After a prolonged period of time spent attending meetings virtually, people are looking forward to getting back to the office for some good, old-fashioned face-to-face collaboration. The kind where you actually engage, rather than putting yourself on mute and keeping your camera off.
Video meetings and teleconferences have become a staple of working in the COVID-19 era, but there's something nostalgic about the conference room. The conference room is where deals are made, where innovative ideas are born, and where employees are onboarded and trained. But those things are only possible when your conference room layouts match the activities and purpose of the rooms — especially in the post-pandemic workplace.
Here are the most common types of conference room layouts along with some tips for safely creating the ideal design for 2021 and beyond.
The pandemic-driven safety measures have altered conference room layouts, at least for the immediate future. That means, safety must be your top priority when reconfiguring a conference room layout. Here are some best practices for reconfiguring your conference room layout to limit capacity and maintain physical distancing.
To follow CDC guidelines and business guidance from OSHA, you may need to plan on reducing the maximum capacity of each conference room by half to limit the number of workers in one space at a time. A conference room that once held 10 chairs may now only safely hold five people.
Next, make sure you have a distance of at least six feet between each seat. If your reconfigured conference room layouts don't allow for multiple people to safely gather, one option you have is to reclassify that space as a private office or a quiet space that employees can reserve when they need to focus on deep work. (Tip: See how iOFFICE's new safe distancing feature helps you identify and reconfigure unsafe spaces.)
Finally, use conference room digital signage to display capacity limits for each room. Visual cues help remind everyone in the office to adhere to your new safety policies and communicate important information.
Creating a large, rectangular room with a large, rectangular conference table in the middle and throwing in a whiteboard or projector isn’t the ideal conference room layout for every purpose. This layout may have worked well for training rooms or big company lunch presentation meetings prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus. But it doesn’t meet all the needs of your company or your company’s individual teams and employees.
In addition to the short-term needs, there are many essential elements to consider for your conference room layouts in the future. When your organization is ready to return to the office, it will be important to facilitate social interactions that foster team solidarity, creativity, and positive company culture.
Purpose of room: Take phone calls, conduct virtual business meetings or smaller team meetings, and meet with clients and stakeholders
Conference room layout: You want a round or square table in the center of the room with chairs surrounding it, and a screen on the wall by the head of the table.
Technology and furniture: Small table, ergonomic desk chairs, conference room phone, TV, projector, and projector screen
Purpose of room: Hold small brainstorming sessions in a place where employees can unleash their creativity and effectively come up with innovative, money-making ideas
Conference room layout: Opt for an open and comfortable layout that allows for ultimate mobility and interaction.
Technology and furniture needed: Whiteboard; comfortable seating, e.g., couches or modular sofas, beanbag chairs, video game chairs and/or floor pillows; a small table and a couple of chairs for people who want to sit at a table
Purpose of room: Train new and current employees on technology and processes
Conference room layout: The ideal layout for training is a banquet style layout that seats attendees around an oval table that’s in the center of the room because it provides optimal communication and group interaction while also allowing the trainer to easily walk around and talk with each trainee.
Technology and furniture needed: Large conference table, several chairs, projector, flat-screen TV or projector screen centered on the headwall, storage cabinet, and some type of utility cart or skinny table to hold snacks
Purpose of room: Conduct whole company meetings
Conference room layout: You can set your large conference room layout up theater-style, where seats are typically arranged in a semi-circular pattern so no attendee is blocking anyone's view of the meeting slides or speaker. This configuration works best for showing slide presentations and meetings that have interaction between the speaker and the audience. Another option is the elegant hollow rectangle table layout. This is wonderful when you have a bigger conference room to work with, where the table is in the middle of the space and participants face each other to encourage more face-to-face interaction.
Technology and furniture needed: Large TV at the front-center of the room, several linking chairs, or a long rectangular desk and enough chairs to fit around it and accommodate a larger number of meeting attendees
Purpose of room: Place where employees can take a break from their desks and recharge or even where employees can have fun while brainstorming
Conference room layout: For this conference room layout, you want to design a room that feels relaxing and fun. Add sporadic comfortable seating (For instance: some chairs in the corner, maybe a couch up against a wall), a flat screen TV on one wall, a pool or ping pong table in the center, and maybe a food and drink bar in one corner.
Technology and furniture needed: Large wall-mounted TV, video game console, a gaming table, couch, bar stools and comfortable modern seating
The name of your conference rooms might seem like a small detail, but it's an important part of the overall employee experience and can help people feel connected to the company. Themes, such as company-history, geography, or pop culture can be a fun way for employees to engage and fun conference room names make it easier for employees to find the space they're going to.
For some more creative inspiration, check out this post by our parent company, iOFFICE, highlighting 25 creative conference room names and some suggested guidelines for coming up with your own.
With less available space, the spaces you do have will be valuable. Employees may need to find a space for an ad hoc meeting, one that allows the attendees to sit at a safe distance. Or they may need a temporary place to work when they come into the office. The ability to easily book a conference room will play a huge role in employee satisfaction and productivity.
Reduced headcount will also mean meeting rooms need to be set up with the right kind of video and audio technology to accommodate the combination of in-person and virtual attendance. Another thing to prepare for is cleaning. Consider using IoT sensors in the meeting space, so you get an automatic notification when the room is no longer occupied, giving you time to properly sanitize the space before its next use.
Your employees may have a difficult time re-acclimating to your new conference room layouts, but leaders who anticipate their needs will help ease some of these challenges. With thoughtful planning and careful consideration, conference room layouts can perfectly match up to your employees' new expectations.
When your conference rooms aren't showing as available when they actually are or your meeting room scheduling system is inaccurate and doesn't sync with your work calendars, you're not maximizing your space. Then, your conference room utilization suffers, and so does your workforce's productivity.
If you've ever had to wait around for your meeting room because someone else's meeting ran late, or couldn't find an available room because someone forgot to remove recurring reservations when a meeting series was canceled, you know how frustrating a bad meeting room experience can be. Fortunately, most of it is preventable. (We recently shared 5 examples of bad meeting room behaviors and how to prevent them.)
Did you know the annual cost of just one empty conference room is $15,708? Download the guide to discover how room scheduling software impacts your bottom line.