Lately, there’s been plenty of talk about the importance of selling workspace online. The explosive growth of coworking, lounges and the burgeoning threat of hotel workspace competition is pushing the issue more urgently than ever before.
Now NearDesk has pushed ahead by quietly launching a live meeting room booking system that complements its existing online desk space platform.
“Since we started NearDesk, the number one request has been meeting rooms,” said CEO and founder, Tom Ball. “A meeting room element was always going to be part of NearDesk, so it’s been in the plan for several years. You can’t segregate workers by building – they need to meet, work and collaborate so ultimately our plan is to bring it all together.”
The additional meeting room element of NearDesk went live this month. Users simply search for a location on the NearDesk.com website and click ‘Meet’, which produces a map of meeting rooms within their selected area. Results can be filtered further by date, duration, room size, start time and room facilities.
“It’s all about simplicity. Users want more control over their bookings, they don’t always want to book for a whole day and they don’t necessarily need complex arrangements. Our system allows businesspeople to drop in and maintain flexibility.”
NearDesk will be integrating with business centre management systems that run meeting room diaries like Ultrasoft and RJMetis, as soon as the interfaces are available. Today they are live with BookingBug.com – who have created a free plan for business centres with NearDesk to manage their meeting rooms online.
The appeal of greater flexibility within workspace is, as Tom explained, like dating.
“Offices are like marriage,” he said. “Currently, in terms of office contracts, it’s like going on a first date then getting married immediately after. You don’t have a chance to get to know the space or whether it’s a good fit. We want to give people the choice to work up to a longer commitment. Go for a few dates first before taking the big leap.”
This approach is, naturally, proving popular.
“We’ve already got some big partners onboard and we’re building the concept slowly. Meeting rooms are also a much easier concept to understand than hot-desks, both for workspace operators and for clients. The key to all this is to help operators sell their vacant space and to give business owners flexible access to local meeting rooms.”
“We’re keeping it ridiculously simple,” added Tom.
We know that this market has enormous potential; a study by the Global Workspace Association found that meeting rooms are vacant on average 50% of the time.
But despite the opportunities, the business centre industry isn’t yet part of the ‘on-demand’ generation. This is partly due to outdated systems that aren’t fully automated, and it’s also a resources/cost issue. The majority of UK business centres are independents that don’t have large marketing budgets or resources at their disposal. Plus, traditional business centre products like serviced offices aren’t suited to online sales.
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However, the evolution of the business centre industry means that now, alternative solutions like coworking, hot-desks and meeting rooms fall neatly into the ecommerce pot.
Systems like NearDesk and meetingrooms.com, which is due to launch soon, simplify the process and help operators to bridge the ecommerce gap. The hotel industry is streets ahead in this game and, as competition intensifies, it’s becoming a more pressing issue for workspace operators to reach new markets by selling their space online. It also adds a new marketing channel that can help level the playing field between business centres – particularly those with limited budgets and resources.
We know that companies of every size – corporates included – are becoming disenchanted with traditionally long, marriage-like office leases. Serviced offices continue to hold their own but new generations of workers, business owners and young professionals want more and more flexibility. They want their space on-demand, and until now the business centre industry hasn’t been equipped to compete. Now the technology is here and it’s ready to go. Are you?Share this article