Meeting room design is a critical consideration for the modern office. Every organization, no matter the size, requires well planned space designed specifically for collaboration.
In this article, we explore modern meeting room design, including critical considerations for any collaborative space.
Lessons learned from office reopenings
Meeting room design has always been important, because meetings have always been important. Productivity and innovation in the workplace requires good collaboration. The more a company can provide spaces that foster collaboration, the better.
Now that we’re moving into a new era of increased hybrid work, good meeting room design will be even more critical.
Hybrid workspaces are ones where employees may be interacting less—if at all. Meetings and conferences might therefore be the only time some employees get out of their home office and into a space where they can interact with their co-workers in person.
The right meeting room design can enhance these less frequent interactions, hopefully increasing both productivity and collaboration.
Ultimately, the office is no longer the default location where people work, nor is it the only location. According to OfficeSpace CEO David Cocchiara, “for industries that are able to embrace flexible working, the office is becoming more of a destination. Employees don’t go there just because they have to be there. They go because there’s something they’re trying to accomplish.”
A good conference room is therefore one that maximizes how all workers, including remote and hybrid workers, are able to use the office. Whether that’s for collaboration, planning, or brainstorming.
Gone are the days of white walls and uncomfortable office furniture. Today’s offices are embracing a wide range of meeting room design options, bringing modern interior design ideas into collaborative workspaces. This can include ergonomic furniture, embracing natural light and cutting-edge technology, and using well planned and branded meeting room names.
Specifically, offices may want to consider the following four elements of a good office meeting room design.
Meeting rooms are not all equal. Some are for board meetings, others for presentations or meetings with clients, and others still for casual brainstorming sessions.
That’s why there is no one best meeting room layout that works for every office.
Companies with a more hierarchical structure may want to stick with the classic boardroom layout. This is typically one large conference table and a leader at the helm.
Meeting spaces typically used for presentations may be better suited with a horseshoe table or a classroom setup—think the conference room in The Office, where the chairs all face the front of the room.
Smaller tables that can move around as necessary can help stimulate participant engagement and foster creativity.
Finally, offices looking to create more synergistic spaces may want to consider round tables. Alternately, they may want to create a more casual space with coffee tables and comfy chairs.
In either scenario, the goals of the office for a meeting space should help shape its layout.
No one works well when they’re uncomfortable, and no one enjoys squirming through meetings. No matter what type of layout is being used, meeting and conference rooms should therefore follow best practices for office design.
Namely, shareable spaces should be comfortable both visually and physically. Yes, those ‘living room inspired’ casual spaces with comfy chairs might be easier to design in this way. But even more rigid conference tables can bring in comfortable swiveling chairs and other elements to create a more inviting space.
The table is ultimately where the magic happens, so it’s worthy of more consideration than other furniture in the room.
Of course, the type of table used in a conference room will depend on the layout. The height and size will vary by meeting room design. Some spaces may want a standing table, others smaller and lighter ones that can move easily.
In either case, the company should choose a sturdy table with built-in tech hookups as appropriate.
Even before the pandemic, limiting occupancy meant maximizing comfort and effectiveness of a meeting room space.
Many meetings are now hybrid, so that not everyone will be physically present. This can help with social distancing, but it’s just a start. Offices can also take advantage of new software for social distancing, so it’s possible to track occupancy in shareable spaces in real time and adjust as necessary.
The most important meeting room design considerations are comfort, safety, and ease of use. Ensuring that all attendees feel relaxed and at ease, and that they can book rooms easily, is the surefire way to improve collaboration and employee experience.
This means thinking carefully about your setup. How will this meeting space be used? What kind of work will be performed here?
For example, in open offices, it’s common to provide private spaces for phone calls.
These private ‘phone booths’ and other small meeting rooms will have very different considerations than a large conference room that needs to accommodate the entire office.
Hybrid offices will also want to pay particular attention to flexible meeting room design.
Specifically, they will want to ensure they are using the necessary design and technology to make it easy to run effective hybrid meetings. We’ll cover technology in greater detail below, but this basically means making video conferencing easy.
To make a meeting room more comfortable, be strict in following occupancy guidelines for both safety and comfort. It’s also essential to use proper technology.
The office interior matters, but even the best designed space can’t overcome overcrowding. Meeting room attendees will feel the most comfortable when their needs are met from a health and safety perspective, and when they have easy access to the tools they need to be productive.
The terms ‘meeting room’ and ‘conference room’ are usually interchangeable.
Some organizations may choose to differentiate between the two. This can be done using ‘conference room’ to denote the more formal spaces reserved for official occasions like board meetings, while ‘meeting rooms’ are for more informal collaboration.
Ultimately, the specific terms matter less than being consistent in room naming choices.
The best way to improve meeting rooms in the modern office is to use modern meeting room booking software, along with a suite of other tools to make it easier to use these spaces. Cool meeting room design only goes so far; an office space needs to incorporate modern technology to make their meeting rooms most effective.
Specifically, room booking has to be incredibly easy. Works must be able to instantaneously find the space they need, when they need it.
This typically means being able to both book spaces instantaneously for impromptu sessions, as well as book and reserve spaces well in advance.
Ideally, this software will also include integrations that lets participants access meetings through tools like Microsoft Team or Slack, as well as through a mobile app.
Meeting room digital signage can help give an immediate cue as to what spaces are currently in use. Also, integrating with Zoom meeting calendars can help everyone see how people will be using rooms well into the future.
Of course, modern conference room design should also include a fast and reliable internet connection, as well as lighting and temperature controls. If the space will be used for videos and presentations, offices should include an appropriate sound system. The company may also want to consider using acoustic panels to avoid distracting people outside the meeting.
Finally, don’t forget further collaboration tools like a projector, laptop hook-ups, and video conference capabilities.
And never underestimate the importance of a good, old-fashioned white board.
A smart meeting room is one that uses both modern software and hardware to improve collaboration and efficacy. They are typically designed for easy video conferencing and virtual collaboration.
Smart meeting rooms can also use technology to integrate with other smart elements of the office.
For example, IoT sensors can be used to automatically update the occupied status of a room, further streamlining the room booking process.
A meeting room is meant to foster communication and enhance collaboration. In other words, the purpose of a meeting room is to provide a space for employees to do the important, shared work of moving a company forward.
A modern conference room can also help keep a hybrid workforce more connected to each other and to the office.
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Photos: FURKAN TELLIOGLU, yann maignan, Tatiana Balletti, Matheus Natan, Carrie Hays