Regardless of which business sector you’re in, you spend a lot of time organizing and holding meetings. And a lot of money. In the US, middle managers spend 35% of their time in meetings, and upper managers spend 50% of theirs. And it’s estimated that there are 11 million meetings a day (scale that out to a year). Most of those take place in meeting rooms, and good space utilization is key to today’s facility management processes, costs and workflows.
A small meeting room, for up to eight people, is usually about 120 sq. ft. (the size of an average-sized bedroom), while a larger one, for 9-25 people, is around 350 sq. ft. (a bit smaller than a double garage). For the sake of argument, let’s say there’s a small- to medium-sized company with 500 employees that has ten meeting rooms – two large and eight smaller ones. That’s 1660 sq. ft. devoted to meeting room space. You pay the rent on that, plus electricity, IT, AV equipment and heating/air conditioning. You’ve bought or leased furniture for those rooms. That adds up to a substantial sum, even before you factor in meeting attendee costs.
Yet a benchmarking report from HOK and an article from the Wall Street Journal have some interesting numbers about meeting spaces:
- They’re used only one-third of the time (depending on the industry – numbers range from 29-36%) so, in an eight-hour workday, spaces are idle five of those hours
- 53% of conference rooms are designed to accommodate seven or more people
- 73% of meetings take place between 2-4 people (and half of all meetings involve only two people)
That adds up to a lot of expensive space just sitting empty. A Knoll Workplace research paper on distributed work finds that smaller meeting spaces have higher utilization rates, and suggests finding ways to use larger, underused spaces to accommodate multiple smaller meetings to save money over the long run. And considering that employees waste up to 30 minutes a day simply looking for a meeting space (either where they should go, or an available space for an impromptu meeting), an efficient booking system is a must.
Obviously, if you’re building a new space, you can create flexible work areas and shared spaces. But you can also maximize efficiencies for an existing office by incorporating ideas to use meetings spaces more effectively, allowing more teamwork and collaboration, having flexible solutions for open spaces, and accommodating off-site employees (traveling or working remotely). Hot desking – an ad hoc, no-reservation, catch-as-catch-can seating system, has fallen out of favor with most businesses. But office hoteling – similar to hot desking but with space reservations, is on the rise.
One of the most powerful tools you can use for efficient space utilization is digital room signs. Room signs show bookings and event schedules right outside shared spaces. They pull reservations from your calendaring system (Exchange, EMS, Google Calendars, R25/25 Live, etc.), so any change made in the app is automatically updated on the signs.
Some room signs are interactive to let you book right at the sign, with the calendar system being updated from there – what gets scheduled in one place shows up in both places, so there’s no chance of double bookings. You can see the whole schedule for each room, or an overview of all available spaces. Whether someone wants to book a space for a meeting a week from now, or in 15 minutes, all the information is available and up to date.
Room signs easily mount on the wall, and smaller models, such as e-ink signs, are wireless and can be moved around at will, which makes them perfect for office hoteling and shared spaces. These signs let you turn any area into a meeting space for a limited time, and are very affordable at just a few hundred dollars each.
Room signs can also extend your digital signage real estate by showing messages from a playlist so people stuck in meeting areas don’t miss important announcements. And you can increase room sign usage by advertising them on your regular digital signs – you can even feature short videos showing how easy they are to use.
Good reporting tools in your calendar app are also essential for analyzing your space utilization. They let you see how your meeting spaces are being booked so you can make improvements. If people are scheduling rooms for an hour, but only using them for half an hour, you can send out friendly reminders via your digital signage to reduce reservation lengths. The same goes for if people are reserving large rooms but only four people come to the meeting.
Room signs and good booking practices can help you streamline your existing spaces right now, increasing space utilization and making the entire process more people-friendly. This increases employee satisfaction, which in turn makes them more productive. Plus, all your rooms can be combined into a single space management system.