MEETING & CONFERENCE EMBRACE THE SPACE Jackie Furey, Director of Where We Work, explains how making the most of your meeting environment improves the workplace.

Meetings come in many shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a full company congregation, a creative collaboration or a formal one-to-one. The definition of a meeting is so varied, that creating the right space for this activity can often be a challenge.

Furthermore, for most companies, meeting rooms compensate for the areas a workspace might already lack, therefore they become a ‘go-to space’ for activities such as private phone calls, quiet working and contemplative tasks.

So how do we make the most out of a modern meeting space? Do all meetings require a room? And what exactly should this environment be used for? A good place to start is by analysing the behaviour of staff already using the space.

Understanding utilisation If you were to conduct a utilisation study by routinely recording, not only the usage of the space, but also the activity and behaviour of all users, most people would be shocked to discover, that for a majority of the time the room is not actually in use.

It’s a common misconception that meeting rooms are constantly busy, simply because they are difficult to book. The reason for this is that we tend to follow similar patterns in terms of when we have meetings- in other words, there are meeting ‘rush hours’.

Of course, all organisations are different and will therefore follow slightly different behavioural patterns. However, if you perform a workplace utilisation study, and closely analyse the use of this room, you’ll find that the meeting room is used less than 40% of the time.

Rethinking size Once you have analysed utilisation in the meeting room, you may begin to question the amount of valuable floor space you have designated for meetings. For example, you may find that you have a room that can accommodate as many as twelve, but for 67% of the time the space is used


only for meetings with two to three people and for 20% of the time it is used by single individuals. However, given that it only ever reaches full capacity 2% of the time, it’s obvious the space is rarely used to its full potential.

Pair this with the fact that, for 58% of all working hours the space is entirely

unoccupied, and you begin to gain a clear picture about how underutilised the space is. In this case you have two options, you can either free up the space for alternative use or utilise the current meeting environment to its full potential, when not in use.

If you choose to eliminate the larger meeting room, you could offer smaller, alternative, adaptable meeting spaces- such as breakout zones, café style meeting spaces or pods, allowing those smaller groups to still congregate. A well placed quiet zone, booth, phone-free desk area or sound proof glazed cube will cater for the individual staff members who usually occupy a whole room for lone working.

Improve the workplace It may be, that despite proven underutilisation, you still wish to keep a large meeting room. In this case there are a whole host of ways you can utilise it when it is not in use, whilst making a huge improvement to your workspace.

By having easily moveable furniture in this room it can be transformed to a flexible space such as a company exercise room at certain hours. You could book a yoga or pilates instructor for lessons once or twice a week. The space could even be used for meditation, a sleep zone, or a cinema for lunchtime projector screenings.

The key to making the most of a meeting environment lies in understanding utilisation and staff behaviour. After this, your general workplace can be improved by either adapting to suit the patterns of the majority, or by implementing other methods of use that will benefit staff.

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