Improve workplace culture, one meeting at a time

Achieving a human-centric workplace of the future includes making meetings better – by design

The endless stretch of video conferences in 2020-21 may have made in-person meetings seem more appealing—but too many conference rooms are still filled with stressed-out workers. As organizations increasingly put people first in workplace design, it’s time we humanize meeting space and strategy, too.

For many employers, COVID-19 cast new light on the importance of employee well-being. Many are actively seeking ways to create a post-pandemic work ecosystem based on care, as opposed to the old standards of productivity and efficiency. That means rethinking not only how and where we work, but how and where we communicate with our colleagues and develop game-changing ideas together.

Working from home amid the pandemic lifted us collectively out of our long-established communications grooves. With distance and perspective, workplace leaders have been able to evaluate and find gaps in how we used to meet, and set new goals for improving meeting culture.

The overscheduled talent problem

The nagging feeling that we spend half our work lives in meetings is actually not far from the truth. According to JLL research, executives spend an average of 23 hours a week in meetings—up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.

That’s a lot of time spent in a decidedly unpopular, and arguably inefficient pursuit. In most cases, the general goal of a meeting is to make decisions. But are poorly run, ill-timed meetings really the best way to get the job done?

Yesteryear’s meeting model doesn’t inspire employees to bring their best. Back-to-back meetings, with no breaks in sight, burn employee energy, draining their ability to be effective throughout the day and adding incremental stress. For example, Microsoft research found that managers who did not take breaks showed a spike in stress with every meeting, while those who took breaks maintained a relatively low or baseline stress level throughout the day.

Meanwhile, unappealing meeting space coupled with clunky conferencing technology creates a gap between in-person and remote colleagues, undermining the wellness benefits of hybrid work and diminishing engagement.

How can we turn that insight into action and make meetings more valuable, more human, and frankly, more inspiring? And how can we ensure conference room design and technology is centered on care, cooperation and commitment for employees both onsite and working remotely?

Five ways to put people first in meeting space design and strategy

As you build out a new vision for your firm’s meetings, avoid familiar pitfalls with the following tips:

1. Pave the way for more humane schedules with conference room technology. Traditionally, meetings are scheduled for either 30 or 60 minutes, leaving no time for participants to reset, or even take a bio break. Instead, update your reservation system time frames to offer 20- and 45-minute time slots. Keep the rooms empty during the interim period. In addition to supporting employee mental health, this tactic can make conference rooms feel more like a field of play or a performance venue, which encourages participants to come prepared and make the most of their time.

The sensory learning space, part of JLL’s Experience / Spaces solution, provides an auditorium-style environment that adds flexibility in posture and configuration to accommodate different styles of learning.

2. Prioritize wellness breaks at a management level. The pandemic has affected employees at all levels, but managers have been under particular stress as they’ve helped rally their teams amid the challenges of remote work. And now they’re being tasked with setting the tone of the hybrid workplace. In short, managers need breaks too—and encouraging them to take time for a mental reset will help reduce their team’s overall stress levels, in meetings and beyond. When employees see their managers taking breaks, they will feel supported to do the same. JLL’s Experience / Anywhere solution proactively schedules wellness breaks on calendars so employees are reminded – and encouraged – to take breaks.

3. Make space to reset. Just like athletes use locker rooms and the sidelines to recover between plays, people need space to reset their minds between meetings. Dedicated relaxation areas near conference rooms—perhaps even tech-free zones—will give employees a place to take a break.

The studio, part of JLL’s Experience / Spaces solution, is the place for employees to get ready, reset, and store belongings in the office.

4. Spark participation by providing “warm up” space near meeting rooms. For meetings to be productive, people need time to prepare, whether by reviewing related materials or refining their own planned comments. Set aside space adjacent to the conference room where people can spend 10 to 15 minutes before the meeting starts so they’re ready to participate.

The focus pods, part of JLL’s Experience / Spaces solution, are small spaces that offer choice for where to accomplish heads down focus work and prepare for important meetings.

5. Elevate the meeting experience with a dedicated planning team. Many meetings fall flat or fail to inspire simply because no one has time to organize them. Turn that trend around by enlisting a meeting services leader who can cover the bases for all your meetings, from making sure technology is working, to restocking the whiteboard markers and ordering food. Meeting technology support is especially critical in hybrid work environments, where participants will likely include both people sitting in the room and people joining via video.

The future of the meeting is human

Improving meeting scheduling, technology and space may seem like simple adjustments, but they can have broader ripple effects across the employee experience and workforce wellbeing. When employees feel their needs are met, they’re more likely to bring their whole selves to work.

Now, as organizations are actively rewriting the future of work, let’s bring that spirit of innovation and care to design a more human future of meetings, too.

To learn more, download our white paper, “Workforce readiness must include workplace wellness.”