For many people the conference room sounds like an idea that has passed. The sign of an era where business people and decision makers huddled together to decide on the important things that needed deciding. In our new pandemic impacted world it is time to move on… or is it?
With large numbers of people returning to the work place, albeit a very different work place than before the pandemic, maybe a new version of the conference room is actually what is needed. Where decision makers can gather safely but in person. Where their colleagues who are working remotely can easily join the meeting. Where groups of people can train or brainstorm together in a socially distanced, hygienic environment.
Conference Room V2.0
So how is this new conference room going to look? What can you do to update your existing room to a pandemic proof version? Let us first consider the things that you will be expected to do to help keep your colleagues safe.
You will need to approximately half the capacity of people in your conference room. This will mean removing or securing the additional excess seating so no one can accidently breach the guidelines. If people see a chair, they will assume they can use it!
You will ideally need to separate seating and people by 2 metres, but at least 1m where this is not practical. Where distancing of less than 2metres is used increased ventilation should be introduced.
Hand sanitisers or similar need to be available wherever possible and the room should be cleaned between each use with a record kept of this occurring.
So, with the must do list out of the way we can look at some of the things that will actually help people make the most of their reimagined conference room.
- Consider a drastic layout change. With the reduced number of people in the room and distancing in place the days of the rectangular room layout may be past. This could be the perfect time to ditch that massive table and create some space. Allow for bubbles or more informal team discussions by breaking up the usual seating rows
- Change your furniture to make the most of your new layout and to encourage creative thinking and limit the amount of wasted space. Create some flexibility!
- Make use of digital signage and room booking systems to remind people of the new capacities, safety policies and other important information.
- Make sure your video screens and audio system are big enough to engage your audience and of a high enough quality to allow easy interaction with any remote participants. Consider introducing whiteboards and facilitate content sharing and tracking cameras to make hybrid meetings more dynamic and help engage with those collaborating remotely.
Your employees and teams may be a little nervous about returning to the office, let alone the conference room. But with a little planning and the implementation of the latest technology the experience cannot just be bearable but actually a way to reconnect with them. Consider themes or names for your spaces and rooms that will promote further connection to your company or brand and you may even find your post pandemic colleagues actually enjoying their meetings more than before – in person or otherwise!