How Does Conference Room Scheduling Software Work?

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

Automation is one of the great conveniences in the modern workplace. The ability to take a singular user input and process a desired effect with little-to-no human interaction saves time and helps everything run smoothly. Nowhere is this more evident than in conference room scheduling software. At a time when agile workplaces are on the rise and time is more precious than ever, automated conference booking software makes finding a space, inviting attendees, and collaborating simple.

Like all forms of technology, automation is great…when it works. When it doesn’t, it can cause far more problems than it solves. It’s critical to set up automated conference room booking software the right way the first time. Thankfully, facility managers using a modern Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) like SpaceIQ shouldn’t have any trouble. Room booking software is as easy to deploy as it is intuitive to use.

Here’s a look at what it takes to get conference room scheduling software up and running in your workplace, so employees can start taking advantage of the many benefits it offers.

Step 1: Integrate with facilities management software

Facilities management software is a must-have for room booking. Managing each room digitally enables automation, providing necessary booking variables. If each conference room has a digital twin, employees can bridge the gap between their physical needs and the digital booking process.

Label each bookable room in the IWMS, creating the booking variable. Make sure to use a simple, memorable conference room naming convention so employees can locate and book the room they need. Be sure to include all important variables about the room in a quick-reference profile—space size, IT amenities, location, and any other pertinent facts.

Step 2: Integrate with employee-facing software

Once the room’s digital twin exists in the IWMS, connect meeting room booking software to the employee-facing tools used to book it. This might include anything from a company intranet portal to integration with a messaging app like Slack. This is where the request is submitted to the IWMS for processing, and where employees receive confirmation or rebuttal.

Remember, employee-facing software is merely the medium; the IWMS is at the heart of the automation. Syncing everything through an IWMS ensures seamless booking, no matter what method someone uses. If someone books Conference Room A at 2p.m. on Tuesday through Slack, someone trying to book the same room at the same time through their calendar app needs to see it’s already reserved. Central processing through an IWMS coordinates requests through all channels.

Step 3: Establish booking methods

After you establish booking channels, qualify booking methods. This is where automated room scheduling software shines—it allows companies to control the room booking process, creating an ordered framework.

For example, an intranet web portal may ask for the following variables when booking a room: date, time, room name, booking length, person reserving, emails of invitees. Using this information, the IWMS checks and confirms the booking using the date, time, name, and length variables; then, emails confirmations to all attendees. Or, consider booking through Slack. A person might type “/reserve” into a channel, generating a list of rooms nearby, with options to book different lengths of time. Clicking a time prompts an action to invite others using a quick “@person” command, and each person gets a notification of where and when the meeting is.

Each medium has its own method, and it’s important to structure these methods based on how you want the automated booking software to function.

Step 4: Advocate conference room booking

There’s no sense in having automated conference room booking if no one uses it. Encourage employees to take advantage of time-saving booking processes whenever they need to reserve a room. Send out a memo outlining each booking medium, create booking SOPs, and let department leaders set the example in using them.

Step 5: Quantify room usage and learn

Room booking software not only automates the process, it quantifies room usage. Through insights collected by the IWMS, facility managers can see which rooms are in demand and which aren’t regularly utilized. These insights prompt questions that help shape the workplace. Why aren’t people using Conference Room C? Do we need more collaborative spaces due to high booking volume? Are we leasing space we don’t need?

Paying attention to conference room booking data puts facility managers in control of the workplace, while reducing the everyday demand of having to coordinate how people use facilities. By automating room booking they can turn their attention to ensuring space is properly used and make adjustments where it’s not.

With a good digital ecosystem already in place, it doesn’t take much to get automated conference room scheduling software up and running. Once it is, keep advocating its use among employees and use the data it provides to continually make workspaces more accessible. Then, start to consider what other workplace processes might benefit from simple automations.

Keep reading: Six Pillars of Conference Room Etiquette


The Advantages of Flexible Work Environments

By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager

Flexible work environments accommodate employees by stripping away rigid rules and replacing them with general guidelines. There’s a sense of freedom and autonomy inherent to flexible work environments, alongside the structure and support of a traditional workplace. Flex work is often seen as the happy medium between remote work and traditional office work, or freelancers vs. full-time employees.

A flexible workplace might not care about the timeframe in which you work as long as the job gets done. You likely won’t sit at your desk all day—if you even have a designated seat. Flex work might even mean the lack of a traditional boss. Instead, you may work with diverse teams on strategic initiatives where multiple managers are involved. Whatever the case, it’s a strong departure from the traditional concept of office work.

The rise in flexible work environments coincides with the influx of Millennial and Gen-Z employees. Younger workers demand work-life balance and are proving that, given autonomy and freedom, they’re able to perform in ways best for them. Read more on what is flexible office space?

Check out some of the chief benefits flexible work environments afford employees and their employers:

Employee benefits

The benefits of flexible work environments come from moving away from rigid workplace demands. Gone are the days of write-ups for clocking in at 9:03 a.m. or working Saturday hours to make up for a Tuesday doctor’s appointment. Someone might work from home on a day they have an appointment or flex in and out of different workspaces throughout the day to accommodate their changing schedule.

