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Conference Room Space Planning: Ensure Safe, Effective Collaboration

by James McDonald on March 30, 2021
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Office Space Planning Guidelines Cheat Sheet
 

If you thought conference room space planning was tricky before the pandemic, it has only become more challenging with new requirements for physical distancing and cleanliness. 

You want to make sure your employees can gather safely while setting the stage for effective in-person collaboration. You also want to maximize conference room utilization so you don't end up with a lot of wasted space.

If you don’t allocate a large enough space, the room will feel uncomfortably overcrowded — and no one will want to reserve it. Plan for too much space, and it will sit half-empty the majority of the time. Either way, you’re left with a space that’s underutilized.

To help you avoid both of these costly scenarios, here are a few general guidelines you can use when setting up new conference rooms.

How many conference rooms do you need per employee?

Prior to COVID-19, workplace design firms recommended one room for every 10-20 employees. But having the right mix of spaces is more important, especially now. HOK’s research shows nearly 75% of all meetings are attended by two to four people.

Get our cheat sheet to see how conference room space planning has changed since COVID-19.

To best meet the needs of your employees, your workplace should have: 

One-on-one spaces

Purpose: Offer privacy so employees can work quietly or take a call without being interrupted
Ideal size: 25-50 sq. ft. (can be smaller for single occupancy)
Occupancy: 1-2
Furnishings: Wireless internet connection, outlet, desk, chair, monitor, and laptop connector

*Don’t forget to include nursing rooms in your individual spaces! They should offer comfortable seating and a door that locks. 

Huddle areas

Purpose: Used for brainstorming sessions and collaborative work between smaller groups in the office
Ideal size: 100-150 sq. ft., does not need to be enclosed
Occupancy: 2-6 under normal circumstances; may be less with physical distancing
Furnishings: Soft seating, table, whiteboard, wireless internet connection, outlet, monitor, connector

Small conference rooms

Purpose: Smaller meetings that may include a mix of in-office and remote employees
Ideal size: 150-200 sq. ft.
Occupancy: 6-8 under normal circumstances; 3-4 with physical distancing
Furnishings: Table, chairs, whiteboard, wireless internet connection, outlet, monitor, connector, conference room speaker

Large conference rooms

Purpose: Department meetings, client meetings, training
Occupancy: 12-20 under normal circumstances; 6-10 with physical distancing
Ideal size: 500 sq. ft. or more
Furnishings: Table, chairs, whiteboard, wireless internet connection, outlet, monitor, connector, conference room speaker, bottled water, individually wrapped snacks

Once you’ve established how to arrange a large, formal conference room, you can use the same practices and methods to guide your decision-making on other types of meeting spaces.

How much conference room space do you need?

Whether you’re revamping an existing space or planning a new office design, the first step is the same: calculating the proper ratio of table size to available space.

A good rule of thumb is to ensure there is approximately 10 feet of difference between the length of the table and the length of the room.

For example, if your large conference room is 20-by-20 feet, the maximum size table you should use is 10 feet. This allows five feet of space on either end for employees to comfortably walk through. You can certainly use a larger table, but it will likely mean you need to compromise in other ways — like having fewer chairs. You also need to consider the shape of the conference room table. An oval or boat-shaped table will occupy the space differently than a rectangular table. 

If the room will contain a storage unit, be sure to take into account the clearance necessary to be able to open drawers or cupboards. Even a single standard four-drawer filing cabinet takes up at least 10-15 square feet of space when opened.

It’s also important to consider door swing clearances. Employees should be able to easily enter and exit the space without having to awkwardly shuffle sideways or press themselves against the wall to allow someone to pass.

In addition to these measurements, there are a few other measurements to keep in mind so your conference room doesn’t feel cramped. Here are a few standard guidelines:

  • Space between the edge of table and wall: 48-56”
  • Space to allow employees to walk between chair and wall: 16-24”
  • Space between table and TV or whiteboard: 56”
  • Space to allow employees to present material on display/whiteboard: 24-30”
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How can you redesign conference rooms for safety?

As you make plans to reopen your office, you'll need to think about how to limit capacity in conference rooms and reconfigure others to maintain appropriate physical distance. 

Most conference rooms will need to operate at about half capacity, meaning a conference room originally built for 12 people will now only occupy six. 

With room scheduling panels, you can set recommended occupancy for each room and adjust as needed.

Some smaller conference rooms designed to fit just a few people may need to be reconfigured for safety. 

Using our space management software and our new Space-Right™ planning feature, you can set your distancing parameters, and our intelligent algorithm will instantly show you which rooms need to be reconfigured. 

It will also recommend next steps, such as converting the room to an office. 

In addition to rethinking conference room space planning, you'll also need to consider how you will keep rooms clean. You can use room reservation software or occupancy  sensors to see which spaces were used each day so you can prioritize your cleaning schedule. 

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How can room reservation software improve conference room utilization?

After you’ve calculated the right amount of conference room space for your workplace, you need to make sure your employees are getting the most out of it.

The most effective way to maximize your meeting conference room utilization is with room reservation software. Room reservation software gives employees on-demand access to information about every conference room and meeting space in the office and allows them to easily locate and reserve the type of workspace that best fits their needs, right from their computer or mobile device.

This also gives your facilities team insight into which spaces are used most frequently so you can adjust cleaning schedules and plan for the future. As you reopen your office, the ability to monitor utilization is essential. 

Want to see how it works? Schedule a free demo.

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