Designing & Building Successful Co-Working Spaces

Like mentioned in my previous blog, co-working spaces are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Although Europe has been ahead of the game when it comes to fostering a healthy work environment for individuals who don’t work a standard in-office, 9-to-5 type of job, the United States is in no way behind in terms of innovation. New co-working spaces popping up in major cities, like New York, Denver, and San Francisco, are demonstrating how to be more than just “a space to work together”. These spaces are being designed and built in such a way that creativity, collaboration and productivity aren’t just cultivated – they’re actually given the environment and community they need to thrive.

So, what are some elements that you should take into consideration if you’re thinking about designing and building a co-working space?

1. Get Connected. Create a co-working space that allows for people to connect to the internet with as much speed as possible via Wi-Fi and hardwire. For some people, a Wi-Fi-only co-working space isn’t as appealing as it might sound. When designing a co-working space, ensure that gives access to both types of connections.

2. Provide Options. Different types of work require different types of settings. And, work for everyone who uses your space might change from day-to-day. It’s important to offer options for people to choose from as needed – dedicated desks for focused work, library or co-working tables for coffee-shop work, and even small offices for private meetings and phone calls.

3. Offer Storage. The best co-working spaces give people a place to store the items they don’t need while working, like workout gear or after-work clothes. When designing your co-working space, be sure to include a locked storage space for members who would want to take advantage of that courtesy.

4. Consider Dimensions. The dimensions of your co-working space need to be just right in order for people to actually enjoy what they came to do: work. In most instances, you’ll want to opt for higher ceilings (ideally a minimum of 10 to 15 feet) and co-working desks that are at least 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep. If you want to offer dedicated desks for members, these should be at least 2 feet by 5 feet. Larger multi-person work stations are often built to be 6 feet by 6 feet with filing cabinets and storage built-in below.

5. Create a Courtyard. If you want your co-working space to be a place that people really enjoy working at, then you need to create some sort of indoor or outdoor courtyard in your design. This open space, which is ideally centrally located and connected to the main work areas, drastically improves the overall environment. It gives people a sense of community because it’s a great opportunity to mingle – if everyone is stuck at desks, you’re not creating much of a chance for workers to get to know each other. Including a garage door near this area is perfect for bringing in food trucks and creating a cool, relaxed social space during events.

6. Think “Neighborhood”. You want your co-working space to be designed with “neighborhoods” or pockets – not just one big park. The most attractive co-working spaces are the ones that have specific areas for people. Just like certain neighborhoods appeal to certain people at specific times in their lives, your co-working space should have an opportunity for everyone to feel like they belong.

7. Personal Touches. Popular co-working spaces always have a great personality. Whether you choose specific art and lighting or design elements like plants, consider the “vibe” you want workers to experience the moment they walk in. While you don’t want your space to feel overwhelming or chaotic, you absolutely want to avoid anything that feels impersonal or mass-produced.

8. Lots of Light. The more natural light your co-working space has, the more popular it will be (and you can charge more, too). When possible, design your space with as many windows and opportunities for natural light. While it’s tempting to put all your office spaces at the windows, it’s important to leave a lot of the natural light for your co-working spaces too. Glass walls or walls of windows are popular choices for current designs, but be sure you know your audience before you invest in that style. Too much light and not enough privacy can be an issue for some workers, so it is important to control transparency.

9. Be Convenient. Don’t overlook conveniences in your co-working space, such as a place for members to print, receive mail, enjoy coffee, etc. There should also be a plethora of outlets for people using your co-working space, as it’s not strange for people to need or want to plug in several different devices at once. Being convenient in location doesn’t hurt, either.

One of the most important factors of designing and building a great co-working space is knowing who you’re creating your space for. Don’t just choose elements because they seem cool or because you’re under the impression that they’re “what’s in” right now. Your space needs to be appealing visually, yes, but also practical – that’s the only way you’ll keep members in the long-run.

How to Create Engaging, Productive Open Office Spaces

Open office spaces are popular, but not necessarily because they make employees feel more engaged or productive. Although, in theory, they seem to check all of the boxes, some studies show that they can be problematic for certain types of workers who may need quiet, isolated space in order to focus and feel relaxed. That doesn’t mean, however, that open office spaces can’t work.

They can.

In order to make them truly effective, they need to be designed and delivered in a way that makes everyone in the office space feel involved. New research is showing that any office space can be conducive to productivity and engagement. It turns out that it’s less about how an office space looks and much more about how the design and concept makes people feel.

According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, this research has led to a better understanding about “place identity.” If employees connect with a space and feel like they have ownership and a sense of belonging, they automatically report “more engagement…more communication…and a stronger connection to the company.”

