What Is Desk Booking Software (And How to Implement It Successfully)

Joe Du Bey
July 21, 2022
desk booking software, what is desk booking, desk booking tool,

The hybrid work model has become increasingly popular as companies try to navigate our new world of work. In fact, our Where Tech Works report found that hybrid work is the No. 1 most preferred work style for tech industry employees.

This trend toward flexibility was already underway prior to COVID-19, buffeted by forces such as globalization of the workforce and the development of enabling technology.

For companies considering a hybrid model, it is critical to have the right processes and tools in place to enable successful implementation. From the consideration of factors such as whether office attendance on certain days should be mandatory or optional to whether you enable different policies by geography, there is much to determine from a policy perspective. From the technology side, no tool will be more important to your successful rollout of a flexible strategy than Desk Booking software.   

Desk booking software, also commonly known as hot desking or hoteling software, enables teams to easily book a spot in the office on days that they plan to come in. Desk booking tools work by showing your team a map of the office and making it simple for them to choose the right desk based on their work needs and the location of their colleagues. 

This guide will explain in more detail what desk booking software does, how to most effectively implement it at your company, tips for successfully gaining adoption from your team, and more.

Related content: What’s the Difference Between Desk Booking, Hot Desking, and Hoteling Software?

What is desk booking software?

Desk booking software is a tool that makes it easy for your team to select a seat in an office. This tool does so by laying out the maps of the locations, providing filtering so people can choose a spot with the right amenities such as a standing desk or a double monitor, and enabling coordination among teammates. Many tools allow for recurring reservations, and allow you to assign permanent desks if needed.

Such software is often accessible via a web application, an app, or even as an integration to a messaging tool such as Slack, making it easy for your team to select a seat on the go. 

Desk booking versus hot desking versus hoteling versus free addressing

There are a number of names that people use largely synonymously with desk booking.

While these refer to similar approaches to a hybrid work system, there are a few differences:

  • Desk booking: Reserving a seat in workspaces that often do not have a permanent occupant. Broadly, it's simply the process of booking a desk in advance.
  • Hot desking: Hot desking is often used in reference to a first-come, first-serve system where employees select their desk upon arrival. With hot desking, employees show up, and use whichever desk is available.
  • Hoteling: Hoteling allows employees to reserve desks in advance for a specific duration of time. This option may be higher-touch with a central administrator to help with check-in, wayfinding, and check-out. Desk hoteling is essentially the same as desk booking.
  • Free addressing: Roughly analogous to desk booking and desk hoteling, the "free addressing" moniker is sometimes used instead, particularly outside of the United States.

Despite the small differences that can exist between these offerings, most people use these terms interchangeably to represent a process by which unassigned workspaces can be reserved and used. 

Who uses desk booking software?

Types of companies that use desk booking tools

Desk booking or hot desking software is typically used by any company that is pursuing a hybrid strategy and has any of the following characteristics:

  • Companies with desks/seats available for use that are not permanently assigned
  • Companies with multiple offices or sufficiently large offices that companies would like to provide a visual map or floor plan to their teams for easy navigation
  • Companies that have done away with the traditional assigned seating model, and wish to improve overall employee experience and make it easier for employees to take advantage of flexible seating
Related content: How Flexible Seating Arrangements Can Improve Your Hybrid Office

The roles that purchase desk booking tools

The primary purchaser of desk booking tools within most companies is the leader or senior team member from the Human Resources or People Operations function. This trend has increased over the last 5 years, with HR taking on more ownership around all elements of a holistic employee experience, far beyond the traditional scope of the function.

Other functions that often are involved in vetting or leading this purchasing decision include IT, Employee Experience, Facilities Management, and Office Management. We have also seen a trend toward the creation of a Workplace team, which can often include a number of these functions under its umbrella.

Benefits of desk booking software

Using desk booking tools has several key benefits for companies.

Improves employee experience by enabling a hybrid strategy

Using a desk booking tool makes it easier to offer a hybrid workplace model to your team.

Since COVID-19 changed our work norms and gave a majority of the information economy its first true taste of remote work, there has been a desire to retain the flexibility of some work from home (WFH) while getting back to seeing colleagues in real life (IRL).

So, one of the greatest benefits of desk booking is not really the software at all—it's the lifestyle it enables.

Saves money by reducing office footprint

Desk booking or hot desking software can be used in conjunction with a hybrid policy to help companies save money on real estate costs.

With potentially the creation of a staggered employee schedule or A/B days, and certain employees perhaps going entirely remote, companies can suddenly find themselves needing less space for their full team on any given day. By making some (or even all of your offices) hot desk-friendly and doing away with assigned seating for every employee, you can potentially save on office space costs.

To learn more about the benefits, check out this article on how desk booking can create a better employee experience: How Desk Hoteling Can Improve Employee Happiness.

Getting started with desk booking

Considerations when choosing a desk booking tool

Implementing desk booking software successfully requires forethought and planning. It’s important to think through the key factors that will influence the placement of desks, the grouping of teams, and the movement of workers. 

When evaluating how you'll launch desk booking at your company, here are 4 key areas to think about:

  1. Capacity: Ask yourself what capacity is comfortable for now and how this will increase as you continue to grow. 
  2. Strategy: Which employees may need to have permanent desks? Will certain departments need particular kinds of workstations (ie. privacy vs. collaboration). Try to understand the unique needs of various employees before deciding on a layout.
  3. Floor plan: This is the blueprint for your system, so this is a great place to invest significant time working through a preferred layout. Try to choose a tool with flexibility—for example, Eden's Desk Booking software allows for easy edits so you can update the floor plan as things inevitably change.
  4. Movement patterns: Visualize the paths people take around the office. Where do they congregate, where is it louder or quieter, where is it easier to focus and where is the social center? Doing this helps you identify any general issues with the layout and optimize around movement patterns.

