Space & Move Management

Agile room booking: agility to support collaboration in the hybrid workplace

Maya Ketter
February 9th, 2023

In our new and hybrid normal, there’s only one way to achieve meaningfully agile room booking, or any agile work environment type, for that matter. 

Simply put, companies need to use real-time data to achieve true room booking agility. 

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Assuming this data is paired with user-friendly room booking software, companies will be able to improve collaboration and help everyone find the right types of workspaces, at the right time. 

In this article, we explore how to achieve more agile room booking. First up, we’ll cover why companies should aim for room booking agility in the first place. 

What is room booking agility?

Room booking agility refers to the ability of employees to quickly and easily access meeting rooms and other collaboration spaces. Additionally, it refers to the ability of space planners and other decision makers to access and analyze real-time metrics about how all these spaces are being used. Armed with these metrics, they can then pivot and adjust these spaces as demand inevitably changes.  

Moreover, given the growing prevalence and importance of hybrid meetings, an agile meeting room reservation system also needs to allow for mixed presence attendees. I.e.: remote and hybrid employees need to be able to easily book and check-in to rooms, too. 

To do all this, agile room booking needs streamlined and well-integrated meeting room booking software. It needs to simplify booking both in and from any location. It may also pair with occupancy sensors and perhaps a badge system. This helps to create a more accurate picture of room use.

And, critically, it will collect and interpret both real-time and historical data on room utilization. Companies can use this to improve real estate forecasting and drive smarter decisions for physical workspaces.   

Of course, optimizing room use like this is a key way to improve workflows and employee experience. Not to mention cut down on wasteful ghost rooms.

But room booking itself is part of a much bigger target in the workplace—namely, widespread workplace agility

It’s when companies are willing and able to use data to pivot all their spaces that workplace experience goes up, while corporate real estate expenses go down (or at least stay within reasonable budget targets). 

Room booking agility vs workplace agility vs agile working

Any way you slice it, ‘agility’ is very much in demand when it comes to optimizing the workplace today. 

Agile room booking

To clarify, agile room booking and/or room booking agility refers to the combination of office workplace technology, room booking software, and associated policies that allow companies to optimize room bookings and room use in a dynamic workplace. 

It’s about letting employees book (and cancel) rooms on the fly or well in advance, via mobile app or their preferred device, as needed. 

And it’s about collecting robust data about what those employee needs actually are. Then companies can adjust their collaborative workspace plans and policies as needed. 

Workplace agility

Meanwhile, workplace agility takes this flexibility and extends it to the entire physical workplace. It focuses on the ability of companies to continuously test and pivot. It uses software and data to improve workspaces, including individual workstations.  As such, it typically requires desk booking software, along with real estate analytics, tools for office scenario and stack planning, request management software, and potentially move management software.

The goal with workplace agility is typically to improve space utilization, optimize floor plans, and, ultimately, create a better employee experience and improved employee engagement. Employee empowerment, workplace wellbeing, and a more inclusive company culture are often in the cards, too. 

Agile working

Finally, agile working is a unique workplace strategy that is becoming increasingly relevant post-pandemic. Especially as companies look to accommodate new demands for flexible working options. In an agile working setup, companies encourage employees to work when, where, and even how they prefer. That means that when they opt to come into the office, they need a host of flexible seating options to meet them there. Hot desks and working neighborhoods are among the most popular ways to accomplish this). 

Companies that embrace true agile working tend to be innovators. Overall, they’re concerned more with creating a smart workplace and better workforce strategy than they are with cramming the biggest amount of people into the least amount of sq ft possible. 

Regardless, whatever flavor of agility a company is shooting for, it’s good workplace data analytics that will help them get there. 


What is agile room booking software?

Agile room booking software is what allows for agile room booking. For this more dynamic system to work, meeting scheduling software needs to be fluid and flexible. It needs to move beyond simple room booking features of the past. It should allow attendees to search room availability and then book a room. And this all needs to be from the comfort of their mobile device or desired platform. And they should just as easily be able to let rooms go, even at the last minute. 

Ideally, this software will be well integrated with existing workplace management software (by offering Google Calendar and Zoom meeting calendar integration, for example, and/or workplace Slack and Microsoft Teams integration), as well as with whatever is necessary to allow for video conferencing.  

And ideally, it will also be integrated with wayfinding options (often including meeting room digital signage and wayfinding kiosks). This can help ensure employees can find rooms when needed. This is especially important in a hybrid office that is used less frequently. 

Many companies have been using some form of rudimentary room booking software for decades. Of course, this is not counting the old sign-up sheets outside meeting rooms! 

But the fundamentals that make this software ‘agile’ are two-fold. 

Fundamentals of agility

First, this software needs to be dynamic and easily accessible, to account for today’s dynamic space use. 

Specifically, employees should be able to: 

  • Schedule meetings in seconds, from their preferred device
  • Search for (and book) rooms with specific features (like wifi or monitors for video conferencing) and/or specific locations
  • See which rooms are available or booked in real-time
  • Easily cancel bookings to avoid wasted space due to no-shows
  • Get push notifications with office maps attached so everyone can find their meeting room quickly (especially useful in large facilities)
  • Schedule hybrid meetings and see where their fellow attendees are located
  • Accommodate multi-room bookings (which can especially help improve hybrid meetings)

Second, to be truly ‘agile,’ this software needs to collect data that employers can use to plan better offices and meeting spaces going forward. 

