Can IT Cure the Common Conference Room Scheduling Headache?
Have you heard the joke about the employees that couldn’t find a meeting space to talk about over-booked conference rooms?
Considering the increasing importance of enabling face-to-face collaboration without busting the bottom line, the barriers to making meeting space more available are no laughing matter. And as more companies embrace flexible workplace policies, eliminating the headaches associated with employee collaboration is climbing the list of priorities.
The conference-room crisis isn’t restricted to companies with limited office space. Inefficient scheduling and use of meeting facilities at companies with room to spare are taking a toll on employee performance and satisfaction up and down the corporate ladder.
Off-the-shelf reservation tools can provide some relief. But to eliminate the major pain points associated with collaboration space scheduling, IT organizations need to address the root cause of scheduling headaches by implementing purpose-built, comprehensive reservation solutions.
Here’s why: At most companies, employee behavior is a big barrier to the effective use of meeting space. Considering the pressure that many workers are under, no one should be shocked when employees think about their needs first — maybe exclusively — when reserving meeting space.
That’s why the most comprehensive collaboration space reservation tools are programmed to maximize, well, collaboration.
Only a Few Meetings, Please
For example, purpose-built reservation software prevents employees from over-reserving rooms by limiting the number of spaces they can book at any given time. The solutions also govern how far in advance meetings can be scheduled to prevent space from being locked down.
Reservations systems can also be set to suggest collaboration spaces that match the requester’s requirements. As a result, this keeps an employee who might be planning a meeting for four people from reserving a space that can accommodate 20 people. Or it can ensure that rooms with videoconferencing capabilities are reserved for teams that actually need them.
It also can enforce business rules that limit some facilities to specific employees. Unless they know otherwise, some employees might be tempted to reserve the conference room with those comfortable chairs. Scheduling solutions that discreetly restrict access to certain rooms can mitigate the risk of unintentional boundary-crossing.
Addressing scheduling headaches before they happen is an important feature of reservations solutions. They can prevent double-booking, which mitigates the risk of “we were here first” skirmishes outside meeting rooms. And when integrated with smart building technology, conference room reservations systems can promote proper meeting etiquette by sending end-of-session messages to the planner. This helps to keep the current meeting on schedule and frees the space for the next event.
Integration with other technologies helps conference room reservation systems support more effective meetings. For example, native integration with Microsoft Outlook, an important feature of OnBoard software, helps planners select meeting times that accommodate attendees’ schedules. The system will send invitations, too.
In addition, OnBoard enables planners to request any audio-visual tools or other necessary meeting materials. When the capability to order catering services is added to the menu of supported services, setup and breakdown times are automatically factored into the schedule.
On the day of the meeting, smart building technology can ensure that conference rooms are properly heated or air conditioned ahead of time. Thermostats and lighting, too, can be adjusted after the meeting to reduce energy costs.
Wireless signage systems can identify which meeting is being held in the space. This can assure attendees that they’re in the right place. It also prevents annoying interruptions by people looking for their meeting space.
Bluetooth low-frequency beacons help meetings start on time by making it easy for attendees to find the specific room. Using their hand-held devices, remote workers unfamiliar with a facility or customer and partners can easily navigate their way through even the largest complex to find their meeting room.
An Ounce of Prevention
To prevent future conference room reservation headaches, modern solutions can collect data necessary for continuous improvement. Facilities planners can determine if their facilities offer the collaboration space employees need. They can monitor good and bad employee behavior to discover if more training or policies can drive better collaboration. Usage of meeting tools, such as whiteboards and projectors, can be tracked to ensure inventories of them are right-sized to meet requirements, even during peak usage.
At the speed of business today, companies face many extraordinary challenges. But providing employees with headache-free conference room scheduling shouldn’t be one of them.