Once you answer the questions above, you can categorize spaces for ease of use when booking a desk. Indicate which desks and other spaces will be available for reservation and which will be permanently spoken for. Be clear about which desks are reserved for a specific department or type of worker. 

While it’s important to think ahead, don’t fret about getting it perfect on the first try. There’s no single way to plan an office layout, and the best tools make it easy to iterate and make adjustments on an ongoing basis.

Keep these 3 additional tips in mind as your planning evolves:

  1. Get input. Regularly ask your employees to share feedback on the layout and process. 
  2. Check your data. Don’t make decisions blindly; identify key measures of success to understand what’s working and what is not. Pro tip: Many desk booking solutions provide analytics about patterns and trends, including which desks get the most occupants, which days and times are busiest, and which employees might need a permanent desk. 
  3. Iterate. Continue to update and evolve your system based on the feedback and data you collect. 
Related content: The 5 Attributes of a Successful Hybrid Office

What features should your desk booking software include?

When evaluating desk booking software, these are a few key features to look for:

  • Floor plan: Some desk booking software allows users to upload a floor plan, while others include an editing tool that the admin can use to create a floor plan within the software.
  • Neighborhoods: This feature allows administrators to set up clusters based on specific teams, categories, or job functions.
  • Integrations: Look for the ability to connect your desk booking software with other important tools that employees use in the flow of work.
  • Desk selection: Give team members the option to choose which desk they want to reserve and for how long.
  • Reservation rules: Can employees book desks on the go, in advance, or schedule recurring reservations?
  • Filter for assets/amenities: See which locations have standing desks, dual monitors, etc.
  • Social elements: Make it easy for your team to see where their colleagues are sitting and even coordinate with them in the software as desired.
  • Wayfinding: Employees can see the desk they are assigned without needing verbal instructions from a receptionist or guide and find each other in the office.
  • Reporting: Metrics around how desks and other workspaces are being used can help you make the space as delightful and productive as possible.
  • Implementation: Ask the vendor how long it will take to get up and running. Implementation times can vary significantly for desk booking by vendor, ranging from same day to months.
  • Comprehensiveness: Is the vendor you are considering able to provide other workplace products that you may need immediately or down the road? 
  • Price: A major area of differentiation among vendors, both in terms of duration of contract and magnitude of cost. 
  • Design/UX: Depending on how much you wish for your team to use the software, you may choose a different vendor. The most modern, well-designed desk booking vendors have a delightful, mobile-friendly interface.

Nailing the employee roll out

Once you’ve chosen your vendor, you are almost there! Now just follow the final steps for a successful roll out.

  1. Create your settings: You’ll want to update all of the settings to reflect your company. Which team members to give admin rights to, where offices are located, etc.
  2. Upload or create your floor plans: Enrich the software with your floor plans and indicate in the product which desks are bookable and which, if any, are permanent. 
  3. Create a uniform environment: Make sure that all of your desks are equally inviting, so your team members aren’t fighting over a coveted few.
  4. Connect your integrations: Work with your vendor to ensure that all of the integrations you care about are ready to go.
  5. Test internally: Using just the internal working team that purchased the software, try out the software as an end-user. Ensure you see the right kind of messaging when desks are booked, that your integrations are set up properly, etc.
  6. Share the game plan with your full team clearly: Before the software goes live, we see the most successful companies clearly explain why the company is using desk booking software, how it works, and where to go with any questions.
  7. Lead by example: Make sure you get management buy-in and they are ready to set an example by using the software.
  8. Collaborate with your vendor: If anything is not perfect in the rollout or you just have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to your desk booking vendor. They want to make sure you have an amazing experience!

While implementation timing can and should vary for a company with 30 employees vs. one with 30,000 team members, you should ideally still be implemented in weeks, not months.

Desk booking as part of your workplace experience tool set

Desk booking is one product offered within a suite of workplace experience software. By centralizing all your workplace experience needs into one platform, you'll cut down on the different tools your company is using simultaneously, and benefit from data across multiple products. (That said, some tools, Eden, are modular, which will still allow you to only use desk booking, if that's your preference.)

Ideally, your desk booking tool should also work alongside other HR and employee experience products, like:

Related content: How Conference Room Scheduling Software Can Improve Collaboration on Your Team

Integrations that are popular with desk booking software

You can make your offices run smoother with certain integrations for your desk booking technology.

Some of the most popular integrations include:

  • Access control: When someone selects a desk, you can make it so your access control system knows to let that team member enter when they swipe their card. This integration is doubly useful when paired with Eden's COVID Team Safety offering, as it also knows to not allow entry to someone who fails a health questionnaire or hasn't uploaded the right documentation.
  • Messaging (Slack or Teams): If your team is comprised of heavy Slack or Teams users, you will probably want notifications and even core workflows such as booking a desk available through your messaging platform.
  • Email and calendars: Just as with Teams or Slack, desk booking can be integrated into your regular workflow via email reminders and updates, as well as integrating with your calendar.
  • Sensors: For larger companies, we see significant interest in integrating “people counter” sensors so that you can be as smart as possible about how your spaces are being used.

Desk booking paves the way for the future of work

As the hybrid office model continues to develop, it’s critical to have the tools in place to support this system at scale.

A desk booking solution is the key to maintaining a successful hybrid office, and a key part of your modern HR and workplace experience tool kit. If you want to learn more about Eden's Desk Booking, click the demo link below.

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