How to Use Outlook to Simplify Meeting Room & Equipment Scheduling
Sometimes there are hidden gems of efficiency hidden inside the software we use every day and we don’t even know them.
Uncovering these business solutions can help you solve workflow problems, make processes more efficient, and save time and money.
Microsoft 365 has many of these process improvement opportunities, and a particularly helpful one is tucked inside Outlook’s calendar scheduling feature.
How do you currently handle scheduling your meeting rooms and shareable equipment?
Does one employee have to spend time keeping track of everything? Do you have a paper sign out log for equipment, like a projector or set of tools? This can be inefficient when the paper is lost or gets filled up and no one replaces it.
Conference rooms can end up with more than one team planning to meet in the same space when there is no easy-to-use reservation system.
According to HubSpot, business professionals spend approximately 4.75 hours per week arranging meetings.
When looking for productivity improvements, often manual processes are an area that’s rich with opportunity. One simple place to start would be improving your resource reservation process using this Outlook tip.
Setting Up Resource Mailboxes to Automate Scheduling
Within Outlook in Microsoft 365 there is a tool that allows you to set up resource mailboxes for room and equipment that need to be reserved.
By assigning each resource its own mailbox and email address, your team can reserve them and check their status at the same time they schedule their meeting in their Outlook calendar.
Using this process removes the need for inefficient paper sign-in sheets and makes the process automatic. So, no one person has to spend unnecessary time keeping track of who is using all the meeting rooms or equipment at your company.
Here’s how to do it.
(Images are from Microsoft)
Set Up Your Resource Mailboxes
For each resource you want to track, set up either a room or equipment mailbox.
These can be set up for anything that employees either check out or have to reserve, such as:
- Meeting rooms
- Company vehicles
- Audio/Visual equipment
- Tools (ladder, saw, etc.)
Go into the Microsoft 365 admin center. The user will need to have administrative permissions. Then go to Resources > Room & Equipment
Click to add the resource mailbox, and fill in the pertinent information, like type (room or equipment), name, etc.
Use Resource Mailbox as a Meeting Attendee
Once each meeting room or sharable equipment asset has its own mailbox, your team can begin using the new process to schedule them and Outlook will keep track of when each is being used and by whom.
Resources will be added just as you add any other meeting attendee.
Here are the steps a user will take:
- In Outlook, click New Items > Meeting to schedule a new meeting
- In the Required area, add the resource you need to reserve (it will show up on the dropdown list along with users)
- Add any other meeting attendees you’re inviting
- Fill in other meeting information, i.e. subject, location
- Add the day and times for the meeting
- Select Scheduling Assistant at the top of the window to see if the resource is available (blue indicates reserved, white indicates available)
- Click Send to save your meeting and send the invitation to attendees
Once you’ve scheduled your meeting and included the conference room or other reserved equipment as an attendee, the resource will show as reserved during your meeting time on the Scheduling Assistant interface.
This will keep others from booking the same resource when you already have it scheduled.
Things to Know About Using Scheduling Assistant
Here are a few things to know about this workflow that will help your team use it more effectively.
Secure Resource Mailboxes by Blocking Sign-in
It’s a good idea to secure these resource mailboxes, so hackers can’t take advantage of them. You’ll want to block sign-in for all your room and equipment mailboxes.
Just Remove the Resource from a Meeting to Cancel
If you’ve reserved the projector for a meeting, but now you no longer need it, just open the scheduled meeting and remove it from the attendee list. This will remove the “busy” designation during that time and show the resource as available.
Resources Can be Automatically Booked or Have Approval
If you still need to have someone overseeing and approving when resources are reserved, you have this option. You can also choose to have the system entirely automated.
- Automated: No one has to oversee the resource mailboxes and they automatically accept meeting invites.
- Oversight: Have the mailboxes managed by an admin who will accept or decline for that item when a meeting reservation is sent that includes the resource.
No Additional User License is Needed
You do not need to assign a user license to a room or equipment mailbox.
Let Enable Technology Help You Find More Productivity Gems
Every boost in productivity means time and money savings for your business. We can help you review your workflows and tools and find better ways of doing things that will propel your company forward.