Karl / Office designer

By Karl Carty
Project Designer |

Gripes and complaints are common in the workplace, especially when comfort levels aren’t what they should be or facilities aren’t deemed suitable. We’ve heard it all. In some cases your employees may be right, your design just doesn’t work. In others, you may need to think about adopting new ways of working.

The first blog in our Office Design Myth Busting series looks at why you don’t always need more meeting rooms.

There’s nothing more frustrating than an office without enough meeting rooms. Chances are you’re better off rescheduling if you’ve forgotten to book a timeslot in the boardroom for your brainstorm. You snooze, you lose. This scenario is all too familiar, and it’s why we’re so often asked to design and build more meeting rooms.

Mix it up

Surprisingly our workplace studies generally show a mismanagement or misuse of meeting spaces, not a lack of rooms. If you want to make a call somewhere quiet and you pop into the boardroom, you’re guilty. The same goes for two people working in an eight-person meeting room. You get the picture.

This is why we believe variety is the spice of life - err, the office. Our office design and build project for AMC Networks is a great example of this. Our workplace study found correct meeting room utilisation in their old office was only around 50% so contemplation spaces and multi-purpose meeting rooms of different sizes were provided in the new office to accommodate ad hoc or individual use. There are also a number of breakout areas and anchor spaces, including a central staff café on the ground floor, to encourage teams to move around the building and find alternative spaces to meet.

Design tip #1 - Provide a variety of informal quiet and collaborative meeting spaces of varying sizes throughout your office, and ensure meeting room ‘etiquette’ and proper usage of formal meeting rooms is upheld.

Use furniture better

If you don’t have the space to reconfigure your office to provide different sized meeting rooms, consider how your furniture can facilitate or redefine meeting areas. We’re so inspired by what furniture manufacturers are producing; they’ve taken drab office furniture and turned it into stylish pieces which are perfect for today’s working environment.

Acoustic and flexible. We believe these two innovative furniture categories complete a successful office fit out. Using acoustic office furniture is a simple way to create intimate meeting spaces, even in an open plan office. Not only do these pieces absorb sound, they add a pop of colour and personality to the design, as seen in Superdrug’s new London headquarters. But the best bit? These pieces often come with built-in AV equipment, power and data points so your employees can host small meetings easily.

Flexible furniture is a must for workplaces with fluctuating headcounts. Movable writing walls, desks on wheels and ottomans are all perfect for makeshift meeting rooms. When it’s crowded in the office having a ping pong table which turns into a meeting area is a great furniture hack too, just ask ThoughtWorks.

Design tip #2 - Use acoustic and flexible furniture as building blocks for non-traditional meeting spaces.

Take it outside

Would you believe us if we told you that 90% of your time is spent indoors? On average only 35% of the UK’s workforce gets 15 minutes outdoors on any particular day! So why not leave the office altogether? It might not always be practical but chances are there are plenty of opportunities for having your informal catch-ups, brainstorms and small meetings at a local park or coffee shop.

A change of scenery really can be as good as a holiday; in fact, research shows mixing up your working environment improves creativity and reduces stress. There’s a reason you get your best ideas in the shower or when walking your dog!

If your office isn’t in a central location with amenities nearby to support an off-site meeting, you could create an ‘outdoor’ space in your office like Rackspace. Or, taking inspiration from ECL Global, you could even transform an underutilised terrace into a secret garden.

For maximum benefits, your indoor ‘outdoor’ space should incorporate elements from the natural world to support wellbeing. This simple design strategy has been proved to increase productivity by as much as 8% and wellbeing rates by 13%!

Design tip #3 - Create a sense of being outdoors in your design by adding plants, wood, stone, a water feature or graphics of beautiful scenery.