Feb 22, 2021

A guide to Colleague Finding – Desk Check-in, Desk Booking and Indoor Positioning

Difficulties with finding colleagues is the number one obstacle to a frictionless work environment, especially when adapting your office to flexible working. Luckily, there are effective tools present on the market today that can help your employees find their teammates in the office. In this blog post, we will describe the main solutions, the benefits, the downsides and what you should implement to create a smooth colleague finding experience. 

Colleague finding in modern offices

If you manage a big facility, you are probably already familiar with the challenges of colleague finding. Looking for teammates across rooms, floors and even buildings waste valuable time for employees in their already busy workday. With the rising trends of working from home and flexible seating, we are now faced with three main issues. We do not know when colleagues are at the office, we do not know where they are, and we do not want to spend time figuring that out. This is a problem that both large and small companies will face - but an issue that can be effectively solved by adapting a Smart office solution with colleague
finding. In simple terms, colleague finding is a system made to locate colleagues’ positions in the office and comes in many forms. Below, we will introduce the system that you need and the solutions you can choose.

Using Smart Office solutions to find your colleagues

To understand how you can adapt a functioning colleague finding system in your office, think about how you guide yourself in a new city. What type of equipment do you need? The first thing that comes to mind is of course a map. Therefore, the first thing you need to integrate is a map of your office. A smart office map is interactive and shows all desks, meeting rooms and other office utilities.

With a smart office map, we now have a good idea of the space we are navigating in. This introduces us to our first tool to find colleagues, that can be adapted fast without adding other functions.

Desk check-in

Desk check-in refers to a positioning system that uses laptop connection to indicate desk seating. This is often managed by using a small USB stick, often called desk dongle. The desk dongle is an ingenious solution that automatically books the desk when a laptop is connected at the workplace. The system will then indicate who has taken the desk and their name will appear on the interactive map – making them easy to find.

Desk check-in is a solution that is easily managed and installed which is one of its great benefits. You do not need to integrate a desk booking solution or any other systems to make your colleagues visible to you. Together with the interactive map of your office, Desk check-in enables you to search for the colleague you are looking for and then have the desk they are plugged into marked. The map can be accessed via a computer, smartphone, or a kiosk screen.  

Integrating a smart office map and desk check-in is a good start to start colleague finding. But there are also some relevant functions that you will miss out on if you only use desk check-in. The first is that you only see employees when they have their computer plugged in, if you do not have any equipment on your desks, this will not be possible, there is also no way to see your colleague’s future plans and where they will be a day or a week from now. This can create difficulties if employees want to plan collaboration. To manage this problem, you can use the second colleague finding tool, a desk booking system.

Desk booking

Just like the meeting rooms in your office, desks can be managed via a booking system
that allows your employees to book a desk upon arrival or in advance. If a colleague has booked a desk, you can see where the colleague is seated and find them. You can also search for a colleague by using the interactive map and see their future bookings.

Desk booking is the best option to see future desk booking for effective planning regarding colleague finding, desk check-in only allows you to see current desk seating, not what will happen tomorrow. You can also see which desk the colleague has booked even if they are away with their computer. This enables you to still plan where you should be seated for effective collaboration.

The downsides with desk booking are that booking does not occur automatically as with desk check-in and has to be done manually. It is also possible that you want to combine both bookable and non-bookable desks at your office. In this case, you can use both a desk check-in and a desk booking system to still show colleagues positions. Unlike desk check-in, desk booking only shows if the desk is booked, not if they are actually seated, which is the case with desk check-in. To make sure that you actually know your colleagues’ position, and their current and future bookings regardless of desk system, you can use the third option. But firstly, we need to cover another function than can be important when adapting a colleague finder system at your office.  

Wayfinding

We have now presented the most basic colleague finding solutions. But as you have probably already noticed, a map is not the only tool we want when navigating a new city. You most likely want to be able to select where you are going, and have the map show you the fastest route. Therefore, a wayfinding system is also important to enable effective guiding through your office space.