In addition to greater worker autonomy, flexible work environments rely on digital infrastructure, which keeps employees more connected to their work and their peers. It’s easy to pop open a cloud-hosted document to make changes, regardless of where you’re working. Similarly, apps like Slack and Zoom make chatting and video conferencing available in seconds. These technologies make work simpler and more efficient.

Ultimately, it’s easier for employees to achieve work-life balance in a flexible work environment. Preserving this balance encourages employees to self-moderate their workflow, leading to better productivity.

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Business benefits

The advantages of flexible working extend to employers as much as employees. Giving freedom to employees means business owners gain more control over their workplace design and cost. Flexibility in work habits translates to flexibility in workplace design, which often results in the creation of agile spaces that maximize utilization. Costs are typically tied to dedicated workspaces. But as employees transition into flex work, reliance on traditional seating falls. It’s a big win for space planning efficiency and can result in lower lease costs.

Businesses also benefit from improved culture and employee morale. Employees who control their work habits and schedules can relax their attitude about work. They’re apt to chat with coworkers without fear of being chastised for being “off task.” Flexible work environments also make it easier for employees to commingle in different spaces. The laid-back atmosphere helps attract and retain talent and strengthens bonds to the company itself.

The benefits of flexible environments may increase workplace ROI beyond revenue. Positive morale and culture, combined with an optimized floor plan, are keys to success in the current commercial climate.

Potential disadvantages to flex work

It’s important to recognize both pros and cons of flexible working. While the positives are numerous, drawbacks exist.

The most obvious problem is employees that lack the discipline or organization to self-govern. Employees unable to find their own groove in a flexible environment can quickly fall behind, becoming a burden more than an asset. Employers need to establish guidelines when problems arise—missed deadlines, communication problems, lack of awareness, erratic work habits, etc.

Flexible work environments demand careful planning and management on the part of facilities managers. Employees flexing into and out of spaces at various intervals represent an uncontrolled variable. The workplace itself needs to be the control point. Setting up rules and processes for how employees interact with different workspaces is imperative. Facilities managers also need to provide the means to keep everyone connected—employee directories, workspace reservation software, and wayfinding apps.

Keeping flexible workspaces viable and productive means creating order to accommodate the unknown. How will you manage employees? What methods ensure fairness despite differing work habits? Are there systems to track employee contributions and working hours? For a flex concept to work, it needs proper oversight.

Accommodating an agile workforce

Employees and employers alike have embraced the concept of flexible work environments. Given the opportunity to self-govern around a set of guidelines, the benefits for both are obvious: improved productivity, better morale, work-life balance, and positive culture. Flex work isn’t just in-demand, it’s on its way to becoming the new norm.

Keep reading: How Agile is Your Real Estate?

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What is a Breakout Space?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Revisiting space planning is important for evolving companies. As your employees’ needs change, it’s likely the workspaces they use will also change. It’s also worthwhile to reevaluate space allocation if you haven’t done so in a few years—the types of workspaces present are likely outdated or, at the very least, due for a few upgrades. It’s also a good time to ask yourself if there’s enough available breakout space.

Offices have informally utilized breakout spaces for decades. Today, they’ve risen from convenience to necessity based on the role they play in agile workplaces. Not only do you need to provide breakout spaces, these areas now support the types of work your employees do. It’s time to reevaluate the role breakout spaces play in your office.

Breakout spaces, defined

What is breakout space? The simplest definition is any space without a predetermined purpose. It could be a table with three or four chairs; or, it might be as complex as an experiential space employees can flex in and out of.

Breakout spaces are a quick fix to an immediate need. A conference ends, but three people need to get together to discuss a subtask. Instead of crowding around someone’s desk, they “break out” into a space for 15 to 20 minutes. An employee has two meetings on the fourth floor, with a 30-minute break between them. Instead of going back to their office on the first floor, they flex into a breakout space to prep between meetings.

Breakout spaces are the ultimate representation of agility in a fast-paced workplace. They’re not usually occupied for more than 30 to 45 minutes and their unstructured nature turns them into the ideal space for whoever occupies them.

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Give employees a space for ______

Breakout spaces themselves don’t generally follow a defined purpose. However, a breakout area can set the tone for the type of work people do in these spaces.

A breakout area tucked into a quiet corner might attract employees looking for a hideaway—a place to concentrate on something important for a short time. Likewise, an experiential breakout area themed like a coffee house might encourage collaboration by attracting small groups who need a place to brainstorm or toss around ideas. The atmosphere of a breakout space signals to employees the type of environment they can expect to work in.

Creating diverse breakout spaces throughout your facilities is a good way to give employees flex space that meets their changing needs. Quiet work today; collaboration tomorrow; space to spread out next week. The more diverse breakout spaces, the easier it is for employees to move seamlessly throughout the workplace as their day or workload dictates.