So, to make sure that your open office concept really gets the job done, here are a few key elements to consider:

  • Adjustable Furniture and Spaces. Adjustable furniture doesn’t just mean that heights of chairs and desks can be personalized (although that’s good). Allowing open concept office spaces to be able to adapt to daily needs, like the rearranging of desks, chairs, and tables, gives employees an opportunity to make the space their own. The more versatile and multi-purpose open office space designs can be, the more likely that workers will feel comfortable to work and collaborate regularly and effectively. If a design allows for spontaneity and imagination, then there’s a better chance that the concept will flourish. It is also a good idea to offer employees a chance to get away from all the openness. There are times where they will need to focus, without interruptions that come naturally with an open office. Providing focus rooms or small conference rooms prove to be helpful spaces to include in this design.
Ivy Tech Open Office - Focus Rooms

Ivy Tech Cental Office – Focus Rooms

  • Meaningful Details. To make open office spaces work, employees need to feel like it has been designed with meaning. Even more importantly, open concepts need to feel purposeful and personal. To keep employees from complaining about this type of design from feeling “noisy” or “distracting”, you need to make sure they identify with the space. Achieving this type of organization-wide inclusion isn’t always possible, but the more you can collaborate with employees about the design, allowing for opportunities for input and ideas, the more they will take ownership of it. This type of ownership is what will transform the “noisy” and “distracting” descriptors to the “energetic” and “collaborative” nomers you want.

 

  • Enthusiastic Design. When approaching a new project, especially if workers will make the transition from traditional to open work space with you, it’s important to stay positive and enthusiastic. Conveying the why behind the changes will help employees understand the concept – and will hopefully help garner their support. While in the design phase for Ivy Tech’s Central Office, we had a demo day for staff to try out and choose from accessory options to customize their space. Research shows that the more positive leadership can be when transitioning from one office design to another, the more the employees will match their attitude.

 

  • Be Open to Change. It is important to get users engaged early in the design process. As your open concept office space begins to take shape, it’s important to listen and acknowledge their needs. While something may have seemed like a good idea in the beginning, it could be apparent after a week or two that it isn’t functioning the way you want. Don’t resist changes. If employees offer a suggestion for how to make the space more engaging and productive, listen attentively and see if there’s a way to make the adjustment.

One of the best attributes of open office spaces is that they really do allow for better interaction between teams. This type of “cross-pollination” between groups within an organization can foster new ideas, creativity, and a sense of excitement at work.

To see more of our office work, check out our Workplace portfolio

Why Is Adaptive Reuse Important in Today’s World?

To understand the importance of adaptive reuse, one must first appreciate the value of old buildings and architecture.

While it can feel “progressive” to tear down the old in order to make room for the new, adaptive reuse defines progress differently. Rather than creating a narrow vision that imagines possibilities with a blank slate, reuse tailors creative thinking to focus on what currently exists and how it can be incorporated thoughtfully into the goals and ideas of the future. Adaptive reuse can be implemented on any building, although it’s most commonly used for when working with historic buildings.

As the world ages collectively, more and more buildings with rich histories are finding themselves in need of renovation and rejuvenation; adaptive reuse is the conscious decision to preserve the past while planning for the future. For example, many adaptive reuse projects bridge different worlds – churches becoming restaurants, hospitals becoming schools, and more.

Adaptive Reuse Example at Ivy Tech

Depending on the context, adaptive reuse can go by the name of property rehabilitation or historic redevelopment. Either way, the process and overall goal remains the same: to rescue discarded, unkempt buildings from a destructive fate and find them a new purpose.

Of course, adaptive reuse is not just a sentimental effort to save buildings, it is also a critical process to ensure communities don’t use (or waste) more materials than necessary.

Some cities have, unfortunately, decided to adopt a “newer is better” mindset, causing them to discard perfectly fine, usable resources in order to “upgrade”. This thinking has caused major issues for our environment and will continue to do so until we are able to see value in materials as they age. Instead, people should look at progressive cities, like Paris, London, and Amsterdam, for inspiration; many historic structures and facades in these iconic towns have been lovingly preserved for generations to come. In fact, adaptive reuse is a great example of how individuals can prove to the larger group that there are creative options for recycling, reusing, and repurposing already existing resources.

Sometimes cases will be made against reuse, mostly regarding factors that include the cost, time, and efficiency. However, adaptive reuse is both appealing and practical; sometimes even saving money by reducing certain costs. Other underlying factors, such as being able to use hard-to-find materials or recycle materials already on the location, allow for additional money to be saved – and all while making it possible to create beautiful aesthetics complete with rich textures and unique features. Lastly, the entire adaptive reuse process, from start to finish, protects the environment while also reducing unnecessary waste.

Any adaptive reuse project begins by doing a thorough examination of the building, to ensure the infrastructure exists to keep it functioning into the future. Then you can look for unique attributes and characteristics that make the building special. These features can be highlighted in new and exciting ways, once again giving them purpose and prominence. When looking for these unique elements, one can find what some see as a “ready to demolish” building and instead see both beauty and value. This allows for seemingly doomed buildings, and the often debilitated communities in which they stand, a chance at a new and brighter future.

Above all, the biggest driving factor behind adaptive reuse is the ability to keep stories and memories intact. In a world where mass production and imitation is the norm, adaptive reuse goes against the grain, literally building upon already existing stories, adding new chapters without rewriting an entire book.

