The big advantage of modern-day business owners is that their office environment no longer needs to adhere to the design rules of the conventional sterile business space that used to be the norm for many years. The 20-foot conference tables, gray filing cabinets, uncomfortable office chairs, fluorescent tubes, and drab beige carpeting stretching from one end of the room to the other are no longer regarded as standard conference room furnishings that supposedly limit distractions and increase productivity.
The arrival of new technologies and evolving work patterns have led to big changes in both employees’ perception of work and the factors that drive productivity. Researchers into business productivity are constantly finding that many work environments are not satisfactory places to work, neither improving productivity nor fostering innovation. Stressed, disengaged, and frustrated either by management or co-workers, 21st century employees are, above all, utterly bored, more so when it comes to sitting through interminable meetings every week.
Instead of dreading the mere thought of stepping into the boardroom, employees can be convinced to actually look forward to the weekly meeting, and find it far less painful.
While the majority of offices are still based on vertical management and have a hierarchical reporting structure, many modern companies have gotten flatter. Decision-making power is becoming decentralized; hierarchies are less rigid, roles more fluid. Even so, the meeting room is probably the last place you’d expect equality to rear its head, but seating all participants on equal positions around a rounded table will create a sense of equality among the group, empowering lower-level workers to take initiatives and speak their minds freely. You don’t literally need to use a rounded table as long as you position the chairs in such manner to allow everyone to see each other’s faces and ensure good interaction between participants.
Modern conference rooms consist of much more than a screen and a projector. An array of technology, from video conferencing equipment to DVD players and audio systems, is now being regularly used in meetings and conferences. In addition, participants are increasingly turning up with a suite of handheld devices, be it laptops, tablets, or smartphones, which need to be connected between them wirelessly for sharing data and other content. It is, thus, important to consider customized furniture solutions to make sure your boarding room is tailored to the specific needs of your employees.
Now, just because the conference room is used occasionally doesn’t mean it shouldn’t provide the comfort and convenience employees are ensured with at their regular workstations. In fact, making sure that conference seating allows individuals to move, shift, and comfortably rest their bodies at all times is the easiest way to keep participants focused and engaged. Ergonomic conference seating should encourage movement, support various postures, and ensure comfort for long seated periods.
Lighting is often overlooked as an essential factor of employee engagement and productivity, but research demonstrates that it has a profound impact on people’s physical, psychological, and physiological performance. Implementing a quality lighting program into the conference room, which is even trickier to light than the rest of the office, can not only reduce eyestrain and fatigue, but also boost team productivity and performance, strengthen customer relationships, and increase an organization’s opportunity for success. To obtain the highest level of engagement during meetings consider maximizing natural lighting, using indirect lighting whenever possible, and positioning furniture to minimize glare.
There’s nothing that restricts workers’ ability to focus more than clutter, which competes for attention the same way a toddler present in the room might annoyingly repeat the same phrase over and over again. Research shows that an untidy or messy environment drains people’s energy, dampens their creativity, and makes it less likely for them to think outside the box. Common areas are usually treated as ‘no man’s land’ and are the places that invite most clutter. The solution to reestablishing order in the conference room is to install conference storage solutions that respond to the aesthetic requirements of this space, while effectively accommodating audio-visual equipment, binders, books, documents, and accessory items.
When it comes to turning your boardroom into a dynamic hub of interaction and communication, nothing is over the top. Feel free to experiment with colors, styles, and themes, and make the space fun and engaging by adding furniture that ensures comfort and supports flexibility and movement. Contact your local office space planner to find out how you can customize the conference room to align it with your company’s needs and vision.
Lynne Lemieux, Founder and President of Alliance Interiors Inc., has devoted more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing growth opportunities for some of Canada's leading office furniture dealers. Her ability to provide clients with inspiring and versatile interior solutions for both business and home office environments has garnered her title of Aboriginal Business Woman of the Year in the city of Toronto for 2012. In her spare time, Lynne takes an active interest in politics, public speaking, and philanthropy, but also enjoys gardening, interior decorating, cooking, yoga, and traveling.