After months of attending meetings virtually from our homes, many people are looking forward to getting back to face-to-face collaboration.
The conference room is where deals are made, where innovative ideas are born, and where employees are trained. But those things are only possible when your conference room layouts match the activities and purpose of the rooms.
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 works may have worked 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 — especially in the post-pandemic workplace.
Here are some best practices for reconfiguring conference room layouts to limit capacity and maintain physical distancing.
The pandemic-driven safety measures have altered conference room layouts, at least for the immediate future.
To follow CDC guidelines, plan on reducing the maximum capacity of each conference room by half. A conference room that once held 10 chairs may only safely hold five people.
Next, make sure you have a distance of at least six feet between each seat.
If your reconfigured layouts don't allow for multiple people to safely gather, you'll need to reclassify that space as a private office or a quiet space employees can reserve when they need to focus on deep work.
Finally, use conference room digital signage to display capacity limits for each room.
In addition to the short term needs, there are many essential elements to consider for your meeting spaces in the future. When we return to work, it will be important to facilitate social interactions that foster team solidarity, creativity, and a positive company culture.
Here are the most common types of conference rooms and the ideal design for each.
Purpose of room: Take phone calls, conduct virtual business meetings and smaller team meetings, and meet with clients and stakeholders
Conference room layout: You want a round or square table in the center with chairs around it and a screen on the wall by the head of the table.
Technology and furniture: Small table, desk chairs, conference room phone, TV, projector, and projector screen
Purpose of room: Hold small brainstorming meetings; a place where employees unleash their creativity to effectively come up with innovative, money-making ideas
Conference room layout: Opt for an open and comfortable layout that allows for 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 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 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 the room and talk with each trainee.
Technology and furniture needed: Large conference table, several chairs, projector, flat screen TV or projector screen centered on the head wall, 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 the room up in a theater style layout, where seats are typically arranged in a semi-circular pattern so no attendee is blocking another’s view of the slides or speaker. This configuration works best for showing slide presentations and meetings that have speaker-audience interaction. Another option is the elegant hollow rectangle table layout. This is wonderful when you have a bigger room to work with, where the table is in the middle of the conference room with participants facing each other to encourage better 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
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: You want a room that feels relaxing and fun. Add sporadic comfortable seating (some chairs in the corner, maybe a couch up against a wall), 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
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 in the office. The ability to easily book a conference room will play a huge role in employee satisfaction and productivity.
Reduced head count 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.