Configure Policies for the Exchange Online Resource Booking Assistant
With many offices closed, people working from home, and Outlook making online meetings the default, thoughts might turn to how to stop people scheduling meetings in traditional meeting rooms in buildings to encourage them to consider an alternative, even when employees return to offices.
Different Ways to Block Room Bookings
Several ways suggest themselves to stop users scheduling meetings in rooms:
- Remove the room mailbox. This works, but it is not a recommended approach. You will want to use these rooms in the future and won’t want to recreate the rooms and the location data for the rooms.
- Hide the room mailboxes from address lists. This is better because it stops people searching for rooms when scheduling meetings. The downside is that people might know the email address of a room and can use that to schedule a meeting.
- Block room schedules with dummy meetings. You could schedule meetings in all rooms to block other people from being able to reserve times. Again, this works, but it’s s tiresome process to schedule meetings, especially if you have a lot of rooms to process and normal working doesn’t restart soon.
Employ the Resource Booking Assistant
Hiding rooms from address lists is the best of the three approaches, but it’s not the answer. The Exchange Online resource booking assistant responds to meeting requests according to policies configured for room mailboxes. The resource booking assistant runs in the background to monitor inbound requests sent to room mailboxes. If the policy allows and the requested slot is available, the resource booking assistant accepts the request and confirms the booking.
The Set-CalendarProcessing cmdlet updates policy settings, and we can use it to create a policy to ensure that meeting requests for rooms are not accepted, even when a slot is available.
For example, to set a blocking configuration for the “Room 101” room:
Set-CalendarProcessing -Identity "Room 101" -AllBookInPolicy $False -AllRequestInPolicy $False Set-Mailbox -Identity "Room 101" -MailTip "Rooms are currently unavailable"
The MailTip is defined to give some immediate feedback if someone adds a blocked room to a meeting, but if they go ahead and try to book the room, the resource booking assistant will decline and respond with a polite note (Figure 1).
Exceptions to the Booking Policy
If you want to allow some people to book the room when it’s blocked by default, enter their mailboxes (email addresses, aliases, display names, etc.) in the BookInPolicy parameter. Requests from people specified here are automatically accepted by the resource booking assistant. To make this easier to manage, use a distribution list instead of individual aliases.
Set-CalendarProcessing -Identity "Room 101" -BookInPolicy "Senior Leadership Team"
A variation on the theme is to set the maximum duration allowed for a meeting to a very short period. Here we restrict meetings to one minute.
Set-CalendarProcessing -Id "SF Room 101" -MaximumDurationInMinutes 1
Most people try to book 30- or 60-minute meeting slots, so this will stop them doing that. The downside is that the message received from the resource booking assistant tells them why their meeting request was declined (Figure 2). The danger then exists that some people will go ahead and book one-minute meetings on the basis that once they get into the room, they’ll be able to stay there for a longer period.
Reversing the Process
When normal times resume and you want to make rooms available again, reverse the process by running the command:
Set-CalendarProcessing -Identity "Room 101" -AllBookInPolicy $True -AllRequestInPolicy $True -MailTip $Null
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