Over the past several years, there has been a fairly large shift in the way that companies furnish their offices. An increased understanding as to the dangers of sitting and the benefits of physical activity have led businesses to adopt bike desks, standing desks or other non-traditional workstations. But, what happens when your employees have to step away from their desks to attend a meeting? How can you incorporate these same basic ideas into your meeting room design? What are the potential benefits of doing so?
Why should the classic meeting room design be reexamined? As mentioned, the practice of sitting all day has been maligned pretty heavily recently and has even been deemed "the new smoking." This is the result of several high-quality studies that directly link prolonged periods of sitting with increase risk of obesity, multiple diseases and even a shorter lifespan.
In response, many people have gone in the opposite direction and made efforts to stand all day instead. This, unfortunately, isn't necessarily the solution either. Studies have also found that standing for prolonged periods can be just as damaging to your long-term health as sitting. The real problem, then, is not sitting or standing — it's being sedentary.
But, what does any of this have to do with the most effective way to design a meeting room? It highlights that a truly healthy workspace should encourage and foster movement. Not only is this more healthy but regular activity during the workday has been found to increase productivity, creativity and overall morale. A properly designed room can make the meeting both more beneficial and more enjoyable.
Mix Things Up
Based on the above-mentioned research, the trick is to create opportunities for a variety of postures and activities in the meeting space. This can be done through the use of ergonomic desks, treadmill desk, bike desks or other similar design. It's important, however, to provide options. Simply filling a room with bike desks and passively pressuring everyone to pedal during the meeting can be demoralizing and counter-productive.
In addition to a shift in furniture choices, however, this type of meeting room would also require a change in overall meeting style. The attendees have to feel like they have the freedom to move or change positions as the mood strikes. This, in turn, would lead to a looser structure and could encourage ideas to flow more freely.
Think Outside The Room
Increasingly, many businesspeople — including Mark Zuckerburg — have started to incorporate walking meetings into their routines. As the name suggests, these meetings are conducted while on the move rather than in a traditional conference room.
In addition to the professional benefits associated with physical activity, walking meetings have a few added perks. First, the change in scenery can trigger brain activity and encourage creative thinking. More subtly, though, walking meetings also eliminate some of the corporate barriers that can limit the expression of new ideas while creating strong bonds between coworkers.
By reconsidering meeting room design, employers can make meetings more enjoyable and more productive.