By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager

Did you know you have an efficiency issue hiding in plain sight? It’s your meeting and conference rooms. For customers, the time wasted traveling to and from meetings is more important than the time it takes to book one. Employees waste valuable time to book one, then lose even more work minutes traveling to and from them.

One of our customers—an enterprise communications company—discovered more than 65% of its employees travel one floor or more for meetings. That’s bad enough, but they also found large conference rooms are regularly occupied by small groups. Add to that many meetings end early, but the room sits empty because it’s technically reserved and the waste piles on.

These issues result in lost productivity as well as poor space utilization. The good news is these problems can be solved by taking the workplace data you already have and analyzing it with workplace management software to make meeting room use more efficient.

How Meeting Rooms Waste Time

Ask your employees if they feel like there is enough meeting space and they’ll likely respond with an overwhelming “no.” But does the data match their opinions? The fact is that most companies don’t know exactly how many meeting rooms are used and for how long. But if your conference rooms are reserved through email, you are sitting on a data goldmine of answers.

You’ll probably be surprised that your employees are meeting more often than you think. For example, a 2019 Gartner survey of more than 7,000 employees found they spend 11.7 hours per week in meetings, with 9% reporting more than 20 hours per week in meetings. With that volume, it’s no wonder there is booking frustration. But even though people assume they don’t have enough meeting space, the actual problem is that they don’t have access to the right meeting spaces. Here’s where the disconnect can occur:

  • Departments that meet frequently are located on different floors or even separate buildings.
  • Large meeting rooms rarely hit capacity.
  • Only certain conference rooms have certain amenities (e.g., A/V systems).
  • Meetings include video participants, but the room is booked for the total number of attendees, not the number of people physically present.
  • The closest conference room doesn’t match a team’s typical meeting size.
  • Zombie meetings tie up rooms when recurring meetings aren’t canceled when not needed.
  • Meeting rooms are perceived to “belong” to a certain department or floor.
  • Boardrooms can’t be reserved by the general staff.
  • People get comfortable booking what they know, not what’s the most efficient room size.
  • There’s no incentive (or consequence) when booking a room that isn’t the right size.

And sometimes it’s the smallest thing that affects which conference rooms are popular. Details like fabric or leather chairs, new whiteboards, a fun wall color, or even a window may not seem like amenities to you, but they can make a difference to employees.

When our enterprise communications client reviewed their most booked meeting rooms, they found each one had Zoom capabilities. It all came down to video conferencing. To alleviate reservation congestion, they simply added A/V equipment to every room.

Five Strategies to Curb Wasted Time and Space

Once you pinpoint sources of meeting inefficiency, it’s time to take action. It’s important for meeting rooms to align with not only when and where employees meet, but also how they gather.

  1. Relocate Departments—Data from our enterprise client showed that more than 35% of meetings involve two departments. All that time walking to the other end of the building, between several floors, or even across campus adds up.
    Say your product team is on the first floor and engineering is on the seventh, but they both meet three times a week. That’s a ton of wasted time just getting to and from meetings. Use adjacency planning so both teams and an appropriately sized conference room are located near each other.
  2. Right-Size Conference Rooms—Are your meeting spaces too big? Your data will tell you. If a 10-person conference room is frequently booked for four people, that’s an ineffective use of square footage. Look for under-capacity, recurring meetings and reassign them to more appropriately sized spaces.
  3. Relocate Conference Rooms—Does your calendar data show that a team of 12 often books a conference room on another floor? The reason is that they likely don’t have a big enough nearby space. Remember that meeting rooms are a resource—proximity makes a difference. Relocate the team or move the conference room to cut down on travel distance.
  4. Release Reserved Spaces—Overstaying conference room bookings is rarely the problem with meeting room friction. Instead, it’s understaying—or not using the space for the reserved time. Our client found that only 20% of rooms were occupied for scheduled meeting times or longer. That means 80% of meeting rooms are unoccupied yet unavailable to schedule for a certain duration. Consider presence-sensing solutions, like motion sensors, to determine when a room is empty and “release” it digitally so it can be booked by another group.
  5. Include Huddle Spots—A one-on-one meeting doesn’t require a formal conference room. Neither does a brainstorming session with three people. But where can small groups go for an impromptu chat? Your workplace should have casual meeting spaces that don’t require a reservation. Sprinkle lounges, cafeteria booths, soft seating, and bar-height counters throughout your office.

Worried you need to buy expensive software to analyze all this meeting room data? It’s already at your fingertips through your calendar system. SpaceIQ even offers a calendar integration function that generates usage reports. Turn all this data into your own powerful case study. You might be surprised to find how much time and space you can save when you optimize your conference rooms.

Keep reading: 5 Rules and Tips for Effective Conference Room Management

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