This One Aspect of Your Office Design Is Wasting a Lot of Time and Money Creating smart meeting rooms is a very wise investment.

By David Levin

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The modern office was conceived at the turn of the 20th century by Frederick Winslow Taylor, imitating factory assembly lines, where clerks and executives could perform repetitive tasks with maximum efficiency. In recent years, our offices have changed to reflect the more collaborative nature of work, but meeting rooms have lagged behind.

Related: Science Has Some Suggestions for Making Meetings Productive

Back in the Mad Men era, employees worked for a boss and gathered in his office for meetings. On the few occasions when a large room was needed, a secretary would book a suitable room. If a presentation was to be made, there would be flip charts and perhaps an overhead projector showing some slides to people in the room, watching through a haze of cigarette smoke.

Today, work has changed utterly. We all still have a boss, but we tend to work in collaborative, cross-functional clusters rather than within isolated reporting lines. Fewer people have offices to hold small meetings in, and almost no one has a secretary to book a room for a meeting. The end result, as anyone who works in an office knows, is groups of people wandering around looking for an open room. And then, minutes after finding an empty room, often getting kicked out by a late-arriving group.

Poorly used meeting space wastes money.

Meetings are expensive -- the rent of the office space combined with the wages of each attendee -- but a lot of that investment is wasted. A UCLA and University of Minnesota study finds that executives spend up to half of their working hours in meetings and that as much as 50 percent of that time is unproductive. With 17 million business meetings in the United States every day, there are a lot of frustrated workers: 88 percent of people are annoyed by technology problems in meeting rooms, and 20 percent of meetings run late due to those issues, wasting 2.83 working days a year for the average employee.

Related: How to Create a Meeting-Smart Work Culture

It's no wonder that removing these headaches, solving the daily productivity challenges and streamlining workflows is a priority for businesses in every industry. And a majority of those organizations are installing integrated meeting room systems -- with touchscreen tablets -- outside each room to solve meeting room management challenges. Employees are tired of having to log onto a computer to find the shared network drive where they can reserve an open room. Instead, a growing number of companies are equipping their meeting rooms with interactive display panels on the wall just outside the door, empowering employees to instantly book the room and be on their way.

Having a simple meeting room solution is increasingly important as fewer workers have assigned desks or their own offices.

Modern meeting room solutions include the ability to cancel a reservation if no one shows up within 15 minutes of scheduled meeting start time, immediately opening the room for a new reservation. The technology also allows employees to extend reservation or contact support staff if there are problems with equipment or other issues. There are even meeting room management solutions with built-in light indicators, showing real-time room availability; green if the room is available or red if it's booked.

Related: How to Master Meetings (Infographic)

Upgrading meeting rooms is key to revitalizing office space.

Making meeting rooms more interactive and easier to navigate is part of a movement to upgrade our office spaces to better reflect how we work today. Real estate executives acknowledge updating is needed with 86 percent saying they are remaking or adapting offices and another 51 percent are planning to reinvent shared workspaces this year, according to the CBRE's 2017 Americas Occupier Survey. Employing technology to more efficiently use meeting space is a vital part of those efforts and can make a big impact on a company's bottom line.

In fact, one of the top global professional services companies installed a digital meeting system and ran analytics to figure out how to optimize the use of its offices globally. Analytics revealed how often meeting rooms were empty and how often staff were working in each office. The information revealed that the firm was renting more office space than it really needed, prompting a move to a more efficient hoteling system of office space management. For example, at the company's building in Times Square, in the heart of Manhattan, the firm was able to sublet three floors, an initiative that ultimately saved the company millions in rent, annually.

Inflexible, static meeting room signage is one of the last vestiges of the 1980s-era office design. Making meeting rooms easier to use is part of the evolution of the workplace, and companies are currently clamoring to make that transition -- because the benefits of digital meeting room management solutions are as wide-ranging as they are impactful.

Related Video: This Tech Business Holds Company-Wide, 15-Minute Standing Meetings to Keep Employees Connected

David Levin

President and CEO at Four Winds Interactive

David Levin co-founded Four Winds Interactive in 2005 with a vision for how digital technology would transform the way businesses communicate with their customers and employees. FWI has 6,000 clients and over 500,000 screens deployed in airports, hotels, hospitals and casinos across the country.

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