Making the most of meetings

Sameeha Joshi, Workplace Consultant Workplace strategy, Change management
Modern open plan collaboration office space with soft lighting and staircase.

Meetings, and the rooms that they take place in, are often a hot topic of conversation. Meeting room technology, meeting sizes and room availability are all subject to debate. When we begin the Strategy process, we take time to learn about our clients and their workplace ambitions. We begin by asking what the people of a business believe they want and need. During this initial discussion, one thing we regularly hear is:

‘We need more meeting rooms’

The request for more meeting rooms is not because we need more, but because we need better meetings. In fact, the Harvard Business Review found that 65% of people feel that meetings keep them from completing their own work, 71% said meetings are unproductive and 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

When our clients express a desire for more meeting rooms, they are usually asking for an alternative setting to desks, or a bigger variety of spaces to come together.

Meetings: When or where?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines meetings as ‘A planned occasion where people come together, either in person or online, to discuss something.’

If we use the statement above to define when meetings should take place, we can start to explore where meetings can take place. It’s a common misconception that for a meeting to occur, a space needs the following:

  • A room
  • A table
  • Chairs
  • A screen

But we want to take it further than a simple checklist. Meetings can be used to achieve many objectives, and it’s important to design a workplace where people can meet in different settings, not simply within the confines of four walls.

Designing meeting spaces with purpose

The design and configuration of meeting spaces within the workplace should be determined by the purpose of the meetings, and the people involved. Here are some of the types of meetings and how to design for them:

Creative meetings

Last year, LinkedIn Learning reported that creativity is the single most important skill in the world for all business professionals, and meeting spaces can help to stimulate this. Getting active and connecting to nature are great ways to boost imagination, so spaces designed for creative meetings should encourage movement and consider biophilic design. High tables allow colleagues to meet while standing and positioning these hubs in proximity to windows will maximise natural light flow into the space. These spaces should also include tools to help you innovate. Wipeable tables with pens, cork boards to pin your ideas to, or post-it notes are all simple solutions to help your vision come to life before your eyes.

Hybrid meetings

Hybrid meetings where some people come together in person, and others online, are taking place now more than ever. Meeting room design must adapt to ensure those who are present physically or virtually play an equal role.

Tear-shaped or semi-circular meeting tables that face the people dialling in online can create a ‘huddle’ and a higher level of inclusion between participants. Importantly, fast-speed technology is key so that those online can share ideas and respond in real-time, without causing awkward pauses that disjoint the flow of conversation.

Confidential meetings

Meeting spaces should be designed in a way that allow for transparency and openness, but also confidentiality when necessary. At Peldon Rose, our meeting rooms are framed by glass walls with curtain rails closely alongside, that can be drawn for moments of privacy. Adding robust acoustic solutions to meeting spaces of any shape and size also help to prevent sound travel and remove external distractions.

Small meetings

Our space planning consultants work hard to maximise the efficiency of the floorplate, and this means creating spaces to suit meetings of different sizes. It’s frustrating when large meeting rooms are occupied by two people, but smaller meetings are often the most direct and effective. Small booths, pods or benched seating provide great places for small numbers of people to come together for a quiet meeting or informal catch-up.

Informal meetings

It’s important to say that meetings apply to business and pleasure. Whether it’s a quick check-in with a manager, a coffee catch-up with your favourite colleague, or a chance to mull over ideas away from the formal constraints of a meeting room, informal spaces within the workplace serve multiple purposes. Soft seating, planting and coffee tables help to create a relaxed environment that spark moments of enjoyment between colleagues.

While it’s clear that too many, or unproductive meetings can cause distress and achieve little, they’re a great way to socially interact. Working with others, getting creative or bonding with colleagues, meetings are an important communication tool. Meeting rooms that are designed effectively and sessions that are led efficiently increase productivity. Get in touch with our Strategy team to find out more.

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