Return to Office Demo

by | 8th January 2022

Watch as we run through our latest app to help your business get back into the office safely and effectively.


David Smetana:
Hi, I’m David Smetana from Chalkline, and I’m here today to talk to you about a return to office COVID booking app which we’ve created. We’ve been speaking to a lot of our clients about returning to the office and returning to the workplace. And what we’ve seen is that people have concerns about capacity in the workplace. So what we’ve done behind the scenes with our development team is developed a really simple app which effectively allows users to book into a calendar which shows office availability and capacity and office. It’s a simple little thing which integrates with SharePoint.

And what effectively it does is it allows people to book in for certain days within the office or certain times a weeks across the office. You can allow capacity. Obviously different offices will have different capacities, so you can set what the limits are. And what it’ll do is it’ll accept that capacity for certain weeks, allowing you to reach the maximum capacity, be it five people, 10 people, 20 people, how many you’re allowed in the office, and then reject for any further people so that you’ll always got a limit of the amount of people that are looking to return for the office.

And we’re having conversations with people, Ross, aren’t we? And lots of people are seeing real use cases for this. And we think in a time where people are naturally returning to the office, just seems like a good practical way. And we’ve been speaking to office managers who are managing this process internally, and it’s a very manual process. They’re contacting people and trying to organise and diaries and speak to people and try to manage who’s in, who’s out and sort of coordinate people’s diaries. And I guess what we’ve put together as a really simple solution here, which takes us about a day to configure on your SharePoint site.

And it’s a glorified calendar. It’s not rocket science, but we’ve got a small PowerApp, which is based on the Microsoft Power Platform. And that sits there in the background and does a little bit of clever logic with some rules that we’ve set up. It might be useful if you could just share your screen, Ross, and we can have a quick look at it and we can show it how it works.
Ross Stern:
Of course. And yeah, like you said, I think one of the biggest things when I’ve been having conversations with people is the amount of time that this has saved just purely because the users can actually go in and request their own day in. So as you can see here, it is, like David mentioned, just a calendar, very simply put. You can see which users are booked to particular dates. You can see I booked in there for the 28th. If I select that date on the far right-hand side, there you’ll see a summary of everybody else who is booked in. So again, if I go to the 21st here, you’ll see all those users that have a booked in a date with their timings.

If I wanted to book in for Tuesday the 29th, I can very quickly at the top air press the new, select my date, and you’ll also notice it gives a summary of any upcoming bookings. But I can go to the 29th here, hit okay. I only want to do it for one day and I’m going to press reserve. And then on the 29th day, you’re going to see my name pop in there. And that will show for everybody in the business when requesting a desk for the day.
And do users get notified, Ross, whether this has been accepted or not accepted? How does that work?
Yeah. So when you book it in, as part of your implementation, you can actually choose to have an email sent as almost like a booking confirmation. You also, as you said before, when you’re at full capacity, so if you can only have 15 users in an office on one day and you’re the 16th user, it will alert you and it will say you can no longer book in for that day. So yeah, you can absolutely have a book in email.
So this is using Power Automate, which used to be Flows. So there’s basically a workflow created in the backend, which says, “Yes, this has been accepted,” or, “No, this hasn’t been accepted,” and that automation fires off an email to the individual to say whether it’s been accepted or not accepted. And the fabulous thing about this is obviously we can see who’s in the office. So if you don’t want to be with a certain person on a given day, you can check whether they’re in the office or not and decide which day you’d like to go in. So can be quite selective about the days that you do or don’t want to work.
And it’s also, just to jump in as well, in terms of future development, obviously we can change this based on requests, but one of the other requests that we’ve had from a client is rather than just a calendar, they actually sent us an image of their floor plan, and they labelled all of their desks ones through to 10, or however many they had. And what we did is we created a separate field in the booking form to say, “Choose the desk you wants to sit at.” That obviously works really well when it’s a hot-desking solution. So they added that functionality in as well. So you can do whatever you need it to do within reason, I guess.
Fair. I like that. And that’s really clever.

Oh, and how many clients have we rolled this out for? I think we’ve got three or four clients on it, don’t we?
Yeah, yeah. Three or four, and currently speaking to quite a few about it at the moment. They’re just trying to work out exactly what future developments they need to do on it, like that desk booking one with the plan and everything. So yeah, I think a lot more are going to be using it shortly.
Brilliant. Okay. Well, look, we’re all about simple solutions. This is all built into native SharePoint and Power Automate and the Power platform, so which is sort of low code, no code development. So there’s no complex coding here. It’s using the Microsoft tool set. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle with lots of pieces, and we arrange it in the correct order and we get apps built like this. So they’re pretty simple to set up and not time-consuming to create, but time-saving once completed.

So if you think this would be of interest, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, and Ross or myself will be more than happy to have a conversation with you to see if we can help you with something as simple as this, or it could be a much more complex solution. And I guess we can use this Power platform to look at all sorts of applications, whether it be any approvals process or processes that you want to automate. Our typical engagement is to have a requirements conversation in the first instance. And then if we think deemed necessary, we would have a requirements gathering workshop with you where we would take all of that information and then work out how we could use those requirements to build a PowerApp on the Power platform to automate those processes for you. And we’re doing lots of really cool things for some of our clients, so definitely worth having conversation if this peaks your interest.

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