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As the modern workplace shifts away from assigned seats and individual work in favor of more agile practices and collaboration, proper space planning has become even more important. It’s not just about cost savings, but about the quantity and quality of your space — especially your conference rooms.
How do you know how many conference rooms you need for each employee as you grow? And how can you be sure employees will use them?
Here’s how to create a space planning strategy that maximizes conference room utilization.
Conference room utilization metrics measure how often conference rooms are used around the office, who uses them, and why and how they're being used. In order to be effective with space planning, you need to understand the full picture of how your office's conference rooms are being used currently so you can identify gaps between what's needed and what's available.
In the modern workplace, having a variety of meeting room types is just as important as having the right number of rooms. Each department or line of business will likely have different needs, so you’ll need different types of spaces to accommodate them. For instance, your sales team may have weekly team meetings of a dozen or more people all in one room, while your developers are more geographically distributed. They still meet regularly, but they may only have four people in the office and eight people working remotely.
To meet the needs of your team as you grow and maximize conference room utilization, you need a mix of the following meeting room types:
One-on-spaces are for the many meetings that involve just two employees. These spaces don’t need a large table or TV, so they can be as small as 16 square feet and don’t necessarily require an enclosed space.
To boost conference room utilization in one-on-one spaces, you can use design elements to designate particular areas of the office as one-on-one meeting areas, but be sure to have at least one or two small rooms where colleagues can meet behind closed doors to discuss more sensitive subjects and employees can take private calls. These spaces are also a good spot for interviews.
Huddle rooms or huddle areas are versatile spaces designed for meetings of all kinds, especially brainstorming sessions and collaborative work between smaller groups. These types of spaces generally have a more casual atmosphere and are for meetings with an agenda that don’t require privacy.
Huddle rooms can either be an enclosed area of at least 100 square feet or a space with comfortable seating and a whiteboard (which can act as both a canvas for sketching ideas and a divider to separate the huddle space from the rest of the office).
It's very important to analyze your small conference room utilization metrics. Many companies design conference rooms that seat seven to 10 people with the intention of creating a space that can accommodate meetings of various sizes. In reality, a room that size is often either too large or too small for a typical meeting and, as a result, will sit empty more often than not.
According to a benchmarking report by architecture-engineering firm HOK, nearly 75% of meetings are attended by groups of no more than four. That’s why it’s better to offer multiple conference rooms of around 150-200 square feet that can seat up to six people. These rooms can be used for more formal meetings and should include a TV or projector so attendees can easily share their screens.
One of the benefits of having four to five small conference rooms in the office as opposed to a few larger meeting rooms is the flexibility to experiment with a variety of designs and styles to better suit the different types of meetings.
A large conference room should be at least 500 square feet and comfortably seat 13-20 people. These spaces can be used for client visits, more formal meetings, training sessions, and employee onboarding. It should include videoconferencing technology for meetings with remote employees and clients who aren’t able to visit your workplace in person.
To really drive your large conference room utilization, it’s a good idea to use a layout and furniture that can easily be reconfigured to accommodate either a smaller meeting or multiple activities simultaneously.
You’ve followed space planning best practices, and you have a good mix of conference rooms in your workplace so far. Now you’re planning for an expansion that could add as many as 100 additional employees.
How do you ensure your new workplace has enough conference rooms for everyone? You'll need an accurate and reliable way to predict future conference room utilization. But it can often feel like guesswork if you don't know where to start.
A good starting point is to consider these five questions:
High density workplaces are usually flexible work environments with no assigned seating (such as activity-based working or hot-desking) where 80-150 square feet is allocated for each employee. Average density work environments (150-250 square feet per employee) have a more traditional office layout with a blend of individual workstations and private offices. In higher density workplaces, the average conference room to employee ratio is 1:10, whereas in offices with dedicated desks, the ratio is closer to 1:20.
After reviewing the answers to the five questions above, you’ll have a better idea of how many of each meeting space type your workplace should have. It’s also important to consider factors beyond objective figures like the size of your workforce and available space.
For example, what kind of industry are you in, and who are your typical clients? The meeting spaces a software provider needs will likely be vastly different than those of a healthcare company, even if both organizations have approximately the same number of employees and square footage — meaning you need to assess your specific needs to accurately forecast conference room utilization.
In addition, consider the unique needs and preferences of your employees. Having the right mix of conference rooms empowers employees with the ability to choose a space that best supports the goal of the meeting, helping not only to increase conference room utilization, but also contributing to a more positive workplace experience.
Efficient space planning only goes so far if your conference room utilization is poor.
One of the most common reasons low conference room utilization happens is that your conference rooms appear to be booked on employees’ calendars when they are actually available. For instance, an employee may have reserved a room for the afternoon, but had to move the meeting to another day at the last minute. Since the employee didn’t actually cancel the room reservation, another employee who could have used the room doesn't, because they assume it’s still booked.
Inaccurate or outdated information, such as in the example above, can hurt conference room utilization and make it difficult to truly understand patterns and changes in your conference room utilization.
That’s why it’s essential to use room scheduling software and digital room panels that show the status of every room in real time.
This allows employees to easily book rooms or cancel reservations at a moment’s notice. It also gives you an easy way to measure actual conference room utilization.
Internet of Things (IoT) sensors takes this a step further by monitoring utilization in real time. IoT sensors can be installed in every conference room and meeting space and unobtrusively measure occupancy throughout the day. The integration between IoT sensors and room reservation software eliminates ghost bookings because if the sensors don’t detect anyone 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, the room reservation software automatically updates the status.
And because all this data is transmitted directly to your space management software, you get a complete picture of conference room utilization across your organization.
This allows you to plan confidently for the future and ensure you always have enough conference room space to meet your needs.
At a moment when the future of work is still unfolding, it's more important than ever to have the ability to dive into what types of conference rooms are needed, resolve any shortages in meeting room types, and help support fluctuating demand based on real-time data.
Proper space planning makes your organization more profitable by maximizing your real estate and your employees’ productivity. Optimized conference room utilization starts by having the right mix of space and the right technology.
A member of the Business Development team, Glenn has years of experience with business process improvement on the Commercial Real Estate and Facilities Management sides.