Three Alternative Office Designs to Replace Your Conference Room
With the rise of collaboration in the office, we should rethink the conference room and introduce alternative solutions.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
After the news about Apple's employees threatening to quit their jobs instead of work in their new Apple Park campus, it's safe to conclude we have reached peak open-office design. But one modern work trend that won't disappear is the necessity of collaboration. After all, this basic need to collaborate and co-create for maximum productivity is what prompted the move from cubicles and traditional private offices to open-office design in the first place. Human beings are social creatures, and we often need to meet, confer, and decide for the good of the group.
A conference room used to be delegated for the typical Monday morning team meeting. But today, as the rate of collaboration rapidly increases for touchdown meetings, department brainstorms, hackathons, video conferences, remote team discussions and more, the calendar for the office space's designated room is maxed out, and the once mighty conference/board room is no longer one-size-fits-all.
How can we adapt our office design without doing a full renovation and building more conference rooms? Contemporary offices are introducing three alternatives to the meeting room of days past.
Standing Room Only
Sitting at a desk or table for multiple hours each day has been proven to increase an employee's chance of heart disease and other illness. To counteract these negative side effects of hours-long inactivity, standing-room-only meetings were introduced. These become a great (and productive) excuse for workers to stand up, increase circulation, move around, and feel healthier while collaborating.
Standing meeting "rooms" often take place on the fringes of open office floor plans, using bar-height meeting tables, optional stools, and integrated tech for remote conferencing. This layout also frees up valuable square footage needed for more privacy and stretch room at personal workstations. A cluster of adjustable height desks with partial privacy screens will also create an acoustic-friendly meeting space with short notice.
The standing room is recommended for smaller groups and meetings that will wrap up within an hour.
Huddle rooms, touchdown rooms, focus pods...this meeting space goes by many names and configurations. One of the reasons why huddle rooms have gained popularity since 2008 is because they champion the Goldilocks principle: they're right for just about any activity-based work that requires two people or more. These "mini conference rooms" are often versatile and sometimes even portable. They can be designed with acoustic materials to absorb noise and outfitted with small tables and benches or desks with writing tops, as well as moderately-sized screens for conferencing. Some productive pods or huddle rooms are changing out the regular wall for a vinyl covered surfaces, glass walls for writing and sketching, or erasable marker-friendly paints. This helps get ideas off a limited table surface area and into an expanded room.
Huddle spaces and pods are the perfect solution for groups of three or more people who need a quieter space to concentrate and create side by side, or for longer meetings without frequent interruptions. These spaces typically max out around 6-8 people, which makes them perfect for setups in each department throughout a commercial space.
Unlike standing meetings that can take place anywhere--from the middle of an open office to the cafe on the first floor--huddle spaces will cut out the passersby and non-essential conversations for ultimate productivity.
The Great Outdoors
If you can't build any more space inside, why not take it outdoors? Companies are now adding on covered green patios, rooftop gardens with group spaces, and landscaped paths for walking meetings. If you can't introduce biophilic design in your interior layout, you can immerse staff in natural surroundings that are available just outside the company's doors (or within a realistic commute).
Whether it's a shaded gazebo for a roundtable meeting with fifteen people, or a one-on-one walk around the block, you can use the shared calendar to designate meeting points and have one person record audio, video or take notes with instant cloud share to the other members.