The pandemic is still a big challenge on both a personal level and a challenge for your business and society at large. For the AskCody customer base, the pandemic has naturally affected the utilization of the physical office spaces.
Here, I will describe our customers' experiences in this pandemic and how they work through the needed restrictions and compliances in this Covid-period when preparing your return to the office.
Desk and Meeting Room Management
Two areas of resource management are crucial for most companies in their back-to-office strategies:
- Desk Management
- Meeting Room Management
Desk management has come to us as an essential topic besides meeting room management, as this makes the offices' opening much more flexible than in a fixed setting. In this "hybrid," this type of flexibility is very much needed.
I base many of the tips included here on utilizing the tight integration between Microsoft Exchange and AskCody. Although you can use these tips as an inspiration if you have an on-the-side SQL based resource management solution, you can not apply them directly as all of the needed resource information is not in your Exchange environment. With AskCody, it is possible to use resource calendars, so see these tips on how companies are leveraging Exchange in combination with AskCody in this period and for your thoughts as well.
Desk Management during the pandemic
Let us start with this area, as it has gained much attention in the last couple of months; desk management during the pandemic.
It is imperative that you restrict the number of employees and guests that can be allowed to be at the offices simultaneously because of restrictions and safety regulations.
Control the number of people in the office
With AskCody and Exchange, companies can restrict how many people are allowed in the offices by turning the actual physical desks 'inactive' in AskCody or booking the Exchange resource.
Limit the number of available desks in the office
When employees seek a desk in Outlook, only the available desks will show in the AskCody add-in, as the company has set up policies that you must book the desk before you arrive at the office. Once someone secures a desk, she will receive an "accepted email" from the desk resource to notify that you are ok to arrive at the office. That email can easily be customized on a main level to include, e.g., arrival rules and changing policies on going into the office.
When someone finds and books a desk, and the employee comes into the office, the person's information on arrival is stored directly in your Microsoft Exchange. If there is ever a need to do a contact trace, your company can go through your calendars to investigate who was in the office on particular days.
Establish "neighborhoods" in the office
Employees have a natural need to sit close to other employees. Maybe now more than ever when they actually are at the office. Naturally, we all want to sit (safely) together with other employees who do similar work. Both if we need to collaborate or to get direct input on a project.
In these cases, you can – in the desk booking software – set up "neighborhoods" or areas where specific departments can book desks near each other. You can give desks in that neighborhood a purpose in AskCody, and this allows employees to find the area where their department is booking quickly.
Control and approve the usage of the desks
If you want to tighten the restrictions on who can book specific desks, you can set up an approval process on the desks via the resource calendars. This process will give individual administrators access to accept or decline desk requests and make desk booking during the pandemic both safe and efficient.
Meeting Room Management during the pandemic
Meeting rooms are still a central part of a company set up and its ability to function efficiently. Even some indications that the need to make the meeting rooms even more flexible to handle more tasks than just regular meetings are rising. So, what can make meeting room booking during the pandemic more efficient?
Control the number of people allowed in the meeting room
As rules and regulations are changing very often, e.g., how many people are allowed to meet at one time, it is vital that you can manage the capacity of a meeting room when you return to work. You need that flexibility to reduce or increase the room capacities for bookable rooms quickly. In AskCody, you can manage that through the 'Allowed Capacity' feature.
Again, as with desks, once you have booked a room, you will receive an 'accepted email' from the resource itself, and you can also customize this email.
Inform your employees of new meeting room policies
Companies now customize these emails to inform employees to order additional cleaning or any other new policies that have changed since they have been in office. One example of the crucial extra cleaning is that companies are now increasing the buffer time in rooms to allow additional cleaning after a meeting has taken place. Increasing buffer time can also stop employees from gathering in hallways outside of the meeting room while waiting for other meetings to end.
Handle catering policies safely and securely
For catering, most companies have stopped the buffet style and switched to individually packaged meals for meetings. In AskCody, you can handle this directly, as the menus your employees can select can be changed to reflect the new possible offerings.
Companies have also switched to booking out meeting rooms for 'all day' meetings instead of multiple appointments in one room to cut down on the amount of sanitation their teams need to complete to optimize the environment also for the people in facility management. Your employees can still order catering and/or services at specific times (via the AskCody service add-in), meaning they can order breakfast and lunch to the same meeting and have it arrive at their preferred time.
Tips for your offices in the pandemic and post pandemic
I hope this has given you some new inspiration for handling your meeting spaces in the current situation. You can find more pandemic-related ideas here on pandemic office-compliance and here on how to improve meeting conditions during and after the pandemic.