As we’ll explore next, it’s this data that truly transforms a room booking system into an agile one. 


Using real-time data to improve room booking agility

Like we’ve covered, it’s the ability to collect and synthesize real-time workplace data that separates simply ‘good’ room booking from truly ‘agile’ room booking. It’s only when decision makers are able to access advanced workplace analytics that they can start to form a better picture of how conference rooms are actually being used. 

Especially in a hybrid workplace, room usage will constantly fluctuate based on employee demand. 

Meanwhile, nothing degrades collaboration like being stymied by double-bookings. Or never being able to find a meeting room setup style that meets your needs. 

So the solution to the common space management challenge of creating consistent spaces for inconsistent space use is to let data drive decision making. 

In particular, the following metrics can be especially useful for developing a better room and room booking solution:

  • Room usage trends, including the number of underutilized rooms and peak utilization
  • Over utilization
  • Peak daily utilization
  • Reclaimed time

Ideally, it will also be easy to filter this data, whether by date, department, site, or floor. This way, space planners will have access to robust, timely, and historical data. They can use this data to support a wide array of evolving collaboration strategies in the workplace.  


How to keep up with the changing demand of people using (or not using) the office

Whether working with small businesses or enterprise-level facility management clients, Client Success Managers at OfficeSpace are frequently asked a complex question… “How can we keep up with the changing demand of people using (or not using) the office?

Thankfully, there’s a surprisingly easy answer.

Yes, there’s no doubt that given the many challenges of hybrid working, and the many complexities of aligning hybrid schedules among a distributed workforce, it’s more difficult than ever to foster more collaboration in the workplace

But facility managers and other workplace leaders can keep up with this ever-fluctuating demand for space using two key data points. 

First, decision makers will need to know their busy times of the week. This will require combining usage patterns to see when rooms and spaces are busy, versus when they’re sitting empty. Note that also combining this data with desk booking data will create a fuller understanding of when and how employees are using the office as a whole. 

Second, they’ll also need to identify their most used spaces. If they can see which types of rooms and spaces are most popular and how many meetings are getting booked, they can use this information to ensure they’re continuously providing right-size spaces. 

Collecting this data may require new technology in the workplace (like IoT sensors, for example, or new workplace experience software). It will also likely require more collaboration between facility managers (FMs), IT professionals, possibly HR, and other workplace leaders and decision makers. 


What does it mean to be agile? 

‘Agile’ is a broad term, and will mean different things when applied to different spaces. But the one unifying feature of agility is the ability to change. And that can only happen with good data and good culture. 

We know from the 2023 Workplace Strategy Report that the majority of workplace leaders today see the physical office as a place to foster connection and collaboration. And that they’re actively working on ways to improve their workplaces for the people who use them. Streamlined room scheduling can streamline collaboration, making it critical to these efforts.  

Ultimately, the most useful workplace collaboration tool is the willingness to stay agile—and the data to make this possible.


What is a meeting room booking system?

A meeting room booking system refers to all the tools and processes an organization puts in place to manage how employees book meeting rooms and other collaborative spaces. This will typically include room booking software, as well as policies and rules around its use. I.e. booking and cancellation policies. It may also integrate with occupancy sensors and other smart technology. This is to determine when a room is in use, and/or with wayfinding signage (digital or otherwise) to help employees find the rooms they’ve booked. 

Good meeting room booking systems will also collect data about space use and potentially solicit employee feedback. This helps companies build better collaborative spaces over time. 

Why do we need a meeting room booking system?

If you have meeting rooms, then you need a meeting room booking system. A well-ordered and user-friendly system will help ensure that all employees can find and access the collaborative spaces they need. It can also help collect data about room use, which can be used to inform better real estate decisions. 

What is the difference between a meeting room booking system and meeting room booking software?

A meeting room booking system is everything an organization puts in place to help employees book meeting and conference rooms and other spaces. It includes booking policies, along with both physical and IT infrastructures, and meeting room booking software. Meeting room booking software, then, is one important part of a room booking system. 

What are the benefits of at-will bookings?

At-will room bookings can be incredibly useful for ad hoc and/or impromptu collaboration. If it’s easy for employees to see if there’s a space available, and if they’re then able to book that space immediately (and ideally through their phone), then they’ll be more likely to engage in the type of innovative collaboration that drives culture and productivity. 

In other words, instantaneous, at-will room booking helps people collaborate effortlessly, even on the fly. 

What are the benefits of having the ability to book rooms online?

Being able to book meeting rooms online is incredibly beneficial in hybrid workplaces. If you can only book a meeting room when you are on-site, then this privileges in-office workers, while penalizing those who are working remotely. 

Meanwhile, having the ability to book rooms online makes it so that all employees have access to the same booking tools, all of the time. This can improve equity and make for a better employee experience overall. 

What are the benefits of room scheduling software?

Room scheduling software can encourage more active, face-to-face collaboration. This in turn can lead to improved employee engagement and a better employee experience, as well as more efficiency, productivity, and even more innovation in the workplace. It can help make the office a more enjoyable place to be. And that may help encourage hybrid workers to come in and work in-person more. This in turn may help with both talent retention and attraction efforts. 

If room scheduling software also collects data on room use, it can also help improve space utilization and potentially lead to more corporate real estate optimization. This in turn can lead to cost savings, along with helping to support any sustainability efforts.  

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