desk booking systems give companies this decision to their employees.
In some organisations, there may be more employees than desk spaces. These organisations operate a form of hot-desking approach, whereby any one can use a desk space in the office. Like booking a spot in a university library for example. A desk booking system allows organisations to manage this demand.
Some days, there may be more employees that want a desk than there are desks. By using a system, the company can ensure all staff that come to the office are guaranteed a desk, while those without a booking will continue to work from home. So, there is less chance for employees to arrive to work and be disappointed not to have a desk.
Expand Your Team Without Expanding Real-Estate
During the pandemic, offices shut down and organisations worked remotely. For many organisations, during this time, they expanded their teams. However, they did not have to expand their real estate. A desk booking system makes it possible to keep expanding your team without having to expand real-estate.
Organisations are adopting hybrid working. Therefore, not all employees will be in the office at one time. A desk booking system can ensure that office occupancy is maximised and employees that need a spot in the office can get one. Desk booking systems can save organisations money on real-estate by making the current real-estate more efficient. Real-estate efficiency is the future.
What to look for in a Desk Booking System?
Now we know what a desk booking system is and the benefits, we can begin to understand what to look for in a system. There are some important factors to look out for when choosing a solution. First, we take a look at what you need before researching desk booking systems.
Factors to Consider Before Researching
Before deciding on a desk booking system, you must know the following.
The number of desks you need managed
The number of desks to be managed is key information. Both for internal system development and for choosing a vendor. Should you choose to build a system, the desks will be the key facility. In choosing a vendor, this is usually their first question, “how many desks do you need to manage?”.
Hybrid working arrangements.
Knowing your organisations stance on hybrid working is also good. This can separate from workers that will need to be onsite 5 days a week and those who will be hybrid. For example, some workers will be in the office every day. These workers may be given a fixed desk space. Hybrid workers may be allowed to flexibly choose their spot when they work in the office.
Some countries or organisations may be implementing capacity limitations. This will be a limit on the occupancy of the office or workplace. If you are only operating at 50% capacity, you must take this into account, especially if building an internal solution. The internal solution must be built to handle the full capacity when permitted.
Number of users
How many users will use this desk booking system? When developing a system, the software/solution must be able to handle the number of users. If there are a lot of users, there needs to be a good system in place. For vendors, some will charge by the number of users on the system.
Responsiveness of the features
Features for the booking system must be responsive. Should you create an internal system, having responsive features will mean greater occupancy levels. These features could be a live booking calendar, real-time booking cancellation/release or check-in/check-out features. Some of these features are advanced and can be tough to do. There are vendors with good solutions for these requirements.
How to Build an Internal Desk Booking System
Now we have a better understanding of desk booking systems, we can look at building a solution. We’ve looked at four approaches to creating a desk booking system internally. These solutions are all quite different but will aid the desk management in the organisation.
Manual Desk Booking
A manual desk booking system is the most basic solution. This is however the most administrative. A manual desk booking system is one that is done manually. Kept on a sheet of paper, employees can book their spot on the booking sheet. The sheet is usually kept in a common room or at reception. The sheet may have a weekly or monthly calendar. Like a notice board, the sheet can be edited and changed by the employees.
The issue with manual desk booking is that it can be easily gamified. Employees can book multiple days at once and it acts as a luck of the draw basis. For large offices, some employees may find this unfair. Especially if hybrid working arrangements are ongoing, some employees may not be in the office to even make a booking!
A manual desk booking system is extremely tough to manage and would only work in very small offices with close relationships. It is free to do, but the time spent manually printing the booking calendar and enforcing bookings would be better spent working.
This system is okay for a very small organisation with very limited resources. For an organisation with hybrid working, it is not practical or fair.
Rating: 1 out of 5 ⭐
Desk booking through an excel spreadsheet is a less administrative solution compared to manual. This removes the physical booking sheet, and the possibility of staff editing their physically. The spreadsheet booking system is a virtual booking sheet. Employees can go into the spreadsheet and book their spot from their laptops or desktops.
Like a manual booking system, the excel spreadsheet can be edited by employees. Employees can also change past bookings if there are limitations in place. For example, if employees are allowed to make two bookings each week they can book in on Monday and Tuesday. If the employee wants to go into the office a third time, they can go into the spreadsheet and change their booking from Monday to Thursday and make it seem like they have only made two bookings.
This can be stopped by blocking cells. However, this is a lot of extra work for the admin. Which is not practical. Like the manual system, the excel spreadsheet will only suit very small organisations. The only advantage is, there is less admin compared to the manual desk booking system.
Rating: 2 out of 5 ⭐⭐
Build Your Own Internal Solution
This is the most extreme form of desk booking system. Extreme in the sense that the cost of creating, building, developing, and maintaining an internal solution is very high (trust us!). However, if done well, can be perfect for your organisations needs. In building an internal solution, an organisation must decide the best platform to create the system on. There are a range of different hosting sites to build on. For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure.
