Meeting rooms – time to think outside the box

In September 2018 the Independent newspaper reported the results of a Europe-wide survey of 2,000 employees on the subject of meetings. The findings provided sobering reading.

In the UK, France and Germany staff typically spent a total of 187 hours – or the equivalent of 23 days a year – in meetings. Over half of meetings were considered ‘unproductive.’ In the USA, it’s reckoned unproductive gatherings cost the economy a staggering $37 billion.

So, what’s the point of meetings?

We all know effective meetings are essential to discuss ideas, debate issues, overcome obstacles, drive outcomes and help achieve goals. But we also know – and the research supports this – they simply don’t drive collaboration, communication and change the way they should.

If meetings waste time, don’t meeting rooms waste space?

Crucially, the above Europe-wide survey of 2,000 employees also discovered that ‘over a third of staff would get more enjoyment from a meeting with a relaxed atmosphere.’

And that’s where our approach to meeting rooms starts to make real sense.

When is a meeting room not a meeting room?

Forbes Magazine recently reported that the most dangerous phrase in business is ‘We’ve always done it this way.’

We often come up against this thinking when we discuss meeting rooms during a workspace design project. Usually, we’re given a ‘set’ number to include, simply because the client’s always had that number.

We challenge this thinking by asking ‘Why?’

After all, meeting rooms require additional building regulations approval, cost more to build, light, heat and cool. Then there’s all the telephony and technology. Meanwhile, they swallow valuable and expensive space that could be used more productively. And they either sit empty for much of the time or staff can’t book one for love nor money!

Of course, where confidentiality is paramount – for customer-facing, board or HR meetings, for example – we include meetings rooms in our design.

However, not all meetings have to be in a room if they’re not private. So we ask clients to ‘define’ their meetings and consider a number of factors around the purpose and position of any meeting room. These range from ‘What will the room be used for – small, collaborative gatherings or full size board meetings?’ to ‘Is the room for external (ie customer-facing) or internal use only?’

Lots of ways to hold meetings, lots of spaces to host one

With our detailed questioning approach to really get under the skin of our client’s organisation, its people and its needs, we quickly establish when a meeting room isn’t a meeting room. Here’s the kind of spaces those discussions have resulted in…


Virgin Experience Days

We took the client from their two previous uninspiring meeting rooms to three smaller facilities for one-to-one get-togethers, each with their own identity and feel. We also created a collaboration space right in the centre of the open plan at the client’s offices. Bleacher style modular seating means it can be adapted to suit differing needs, the large wipe board enables everyone can get involved and share their ideas, while the sides use beech slats to ensure the open plan view was not restricted.

See the full Virgin Experience Days case study here.


Royal Holloway

After an extensive refurbishment of the Royal Holloway Reading Room, the client decided to make it into a space for PHD students and staff to meet and work. The differing styles of furnishings we recommended allow for different uses. Little details, such as high back armchairs ensuring acoustics don’t become an issue when several meetings happen in the same space, make a difference.


Scott’s Miracle Gro

The marketing department wanted a space within their open plan offices to collaborate and work as a team. Confidentiality wasn’t an issue, so there was no need for a separate meeting room. Instead we created an area that was dedicated to creative thinking, with the design in the flooring and lighting providing the only dividing line, dispensing with the need for an solid walls and doors. Also poseur height tables were utilised because ‘standing room only’ meetings encourage more collaborative working – and also tend to be quicker and more efficient!


Active International

We created an industrial/Shoreditch style meeting room for this client in London, due to the nature of their use which required privacy. With most of their other meeting rooms being ‘corporate’ in style they wanted a space that was decidedly different in identity. Our design even included a bespoke concrete table that housed all the technology and maintained the fun in this highly functional room.


Global IT Company

A hot desking and meeting space within a soft seating area creates a great informal gathering place for teams to collaborate. The dressed shelving creates a soft, semi-divide so users have visual privacy and a feeling of being in their own meeting space.

See the full Global IT Company case study here.


Bucks & Berks Recruitment

With our client relocating four individual offices into one central workspace in Marlow, a lot of our design was about getting everyone working together: one team in one place. The soft seating area acts as a meeting space, with the storage and strands dividing it from the main office. It also doubles up as a waiting and reception area for guests when not being used for meetings.


Creating spaces that drive up collaboration

The fact is, most meetings don’t need a meeting room.

Our work with a wide range of clients in an equally wide range of sectors proves that you can create gathering spaces that are more flexible, on-demand, inspiring and collaborative than the traditional meeting room. They positively enhance decision-making and action as a result. Plus such spaces can also be an ideal way to demonstrate and enhance your brand values for your staff, customers, business partners and other visitors.

Now, if you want to make your meetings more effective, efficient and productive, try this advice from Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur and one of the world’s most popular business bloggers:

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