Unstructured space is crucial in agile offices

The role of an office breakout area cannot be understated in the modern workplace. Employees in motion need spaces where they can hunker down, whether to catch their breath, catch up on messages, or accomplish quick tasks. An undiscerning, easily co-opted breakout space is the ideal opportunity. Create the right ambiance via space design, and it becomes a haven for employees—a space where they feel comfortable and grounded, despite their fast-paced schedule.

Today, so much of the office is structured  to specifically promote agility. While the workplace is flexible on the surface, there are rigid controls in place that allow it to bend without breaking. Facility managers play an invaluable role and the rise of office automation is making it easier to oversee dynamic environments. Unstructured workspaces are an important asset on the management side, as well. These “set it and forget it” spaces don’t need management because they’re truly agile. Well-conceived, they’re a smart way to both support the workforce and optimize the broader office floor plan.

Making breakout space work

Breakout spaces are the most flexible spaces in the office, but that shouldn’t make them an afterthought or a filler solution in your floor plan. Dedicated breakout space should be strategic—located in areas where it’s easy for people to transition into and out of different activities. Employees should feel comfortable in a breakout space, whether they’re doing head-down work or meeting with a small group. Most importantly, it needs to foster productivity by contributing to greater workplace concepts of agility and flexibility.

Employees have always used breakout spaces. Now, in the modern office, their role has expanded. Put these adaptable, accessible spaces where they’ll do the most good and encourage employees to leverage them into their day whenever they need a place to be productive.

Keep reading: How Bad Office Design Stresses Workers.

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The Six Pillars of Conference Room Etiquette

By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing

Conference rooms have always been and will continue to be an important part of the workplace. When people need a place to meet privately in groups, conference rooms let them close the door and get down to business without disruption. What makes these spaces so effective is that they’re governed by universally understood pillars of conference room etiquette. People respect conference rooms for what they are.

Conference rooms transcend the many evolutions of the office environment. Today, they’re still an asset alongside new concepts like agile workspaces and activity-based work areas. The problem is, these new spaces follow different rules than traditional conference rooms. There’s still high demand for closed meeting rooms, but they’ll only continue to be useful if employees continue to adhere to conference room etiquette.

Here’s a quick refresher on the do and don’ts for meeting room governance. Make sure these six pillars are universally understood (and followed) by employees.

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1. Book the room in advance

Unlike an agile space that groups might flex into and out of freely, conference rooms need to be booked. Just because the room is empty doesn’t mean it’s not spoken for. Employees need to remember that conference spaces are more formal and there’s an orderly process for reserving them.

Teach employees to book conference rooms as far in advance as possible. It’s considered good etiquette to book a day or more in advance if possible. For last minute bookings, encourage reserving a few hours in advance. Advance booking keeps everyone in the loop—especially someone eyeing conference time, who may not yet know the logistics of their meeting nailed down enough to book.

2. Be on time and leave on time

Conference room rules only work if people are punctual. If you book a conference space for 2 p.m., make sure you’re there within five to 10 minutes on either side of the reservation. Arriving early might mean waiting outside for a previous group to finish and it’s always good to build in a buffer of a few minutes to accommodate people coming from across campus or another scheduled event.

As important as arriving on time is, leaving when your time is up is even more important. Even if there’s no reservation right after your time, someone might still need that space. Wrap up your meeting quickly or flex into a breakout space to finish.

3. Don’t double book

Not sure which conference room you’ll need or what time works best for your group? It might be tempting to double book spaces or time slots, but this goes against good conference room etiquette. Every reservation should be respected, which means other groups won’t book over you. But that respect should go both ways! Don’t take time or space away from those who need it. Wait to book a room until the details are set, or book a space that works for most and encourage the rest to finesse their schedules.

4. Cancel at the earliest possible time

If you book a conference room and your meeting plan falls apart, canceling your reservation is the courteous option. It’ll free up the space and time for another group to book should they need it. While cancellations aren’t great—since the room will have been effectively unavailable while booked—it’s better than keeping the reservation and letting the space go unused. Cancel at the earliest possible time to give others more of an opportunity to book that space.

5. Keep it clean and orderly

Meetings can entail all manner of activities. Presentations, handouts, whiteboarding, and project prep can result in materials sprawled out across the room. A conference lunch-and-learn can be even messier, with food, paper products, and utensils mixed into the fray. Meeting room etiquette dictates that before you leave the room, pick up your garbage. Do a hard reset for the next group to use the space, so they find it as clean as you did (if not cleaner).

6. Utilize conference rooms properly

More than taking the time to reserve a conference room and sticking to that schedule, make sure employees aren’t monopolizing these spaces. It’s okay to have a standing weekly meeting or to consistently use these rooms for group planning. It’s not okay to book the same room back-to-back-to-back for an entire afternoon, except in extreme cases. Employees should also avoid using conference rooms for solo projects or other types of work that could be done in other spaces.

Meeting rooms may be less agile than other modern workspaces, but they’re as important as they’ve ever been for private, closed-door meetings. They definitely deserve a place in today’s fast-paced offices, but they follow a different set of rules than many younger employees may be used to. Follow these six standards for meeting rooms and they’ll continue to be an asset in your workplace, no matter how they’re structured.

Keep reading: Eight Conference Room Naming Ideas.

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