Microsoft PowerApps is a solution for developers to build professional grade apps easily. PowerApps provides the tools for anyone to be an app developer. This is a way to build a desk management system. However, the functionality can be limited. Furthermore, the cost of licensing a user on Microsoft PowerApps can become quite expensive. Priced at $10 per user, per month, for a large company, developing a solution on Microsoft PowerApp could cost an organisation of 100 users $12,000 per annum.
Organisations may choose to hire developers to create their own desk booking system. That way, the organisation can choose features that suit them best. For example, a live booking calendar, analytics, office maps for good user experience. The system can be built from the ground up and the organisation can have ownership over the system. These are very strong benefits, and make it seem like a good method.
Costs are an issue
On the other hand, some problems can arise. Most notably, cost. The cost of developing something like this is very high. “How would you know?” – because I work for a company that sells desk booking system software. Desk booking systems can take anywhere from 6 months (the most basic version) to 2 years (more complex) to develop, depending on the complexity. Even so, once it is complete, there will always be a new feature to add or develop upon. All this development costs money. Engineers and app developers will be costly to develop such an internal solution.
Furthermore, these solutions take time to develop. If the most basic solution takes 6 months to develop, then that is 6 months where hybrid working is more challenging to manage. If you compare that to an off the shelf solution which takes only a couple of weeks to onboard, it can be a lot of lost time.
Using the 6-month lead time to develop a system as an example, this considers just the basic functions of the system. Like making bookings and facilitating hybrid working in some form. However, for a more detailed solution with wider features, the time increases considerably.
Here you may consider the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 rule. This is the idea that 80% of the “homegrown” internal solution can be developed quite quickly. This will result in a sturdy prototype. However, it is the remaining 20% that will take the most time and effort to complete. Within this 20% are a range of ‘edge cases’. These edge cases are issues which require special parameters to complete, meaning additional engineering. So, although you may complete the most of the app development quite quickly, these edge cases can make it very difficult to create a complete desk booking system internally.
An overarching fear for building a homegrown solution, is the possibility of modifying the business process to fit the system, rather than the system to fit the business process.
There is the idea that once developed, the solution is low cost. However, maintenance and further development costs will continue to occur. So, the total cost of ownership does not cease once the system is first developed. As for total costs, this could range anywhere from €5,000 to €50,000+. Meaning this method is only practical for large multinational companies – and even at that, it will be an extraneous cost for a service that is available for a fraction of the price each year!
Rating: 3 out of 5 ⭐⭐⭐
Ronspot Desk Booking System
The final solution is an off the shelf desk booking system – like Ronspot! Like the other solutions, Ronspot can help facilitate hybrid working. Unlike the manual and excel spreadsheet approach, Ronspot is a real-time booking system. The live booking calendar allows employees to make their booking in real-time. A live booking calendar means employees can go into the office any time throughout the day if there is a space available.
Ronspot also has a range of features designed to make desk booking simple. Some key features to note are:
For a look at the whole range of features, visit the page here. These features can all be developed by hired developers when creating and internal solution. However, it would take some time. These features add to the complexity of the system, so that would need to be accounted for.
Next to consider is the security of an off the shelf solution. Ronspot for example is ISO 27001 certified and is fully compliant with GDPR. Moreover, Ronspot use Amazon-cloud system (AWS) for maximum data security. So, your data is kept secure always.
Onboarding is another factor. With Ronspot, onboarding and training is very quick. Once all the details and information are received, Ronspot can have the company maps uploaded and created in a couple of days. Then employees can begin to onboard themselves. They can do this manually, or by way of single sign-on (SSO). SSO can save time and make it easier for employees to login to the system. Training can take place at a time and date the suits the company and its employees.
Compared to the basic internal solution which could be built, at best, in 6 months – onboarding and training in two weeks saves a lot of time.
Cost savings for off-the-shelf solutions
Time savings are good, but so too are cost savings. We mentioned above that PowerApp would cost $12,000 per year for 100 users, well this is very different at Ronspot. Instead, Ronspot charge by the number of desks. Why? Because typically, there are more users than desks and everyone is trying to book a space. A fee should be charged per bookable spot, not by number of users. So, in this case, if there are 100 employees and only 50 desks, Ronspot would charge for 50 desks. At the top level for the desk booking system, this would cost €3 per desk per month. This works out at only €1,200 per year for Ronspot Enterprise, with its limitless features.
On top of that, there is additional after sales support which is available to companies. The support is included in the paid contracts both through email and/or by phone. After-sales support is something we pride ourselves in at Ronspot. The team is tirelessly working to offer the best service possible to our customers.
It’s important to remember that off-the-shelf solutions are proven to work. For example, Ronspot has a range of customers across the world who are using Ronspot to manage their desk booking. See some of Ronspot’s case studies and customer testimonials here.
To recap, if cost and time are a big factor (which they usually are!), then Ronspot is the better option. With three price points, including ‘Community’ which is completely free, Ronspot has an account for all organisations. For more information, you can visit the website homepage here, or book a demo in the calendar below.
Overall, an off the shelf booking system is the fastest and most reliable for hybrid working. It’s cost effective and aims to improve occupancy levels for your office. For us, the best method of desk booking system is obvious. Why build when you can already buy?
Rating: 5 out of 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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