Working from home seemed like a safe and attractive idea back in sunny March after months of winter, but with Zoom-fatigue increasing and summer over, there’s a shift happening.
“We yearn for interaction and a shared work experience. We miss meetings with coworkers and clients.” – Gensler Design
Gensler Design recently did a survey where over 50% of respondents said that impromptu meetings and socializing are the main reason they want to return to their office. But this desire doesn’t lessen the need for organizations to keep their team as safe as possible while being productive.
Leadership teams are now challenged to bring people back to the office and to provide opportunities to collaborate but also reduce risks and include social distancing protocols that build confidence.
So let’s consider one of the biggest office questions currently…
What do we do with meeting rooms?
The most critical spaces for team collaboration and client meetings are the boardroom and meeting rooms. It is where ideas happen, secrets are shared, problems are solved, budgets hashed out and goals are set.
So organizations need to create or modify meeting spaces, using key themes of flexibility, adaptability and safe distancing in hopes that restrictions will relax later on.
Here are some great suggestions from Tamara Howkins, interior designer with at Work Toronto GTA, on considering meeting spaces that cost-effectively (and with minimal disruption) adhere to current health directives and give employees confidence in their workplace.
Measure and Modify
Regardless of how many people you dream of having in any area, it will remain a dream if you haven’t measured for social distancing.
These solutions will meet distancing requirements but also help you transition after COVID:
- It used to be a table capacity for seating was the same number as its length (ie. a 6 foot table seats 6 people, 10 foot table seats 10, etc.). Currently with distancing and masks, we are recommending 3-4 people to a 6 foot table, 4 people to a 8-12 foot depending on what distance is available in the room. With a clear barrier, more may be able to be achieved.
- If you are adding to a space, mobile flip-top nesting tables are a good solution. They can be moved out of the way to set up a space for chairs only (socially distanced), allowing for greater capacity and various uses. And they can be stored neatly when not needed.
- Consider using smaller tables that can be arranged for social distancing and combined to create a large meeting table when restrictions change.
- Removable clear divider barriers minimize damage to existing furniture and can give people confidence to meet face to face.
Avoid Team Confusion
Visualize your people working and moving around in your environment. Think about how many people you envision meeting in a space and prepare for it, so people are not confused. This can be achieved by:
- Offering signage noting meeting room or area capacities, clearly marked social distancing and if needed, directional visuals for entry and exit.
- Remove some chairs and place the remaining 6 foot minimum apart in gathering areas.
- Use stationary chairs, or remove casters from chairs to discourage rolling closer together.
- Remember to use integrated technology so remote workers can still take part in meetings.
- Designate “Video Conference Only” rooms for those without quiet office space and lessen physical meeting space.
Think Inside and Outside the Box
While we may love our beautiful meeting spaces, this is an opportunity to think strategically and even outside the box to create gathering spaces that suit the current environment.
- Choosing new office furniture? Consider surfaces that can hold up to harsher cleaning and/or antimicrobial surfaces.
- Find ways to improve ventilation and airflow in your office.
- Store away tables and hold chair-only or standing meetings. You may actually be able to have more in a room this way.
- In better weather, get some fresh air – consider walking meetings outside
- Hold team meetings before or after open hours so your full office space can be used. Everyone can keep distance across a larger room without interruptions ie. phones or visitors.
- Are you planning a new space? Make meeting areas larger to work well now and also give you flexibility later. ie. one room now could become two rooms later.
We all want to get back to normal.
Facing the “new normal” head on, we can strategically plan our meeting spaces to be useful now and be even better later.
Need help creating or modifying your meeting spaces for the new office environment?