Looking back at history, most changes have evolved at a steady pace, being slowly introduced as awareness and demand have increased. Any sudden changes have tended to be in response to unexpected disruptions, such as wars, economic crashes or indeed, pandemics. As we’re now seeing the end to COVID restrictions, we can reflect on a major change it’s accelerated – our typical way of working, with hybrid working now becoming increasingly expected by office-based workers. The charity sector is no different, with charity workers and volunteers preferring a hybrid, or ‘blended’ model of working, that balances working from home with time in the office. However, this dramatic change doesn’t come without its challenges, and charities need to figure out how can they efficiently and cost-effectively manage people’s time in the office so that it’s as productive, safe and stress-free as possible? Here we discuss how desk booking software can support charities’ hybrid working needs and the many benefits it can deliver.
The hybrid working status quo
The pandemic has demonstrated that those working in the third sector are highly flexible and despite being forced into new working circumstances, they’ve adapted well. In fact, in a ‘Future of Work’ survey, 80 per cent of third sector workers stated that they would like to work from home more often. However, remote working full-time is not the preference of the majority, with third sector workers making it clear that they want a balance of remote and office-based working. Over a fifth agreed that they would like to work mostly from home after the pandemic, yet almost the same number said they would NOT like to.
It’s clear that a blended model of work involving both home and office-based working is the future, and employers must effectively balance workers’ differing needs going forward. This means that charities must adopt a hybrid working model if they’re to retain their people, keep them engaged and attract new talent. This also means embracing the right technologies to support this new hybrid era.
What is desk booking software?
Desk booking software, or hot desk booking technology, makes it easy for employees to book a numbered hot desk before attending the office. This software is not just used by very large organisations with multiple offices, but is now being increasingly adopted by smaller organisations with their own hybrid working challenges. The best desk booking software is cloud-based, can be used on mobile devices, is very easy to use, and allows desks to be booked flexibly so for full days, half days and hourly slots. From an employer point of view, the software should provide an holistic view of who is in the office and when.
So what are the benefits of using software for pre-booking office desks? And can’t a simple spreadsheet deliver the same benefits?
The benefits of using a desk reservation system
Charities that move to an easy-to-use desk booking solution, can enjoy a multitude of benefits, including the following:
- Supports flexible working – It’s not unusual for charities to have reduced desk numbers during the pandemic to accommodate social distancing and fewer people attending the office, and returning to pre-pandemic desk numbers is unlikely. So if all employees were to attend the office at the same time, they simply couldn’t be accommodated. This is why it’s important for a hybrid workforce to be able to quickly and easily book a desk in advance, while ensuring they have the right facilities to hand, such as an electricity point, WiFi and disabled access. Providing the option to book a car parking space via the desk booking app, especially if car parking is an issue, would also be welcomed by many workers.
Charities that rely on Excel spreadsheets for managing desk bookings, will quickly find that it’s out-of-date and version control will be an ongoing issue. Plus, it will need far more administering on a daily basis, proving time-consuming and prone to error.
- Helps manage office capacity – Knowing how many people are going to be in the office at any given time, is important for capacity management. Overcrowding needs to be avoided for safety and comfort and so a desk booking system can monitor this, while helping charities to better prepare for their busiest days. In fact, latest research reveals that employees would feel more comfortable returning to the office if their employer had better control over the number of people in the workplace (highlighted by 31 per cent of employees).
- Supports health and safety – If charities can’t quickly and easily identify who is in the office and when, how can they ensure there are enough fire marshalls and first aiders on site? Plus, if some workers require additional support when attending the office, such as access to the lift and a wheelchair adapted desk, how can the charity be sure a suitable desk will be available if workers can’t book the facilities they require in advance? Desk booking software is not just about making office attendance simpler to manage, it also supports workers’ health and safety needs too.
- Mental health is supported – Although 35 per cent of UK employees want to return to the office because they’d welcome a positive social environment, the act of returning doesn’t come without emotional and social challenges. For some workers who have been alone for much of the past two years, or who are nervous about catching COVID, returning to a busy office could make them very anxious. Turning up to the office and not knowing where they are sitting, and indeed if a desk will be available for them, will exacerbate any feelings of anxiety, and could even result in them deciding not to return to the office at all.
- Informs office layout – A hot desk booking system allows the charity to easily identify which desks are most and least used and on which days. It also highlights days in which the hot desk area is at full capacity. These insights can inform office layout moving forward, perhaps moving the least used desks to more pleasant surroundings, or expanding/reducing the hot desk area in response to employee demand. When office space is at a premium, it’s vital to ensure the available space is being maximised.
- Aids cost cutting measures – Understanding when the office is at its busiest and its quietest can inform cost cutting measures. For instance, if only a handful of staff attend on Mondays and Fridays, and yet two floors are being heated and powered, perhaps only one floor is opened on these days. Alternatively, the decision might be taken to only have essential staff attend the office on the quietest days to reduce utility costs.
- Supports equality and inclusion – It’s key for charities to encourage equality, diversity and inclusion, and ensuring a fair system of booking desks is part of this. If a charity has a casual ‘first-come, first-served’ approach to hot desking, this will naturally disadvantage those who might not be able to make it into the office first thing, such as working parents and employees battling mental health issues. Employees requiring an adapted desk, perhaps with assistive technology, might also find that on arriving to the office, it’s not available and they have to turn around and head home. Desk booking software is therefore a ‘must’ for supporting organisation-wide fairness and inclusion.
- Reduces administration – If the office manager is tasked with booking people in and out of hot desks, perhaps using a spreadsheet, this will provide them with ongoing administration. They’ll also prove a bottleneck and keeping on top of new bookings, cancellations and office capacity could turn into a full-time job. A desk booking solution puts the responsibly on the employees (and volunteers) to manage their own desk booking needs, freeing-up time-consuming administration, while providing the office manager with real-time insights at their fingertips.
Desk booking – the foundation of hybrid working success
Charities of all sizes can benefit from desk booking software so long as there is a hot desk area that needs managing. And moving to desk booking technology doesn’t need to be a significant outlay. In fact, some providers, such as Juggl Desks, offers its desk booking software free of charge to registered UK charities, providing them with the support they need to effectively manage a hybrid workforce. A hot desk reservation system is the future for all organisations that offer flexible working, and so charities must ensure they’re set-up for success.