A wayfinding system to find colleagues can be adapted in two ways. Firstly, by having Kiosk screens placed in your office, where employees can select colleagues’ desks and have the map show them the fastest route. This is similar to finding locations in a city, the desks do not move, which makes their position easy to find. The problem with only using a Kiosk screen however is that, compared to using a GPS in a city, the map does not move with you, making it difficult to navigate in large areas. It is possible to use wayfinding through a smartphone which enables wayfinding that follows your position. But we also face another problem.

The metaphor with a city has worked thus far. But what we are really discussing in this blog post is how to find colleagues. The big difference between the city and your office is that your colleagues are constantly moving! Sometimes they are at the office, sometimes not. Sometimes they are seated on floor 1, sometimes on floor 3. The system needed for your office therefore needs to be more advanced than your normal google map. To enable this, you need an indoor positioning system.   

Indoor Positioning

An indoor positioning system is a Bluetooth-based positioning system that updates employees’ position on a map, in real time with an accuracy of ± 1-2 meter. Think of it as an GPS for the office environment. This delivers turn-by-turn wayfinding guidance as well as colleague finder capability.

With this in place, you can see colleagues move on the map – which enables you to find them even if they are on the go. It also enables you to find utilities from wherever you are with accurate measure. This can be a good solution if you have hot desking in your office without equipment available on the desks, because you will still see your colleagues represented as dots on a map. It is also a good tool to combine with desk booking, because you can see if your colleague is actually seated at their desk or not.

Indoor positioning can however be a sensitive matter for your employees. To be visible
all the time on a map can be a question that HR has to deal with. Make sure that your employees have the option to opt out if they want to. But one thing to remember is that even if indoor positioning can seem intimidating at first, it will actually greatly enhance their own experience. For themselves, this can help them guide their way through the office without problems. Just like a GPS, it can only give you the way if it knows where you are. If the employees can opt out, it will not be intrusive.

Another thing to remember is that an indoor positioning system will most likely not be as effective without desk check-in or desk booking for this reason. If employees make themselves invisible there will suddenly not be any way to find them. Therefore, indoor positioning, desk check-in and desk booking should be seen as complements to each other.

In Summary


Indoor positioning

  • Gives every employee their own office GPS system directly in their smartphone.
  • You can find colleagues wherever they are (Given they have visibility mode on).
  • Employees can decide if they want to be visible all the time, only when they are themselves using wayfinding or never.
  • If implemented without desk booking or desk check-in, colleague finding will not be possible if employees have wayfinding turned off.
  • Indoor positioning usually has to be discussed with HR and employees, ask them if this
    is a system they want to adapt!

Desk booking

  • See colleagues booked desk for the day or in advance.
  • If you have indoor positioning, employees can wayfind to the desk by using their smartphone.
  • If you do not have an indoor positioning system, employees can still wayfind to the desk by using a kiosk screen or just see the location on the map.
  • If employees do not book desks, others will not find them if desk check-in is not implemented.
  • Without an indoor positioning system, employees will not be able to see if their colleague are seated at the desk or not.
  • Will not work if you are using hot desking at your office.

Desk check-in

  • Employees desk will be indicated when they plug in their computer.
  • Can be easily implemented without additional systems.
  • Combined with indoor positioning, you can always see where your colleague is located.
  • Wayfinding can be managed through a kiosk screen as well.
  • Only works if there is equipment present on the desk that a computer can be plugged in to, otherwise you need indoor positioning.
  • You can only see desk presence in real time and not in advance.  


Our Suggestion

Our suggestion is that you integrate an indoor positioning system at your office and use that in combination with a desk booking system for your bookable desks and then use desk check-in for your hot desks. This makes it possible for your employees to:

  • Use effective wayfinding without finding a Kiosk Screen.
  • See current and future desk bookings for their colleagues and always find their way to that Desk.
  • See if their colleague is seated at a hot desk via desk check-in and wayfind to the colleague when booking is not possible.

This can be adapted in many other ways, more ways than we can cover in this blog post. Ify ou are interested in a colleague finding system, contact our experts to get guidance on what system will fit you the best.