From a workplace planning perspective, one of the more awkward things to witness in any client’s office space is two people trying to have an informal meeting in a large, 15-20 person conference room. To achieve some level of conversational intimacy, they usually group around the end of the table, as opposed to sitting across from each other on the “long” sides. The overwhelming size of the room for two people does, in fact, change the nature of the conversation, another example of the influence of physical space on everyday business operations. Conversations are usually more quiet and more formal; meetings are generally more brief.
Further, the configuration of a large room makes it difficult to use any visual support materials, like a marker board or audio/visual equipment. The two people are left to uncomfortably huddle around a laptop as the only resource that allows them to collaborate without disrupting the flow of conversation. In many offices where conference space is at a premium, the impromptu meeting almost always gets interrupted by a crowd of people who have scheduled a formal meeting, forcing the unlucky twosome to quickly pack up their materials and stand in a corridor to finish their conversation.
When I recount this situation to my clients, they generally smile knowingly and acknowledge that that same situation is true in their offices. Most offices have large conference rooms which are well-suited for scheduled meetings. But very few have smaller meeting spaces that support how people actually work; meeting in ad hoc, ten minute sessions that solve problems and develop follow up action plans.
Today’s best planned offices provide staff with a range of meeting spaces, from large, technologically-equipped conference spaces for more formal presentations and meetings to a range of smaller spaces that support ten minute team “angioplasties”: quick, intense sessions that provide breakthrough solutions in our continually hectic work environment.