Demand grows for workspace scheduling, tracking software
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Studies are reporting that employees want more control over their work environment (flex time, no permanent office/cubicle, working remotely) and, at the same time, employers want to make better use of their space.
As more employers endorse remote working and sharing of work spaces (known as “hoteling” or “hot desking”), software solutions are emerging to facilitate their scheduling needs — and reduce facilities spending. The results can be anywhere from stunning — AgilQuest’s workspace scheduling software helped the GSA save more than $30 million — to practical, as employees no longer waste time by searching for open conference rooms.
Conference room scheduling software has been available for more than a decade; AgilQuest offers one such product. Now, a two-year-old Silicon Valley firm, EventBoard, has taken conference room scheduling to another level.
EventBoard not only offers scheduling tools, but it tracks conference room use, from whether a reserved room was actually used to who showed up for the meeting on time, and who came in late.
“Analytics represent the future of our company,” says EventBoard founder and CEO Shaun Ritchie. “There’s been so much pain around conference room scheduling that solutions for reserving rooms were developed earlier. What we bring is the ability for management to track how the space is being used so that it can be managed even more efficiently.”
Ritchie said EventBoard’s clients (it has 1,400 around the globe) aren’t as concerned about quantifiable cost savings as they are about a smoother workflow and improved morale and office etiquette — all of which can be attributed to relieving the frustration of trying to find an open office for a meeting. The software analytics can tell management who’s overbooking meeting space, who’s booking it but not using it, how long meetings last compared to how long the space is reserved, and other details that, ultimately, ensures that a meeting that is scheduled will be held in the room that was reserved.
Further, it can reduce the amount of meeting space a company actually needs, since overbooking and underutilization generally are found to be rampant.
A more quantifiable savings can be attributed to software like AgilQuest’s.
Many studies have shown that a high percentage of employees, particularly younger ones, want the option to work remotely. Since 2005, the number of people who are not self employed who work from home has risen 103 percent, a Global Workplace Analytics study reported — an estimated 3 percent of American workers work from home at least half the time. And more want to be able to do so.
Additionally, an increasing number of employees say they don’t care about having their “own” workspace. AgiQuest’s OnBoard workplace management software allows employees who are able to work remotely to reserve a place to work in their home office when needed. That in turn allows the company to manage the space they have better by seeing through utilization data how much they actually need. If an employee reserves a work station through OnBoard, but fails to check in to it, the space is released after a predetermined time.
Such software solutions essentially make it possible for employers to downsize space without reducing staff, because staffers share work stations. It translates into greater employee satisfaction because it makes remote working more attractive to employers, thereby increasing the likelihood a company will adopt and expand flexible work policies.
In the case of the GSA, scheduling efficiencies at its Washington, D. C. offices allowed the agency to reduce six office space leases into one. That cut $24 million in leasing costs. Meantime, another $7 million-plus in savings was realized in related shared cost savings. Energy use was reduced by 16 million kilowatts a year.
But does the remote working trend undercut productivity?
A 2014 Harvard Business Review article reported that productivity skyrocketed at a call center company when working at home became an option. Remote workers made 13.5 percent more calls than did those in the office — and the remote option saved the company (Ctrip) $1,900 per employee during the nine month study period. The study authors were careful not to extrapolate too broadly — many factors influence productivity. But this case study supported other research that found productivity generally rises as more workers take control of their schedules.
When companies integrate the various scheduling and tracking solutions that are already available, the big efficiencies start to show up, Ritchie said.
“Our software can leverage tools already being used because it integrates smoothly with them,” he said. “We embed ourselves in the workflow that people have. By integrating with all the existing solutions and technologies, we help provide a more efficient workflow. At the same time, our analytics give the company accountability of the use, or misuse, of its resources. What we’re really selling is magic.”