Spongy sofas in a conference room meant to attract workers to the office



Chances are you’ve been in a meh meeting.

I’m talking about a meeting with fuzzy goals, an aimless agenda, and endless hours of winding mumbles from morons who should never have been invited in the first place, including you.

You probably have your own list of reasons why good meetings go well, but I bet there are two explanations you’ve never even considered: the design and decor of the conference room. Yet these are exactly the issues managers across the country are focusing on as they try to make the idea of ​​returning to the office more appealing.

If you don’t believe me, wait until there’s a bio break in your current meeting and read “Say Goodbye to the Boring Boardroom,” a recent article by Jane Margolies in The New York Times.

“To help employees get back to the office after more than two years of working from their couches and dining tables,” writes Margolies, “companies are looking to make their offices more welcoming and conducive to collaboration, including breakout rooms. conference”.

One company that has really jumped on this concept is LinkedIn, where conference room tables have been eliminated to create “spaces that are more like living rooms. Each has a plush sofa with throw pillows, and plants and books abound. “. (Note to LinkedIn management – a squishy couch seems appropriate for the squishy ideas that come out of most meetings, but be careful of the cushions. There are just too many boring managers to toss them around.)

While I’m sure you’re an advocate of making office life better, don’t you doubt that your company cares enough or spends enough to make your office truly welcoming?

“Hey, let’s go to the beach this vacation”, I really can’t hear you say. “Let’s go to the conference room and sit on the spongy couch instead.”

Another forward-thinking firm, Inspired Capital, came up with the idea of ​​having their office look done by “a designer who specializes in residential interiors.” The result was a “charcoal conference room with a massive gilt-framed antique mirror leaning against one wall and a diagonally placed Anthropologie modernist oak table”.

It’s a good start, but the designer didn’t go far enough. If companies want a smoother transition to the office, they need boardrooms furnished with shabby Barcaloungers artistically positioned on floors littered with crumpled pizza boxes and crushed beer cans. And if anything is leaning against a wall, it should be an 83-inch Sony OLED 4K UHD Series OLED Google Smart TV.

In other words, the conference room should look exactly like your living room, but with a better TV.

It’s a win-win! Your boss makes you work in the office and you think you are still working from home.

Another major change begs the question “Honey, who shrunk the conference room table?” Yes, we say no to the traditional rectangular table with the boss at the end and the minions on the sides. (Which is too bad. The shape worked so well for Henry VIII.) According to architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it’s hip to be square. Why? Because a square table in a square conference room is more “democratic. No more head of the table”.

Unfortunately, the democratic goal of the square table design will not work in your business. If you get a square table, C-level types will just increase the height of their chairs. Hovering one foot over the boardroom table should be enough to satisfy your managers’ ego needs, at least until they develop wings and learn to fly.

Technology will also play an important role in your newly imagined conference room.

“Cameras and microphones were mounted on walls and ceilings to capture responses from in-person participants for the benefit of those working remotely,” Margolies writes. “Many companies are using a 360 degree camera for the benefit of those working remotely.”

Where there are no cameras, there will be screens – giant screens on two, three or four walls so that everyone seated around the table can see everyone participating from their homes. And vice versa.

If you think having cameras on you from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. will make you feel like you’re in a high-tech horror movie, you’re right. Don’t be surprised if you stare at a screen to see bloodthirsty maniacs in clown costumes sneaking up behind you with cleavers in hand.

But don’t be afraid. It’s just HR.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on to

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