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Microsoft Hybrid Working - Challenges of Hotdesking with; Office 365, Outlook and Teams

We've consulted with 300+ customers on their hybrid-working setups and have discovered some interesting and unexpected ways of using Microsoft tools such as Office 365, Teams and Outlook for hybrid-working.

The first thing we ask our clients (after of course 'How do you do?' AKA the friendlies), is: "How Are You Currently Managing Hybrid Working?"

For many of them, this is their first foray into a new (and better ;D) way of work. We have found some interesting ways that folks have started to roll out hybrid working with Microsoft tools commonly at the heart of their solution.

Invariably, we are having these conversations with folks exploring hybrid working solutions due to a desire on their part for a more fully featured and scalable solution. However Microsoft's offering can for some use cases be a great start, especially for understanding the appetite for employees to adopt new working practices.

Below we take a look at the various hybrid working (as a mix of work from home and office working) solutions that can in many cases be facilitated through using various Microsoft tools such as Excel, Outlook Calendar, Teams and Office 365. Whilst these aren't full featured hotdesking solutions, they have impressed us with their ingenuity and may be worth exploring for some use cases.

Microsoft Office 265, Teams and Outlook Hybrid Working Comparisons

Examples of Hybrid Working Facilitation With Microsoft Products

The 3 most commonly attempted solutions for flexible hot desk management are:

Excel

The ubiquitous excel spreadsheet. Beloved for its breadth and customisation.

About 80% of our clients have tested hybrid working using a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet to help them manage it. The example sheets that have been shared with us usually include a table of employees on the spreadsheet's Y axis as rows and date slots on the X axis as columns. Each cell contains a checkbox showing if the employee is coming in.

When an employee wants to come into the office, they open up Excel, find the row containing their name and check the box in the cell on the day corresponding to the date they want to come in.

As a simple (I'm In / I'm Out) choice, this is pretty straightforward and doesn't require much training to rollout.

There is however a reason why companies reach out to us after an initial roll out of hotdesking with Excel.. If it were perfect, they certainly wouldn't be researching other hybrid working solutions.

The main issue comes after a few days of using the spreadsheet, the person who maintains it quickly finds keeping it updated becomes a full time job. Once too many days have elapsed the sheet quickly grows in size making it difficult to find the day you want to come in, too many people edit the wrong cells and the formatting breaks, days that you're booked into are lost to the ether and several people invariably turn up at the same desk like an impromptu game of musical chairs.

Benefits:

  • Quick to roll out
  • Little training required
  • Free

Drawbacks:

  • Requires constant maintenance
  • Difficult to navigate once more than a couple of weeks have elapsed
  • Little to no insights available about who has sat where
  • Difficult to scale over many employees
  • Not a long term solution
  • Lacks important additional context, such as team usage, desk facilities, booking lengths, release rules, capacity limits and floor plans
  • No integration with calendar tools such as Microsoft Outlook

Conclusion

If you have less than 10 employees and are happy to have a dedicated point of contact maintaining the spreadsheet daily this can be a suitable option to explore hybrid working.

Outlook Calendar

A slightly less used solution to managing a semi-remote workforce is to use Microsoft's own calendar tooling to illustrate when your employees are coming into the office.

When they want to come in, they go to a shared team calendar and make an all day event, usually with their name and a reference such as 'WILLIAM - In Office' in the title. Everyone else can then quickly see the calendar and when their colleagues are coming in. You can even make recurring bookings to come into office over a recurring period.

Similar to Excel, this is a pretty quick solution to rollout, yet comes with its own share of restrictions.

Whilst maintenance overload and risks of inadvertent user error are slightly lower than in a spreadsheet, it is very difficult to pull insights regarding how your workforce is using your spaces or to find out when a specific person is next in office or if there are capacity issues.

Benefits

  • Quick to rollout
  • Easy to mark oneself as coming into office

Drawbacks

  • Difficult to find when and where specific people will be working
  • Once more than a handful of people book on a given day the calendar becomes very visually cluttered and difficult to interpret
  • No ability to pull insights over time

Conclusion

With no ability to pull aggregated insights into how and when your employees are working, many of the benefits of hybrid working are not realised. With beyond a handful of employees, this quickly becomes difficult to manage. For the smallest of teams, this can be a suitable option for a quick solution that is low effort to maintain.

Teams Bookings

Less common than Office 365 calendar or Excel hotdesk management, but perhaps a more innovative and modern solution, are examples of businesses trying to adopt hybrid working with Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams has recently released a 'Bookings' tool, that is designed for scheduling virtual appointments, with associated videoconferencing built in. We have seen examples where these appointments are used as proxy placeholders to mark when teams are coming into office.

Benefits

  • Microsoft's Bookings App is easy to install and is included in Microsoft Teams.

Drawbacks

  • Many steps and button presses are required for each employee to mark when they are coming into office
  • Designed for virtual appointments rather than hybrid working
  • No ability to pull insights into when and where your employees have been working

Hybrid working with Microsoft Frustrations

With the limitations from off the shelf Microsoft products it can often result in quite a frustration in getting them to do what you want them to do when trying to transition your office to hybrid working..

Hybrid Working With WiggleDesk and Microsoft Integrations

WiggleDesk is designed to be a plug and play solution for hybrid working, making it much easier to manage than spreadsheets and providing a lower friction way of booking for your employees.

The full benefit of Microsoft tools can be realised when combined with other platforms, which is why we offer integrations with Microsoft Authentication and Office 365 Outlook Calendar.

Single Sign On (SSO)

If your email authentication is set up with; Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office 365, Azure AD, or even XBox, you can use these to roll out WiggleDesk's hybrid working with one click.

When you invite your organisation onto WiggleDesk, each user will receive an email inviting them to start booking desks and choosing when the will come into your offices. They will be able to get started with just a single click, by choosing 'Sign On With Microsoft'. This authenticates against Microsoft's own sign in process and if the user exists it returns their email, first and last names. This automatically creates a user in WiggleDesk, using their name as a unique username.

From an end user perspective this hugely simplifies getting set up with flexible working. They don't need to remember any usernames or passwords and going forwards they can book a hotdesk by simply scanning a QR code on the desk or by searching for an available desk at the space reservations page.

Outlook Calendar Integrations

You can see all your team's upcoming bookings on WiggleDesk, but did you know we have an integration straight into Microsoft Outlook calendars?

This means that a manager doesn't need to even go to WiggleDesk to see when their team's are coming into work. They can see directly from their familiar calendar view, who is going to be working in the office and who will be at home for the day. They can see which floors their team mates will be on and which desks they have reserved. Each event has a link directly to each desk booking allowing them to see exactly where each user is sitting. They can then move their employee's onto a different desk by simply clicking an alternative desk.

Published Aug. 15, 2021


What is WiggleDesk?

WiggleDesk is the easiest way to roll out and manage hybrid working in your organisation.

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