We Need to Talk About Meeting Rooms…
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when two (or more) employees collaborate in a workspace, a meeting is born. It’s also true to say that, for most organisations, collaborative working equals a meeting which, necessarily, is something done in a ‘Meeting Room’. The thing is, not all meetings are the same. Far from it. Yet, for too long, any form of collaborative working has been allocated to ‘The Meeting Room’, a formal space with a table and chairs that may (or may not) be appropriate for the type of interactions needed to fulfil the collaborative task at hand.
So, isn’t it time to talk about meetings and the spaces we create to facilitate them? Our starting point must be that there are many different types of collaborative working and each would be improved by placing it within an environment that reflects the needs of that interaction. Here are 6 types of collaborative spaces you need in your office.
1. Lounge area –informal & relaxed
Informality is the key here. This is a place where team members feel comfortable and relaxed. The aesthetic cues match many from the domestic environment; meaning employees are at ease. This type of space is ideal for an empathetic catch-up with an employee or more general team building. In short, this is an environment that enables all to be thoughtful and honest. The only downside of a space like this is team members may, occasionally, get too comfortable -so listen out for snoring. Any organisation with ambitions of turning their office into a ‘destination’–a place with facilities that lure a hybrid workforce out of their home hubs –needs a lounge area.
2. Bar height and standing area –rapid and focussed
Collaboration spaces where team members stand have the benefit of adding brevity to proceedings. All involved understand that the interaction is to be short and focused. This type of environment is essential for briefing activities and intense bursts of organisation or planning. In short, standing tables are the closest thing to a sports team’s huddle that can be achieved in interior design. Perhaps consider serving orange segments during one of these intense gatherings.
3. Collaboration space –lively and sharing
In these spaces we find generously sized tables, designed to be covered in swatches, papers, illustrations, decks or whatever reference materials are needed to make the process flow. Understanding the scale and tools needed for a collaboration space is important. Some businesses need space for 4-6 people while others require room for 20 or more. Surrounding these generous spaces should be all the tools team members need, from digital whiteboards to old-school pinboards, felt tip pens, paper and even Lego! Stimulation is the keyword here. Far less formal than traditional meeting rooms, collaboration areas are spaces to get the creative energies flowing.
4. Booths & pods –private and one-to-one. Perfect for ‘Hyperfocus’*
Instant privacy, that’s the feeling you get with a booth. Whether the intended collaboration is a briefing between 2 or 3 team members or a video call to a client, a booth provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of the office. Booths can also be a great place to get on with activities that require intense concentration (‘Hyperfocus’). These areas prove so popular with staff that many find themselves wishing for one in their home environment. A well-thought-out space-booking system may be needed to avoid any ‘booth-hogging’ situations.
5. Cafe Breakout Area –Perfect for ‘Scatterfocus’*
The diametric opposite of formal meeting rooms, the informality of these environments actively assists with teambuilding and imaginative brainstorming(‘Scatterfocus’). There is a freeing openness and lack of privacy inherent in these spaces, this is completely intentional. A well-managed cafe breakout area could become the home of serendipitous interactions that lead to real innovation. A word to the wise, make sure the coffee served in these areas is good, but not too good.
6. Formal meeting rooms – Detailed & Confidential
There will always be a need for traditional meeting rooms. Serious, formal interactions (the hiring and firing that is part and parcel of business life), must take place here. Please understand that these are not inherently unhelpful places; they have a positive role to fulfil when seen as part of a range of environments for collaborative work to take place, rather than as the only option.
Christian Logue, MD of Sagal Group, faces the reality that not all meetings are the same.
Your office should serve as the centre of your business. It should ooze everything that defines you, your dreams, your mission, and your culture.