No matter how many of them you’ve been in or how experienced you feel like you are, one thing is basically always true about meetings: they can really stress you out.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – you don’t want your meeting to go poorly or be unproductive so you stress out about keeping everyone focused and on task, and then your stress causes you to overthink the meeting and you don’t get anything done, and so on and so forth.
A vicious cycle, to be sure, but the solution may be easier than you think. (And no, it isn’t anything as out-there as meditation.) To combat meeting jitters while increasing productivity, a lot of office design experts and managers have been focusing on a surprising area – the design of the meeting room itself.
By offering the right sort of furniture, productivity tools, and overall layout, many design specialists have found ways to help offices stay on-task and get more done during meetings. If this sounds more appealing than the idea of quietly stressing through your next meeting and worrying about taking notes as always, here’s a few ways to reorganize and redecorate your meeting room to help boost productivity and making it a little less panicked for everyone:
Picture the last meeting room you were in. They basically all look the same, right: long rectangular table, at least one TV at the end of the room you’re all supposed to look at, and so on. Interestingly, many workplace design specialists have found that the shape of the table itself can have a mental effect on everyone in the meeting – by using the standard rectangle shape you can actually be reinforcing things like structure and hierarchy, which can lead to some workers being more stressed out feeling like they’re stuck in the ‘pecking order’ and just another cog in the machine.
Replace your regular old rectangular table with a circular or oval table (like these from Wayfair) to create an atmosphere that will welcome more collaboration and help everyone feel more ‘welcome’.
Sounds like meeting room 101, doesn’t it? “Make sure your meeting room doesn’t have anything that could hamper productivity or interfere with the discussion at hand” is the first thing you probably read or thought about when you were setting up the meeting room in the first place.
That said, there could still be distractions affecting your employees – for example, the placement and use of the TV. Most conference rooms have at least one massive TV with a distracting, corporate-branded screensaver blinking around, and probably not a lot of thought given to where the TV itself goes.
Try to make sure your TV isn’t showing anything too distracting when not in use, and (as this blog from Robin Powered points out) make sure the TV is placed correctly – if you’re using a TV that’s much bigger than your meeting table, people are going to have to move around and someone’s view is inevitably going to be blocked. Nobody wants to be the person ruining everyone else’s view to the TV during meetings.
Let everyone collaborate
Similarly, a lot of meeting rooms like to bring in collaborative tools like big whiteboards or a communal laptop that can display text on the TV (like we just discussed). This, however, can also lead to lost productivity and that ever-present ‘meeting room awkwardness’ because not everyone is going to want to try to use the laptop or make themselves the focal point of attention as they try to use the whiteboard (which is probably also crowded out by the placement of the TV as mentioned above – try to make sure the TV is out of the way). A good solution is to simply make the writing surface larger and more accessible to everyone participating in the meeting.
A lot of office design companies like Polyvision have started to offer entire walls that can act as whiteboards, helping to both display your ideas more efficiently (by allowing more space to write legibly and provide charts, images, etc) and providing enough space for multiple people to access the whiteboard to make sure everyone feels welcome and invited into collaboration. This can go a long way towards helping people feel like they’re part of the discussion, which can reduce those pre-meeting jitters and anxieties.
If you don’t have the ability to (or simply don’t want to) give an entire wall over to being a whiteboard, placement is still crucial. Try not to hang it up behind the TV, and make sure it’s centered enough to help everyone get to it without having to bump into anyone or making anyone move out of the way. There’s nothing worse, or more counter-productive, than having a good idea saved on a whiteboard that nobody can see.
Avoid crowding anyone out
In a similar vein, meeting rooms
Does everyone sitting at that table have enough space to move their chair and get comfortable? Can people walk in and out without a lot of clutter? In a lot of cases, we get too excited about adding things into a meeting room and it winds up being too awkward to move around in, or worse, forces people to have to stand up the whole time which nobody likes.
There’s a few solutions for this, thankfully. For one, you could try switching to two smaller tables – place one closer to the TV or the focal point of the meeting and use the second one as an ‘outfield table’, particularly if you try a smaller or more versatile option like a sit-to-stand table (such as these from Herman Miller). Giving people more options to move around will help them stay both focused and comfortable, which is the ideal solution for any meeting room to avoid the more common problems.
Of course, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for meeting rooms, but these should provide a good place to start from. Take a look at what your meeting room needs and what can best help your workers get things done, and don’t be afraid to do a little rearranging. Who knows, you might just like it.