An increased focus on flexibility and space efficiency has led to many organisations questioning the traditional meeting room and instead embracing more informal meeting spaces.

Adrian Norman

Head of Design

14th Mar 2016

In workplaces across the UK, the efficient utilisation of space remains a pressing concern, given its premium value. Consequently, organisations are increasingly exploring alternative approaches to office design.

Gone are the days of...

Gone are the days (at least in forward-thinking companies) when CEOs secluded themselves, only emerging for their morning cup of tea, oblivious to the rest of the workplace. Modern workspaces prioritise communication, collaboration, and flexibility.

Today, companies conduct a diverse range of meetings, including AGMs, one-to-one reviews, team meetings, and individual work sessions requiring ample space for spreadsheets and designs. Moreover, the rise of freelancing is evident, with 13.9% of the working population recorded by the Office of National Statistics as working from home. This reality challenges the need for fixed, formal spaces like meeting rooms since it is uncertain who will use them or for how long.

Increasingly, people recognise that the traditional open-plan office can be suboptimal due to noise and distractions, lacking privacy for focused work. Employees request quiet areas where they can concentrate without interruptions.

The alternative

Reverting to the private-office model can result in reduced interaction and increased costs. In cities like central London, the cost of a desk per person per year ranges between £12,000 and £14,000. Thus, reducing the number of fixed workstations has a tangible impact on company finances.

The solution

Our design teams observe a growing emphasis on informal meeting spaces without walls, which foster collaboration and adapt to ad-hoc situations more effectively.

We have also seen a shift towards activity-based working practices, offering workers the flexibility to move to areas that suit their current tasks. The modern work environment incorporates quiet rooms, team spaces, and informal collaboration spaces.

These informal areas must be versatile enough to accommodate groups of varying sizes and adapt to different requirements. The introduction of "huddle rooms," for instance, allows for increased usable space elsewhere and provides a conducive environment for focused discussions. Similarly, phone booths serve both as private call spaces and quiet work areas, while standing workstations encourage healthier work habits.

Utilising café spaces and lounges as impromptu meeting spaces not only alleviates space constraints but also cultivates a more relaxed and collaborative working environment. After all, people are more amenable to collaboration when they have a muffin in hand, aren't they? Having informal workspaces ensures that unreserved areas are always available for last-minute meetings or spontaneous decision-making when other spaces are occupied.

It is well-documented that activity-based working positively impacts business outcomes, and it comes as no surprise. Trying to accomplish multiple tasks at a single desk, amidst numerous distractions, is a daunting challenge. Allowing staff to utilise ad-hoc spaces improves productivity, boosts morale, and ultimately benefits everyone involved.