Co-Working: The Future of Small Business Workspace

The concept of co-working spaces originally started on the West Coast in the mid-2000’s, driven by tech-focused start-ups. Breaking through the traditional, cubicle, 9-5 mindset has started to spread geographically and across industries. We now see a wide variety of professionals sitting alongside the traditional coders, web developers, and freelance designers within a co-working space. And co-working isn’t just for individual users, you can also find entire companies within the same walls. This environment and concept is perfect for small start-ups or people who work remote.

When compared to finding a traditional office space, a co-working space has a lot to offer:

  • Low-cost, flexible model – offering a start-up something they couldn’t afford while they are just getting going with short-term commitments and simple leases.
  • Community of like-minded people – broadening your connections within your community and increasing chances for collaboration outside of your current organization.
  • Change of scenery – something new and refreshing from the common office or home office setting to spark creativity.
  • Hive-Mentality – some comforts of home while providing the connectivity and convenience of an office.

When it comes to the design of an effective, efficient, and successful environment, there are several elements to keep in mind that are specific and unique to co-working:

  • Flexibility – Choose furniture that can be pulled together and scooted around easily, increasing the ability for users to create their own private work area or group collaboration spaces. Also think about elements of the space that could benefit from having movable walls – like an area that could be a small conference room by day but then open into one big room by night. A stage in the middle of a large room is a great example of an area that could be used two totally different ways. Also make sure your furniture is sized appropriately – you’d like to have room for a keyboard, monitor, monitor, keyboard so that people can work across from each other.
  • Definition of Space – You will need a variety of work environments in a co-working space to properly accommodate for the variety of users. This could mean suites for larger groups of people within one company, small and large conference rooms, private booths, open spaces with pockets of different furniture, and the list could go on. You will want to provide structure so that people can use the space in ways that are best for them on any given day. A user may need to focus privately by themselves one day and then chat in small groups the next.
  • Atmosphere – You want this type of space to feel homey, cozy, and relaxed. Bring in a mix of furniture you’d find in your living room, local artwork, and finishes you’d use in your own home. Keep in mind that most of your users will be from different types of backgrounds and cultures, so it is important to create a space welcoming to all. Creating a “coffee shop” or “café” space within the building can help to define an area as highly conversational, organically creating a separation from the “quiet zones” and a social hub without having to set strict rules.
  • Technology – This may be the most important, but most often forgotten aspect of co-working! The building needs to be equipped with the highest internet speed possible, tech that allows for video conferencing, and pervasive wi-fi coverage for user mobility. Work cannot go on without technology to support the people within the space.
  • Events – while the day-to-day business of a co-working space is the steady income, having a space that is available for large meetings, community events, and other functions (i.e.: weddings – you’d be surprised, but it happens!) will provide an additional stream of income as well as introduce a whole new group of people to your business. And experiencing the space in person is a much better way to attract new users than any other form of marketing you can do.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge and opening or renovating a co-working space, feel free to reach out to us!

A Word from our Owners – The Salvation Army Indiana Division

Majors Bob and Collette WebsterMajor Bob Webster – Divisional Commander, The Salvation Army Indiana Division

Major Robert Webster is a graduate of Asbury College with a degree in physical education and recreation. He also holds a Masters of Ministry degree from Olivet Nazarene University. Prior to becoming a Salvation Army officer, he worked as a physical education teacher for the Tampa, FL public school system and as a Community Center and Recreation Director in Atlanta and Indianapolis.

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Schmidt Associates regularly has Owners ask us about Facility Assessments and Master Plans, and how they can help guide their decisions. This month we took a minute to talk with The Salvation Army Indiana Division about how we helped them with both a comprehensive Facility Assessment and a Master Plan.

 

What made you realize The Salvation Army in Indiana needed a Facility Assessment and Master Plan?

We recognized we have a lot of facilities with no plan for operations and maintenance, and we had no way to determine what state they were all in. We wanted to know the health of the facilities, and try to evaluate how much would be necessary to spend to bring them back to an acceptable standard of health.

The entire process took longer than we thought it would get it done, but we had to take things to our advisory board and property committees. While the Facility Assessment and Master Plan were being developed, we also had a feasibility study done for a possible capital campaign. This all compounded what we thought would take a couple of months, and took longer since there is always a next step of approval.

The assessment of the facilities itself however went quickly. The Schmidt Associates team went to the facilities, gathered information, and wrote a thorough report.

How has the Master Planned guided your actions?

It helped us tremendously in the fact that combined with the assessment tool, it helped us to focus our priorities to better facilitate our clients, the people we work with every day. The Master Plan helped us recognize what steps were needed, and in what order, to get our vision done. We couldn’t do that without having a secure foundation. It allowed us to focus on what needed to be done and how to spend our resources.

At our camp, we were trying to figure out what the best way to spend the money would be. We wanted to expand, but also had liabilities with the existing facilities needing to be brought up to an acceptable manner. This was done alongside the Schmidt Associates team and provided recommendations of what needed to be done first.

Overall, we’re pleased with the process. It was enlightening how much we really needed to get done because the study was so thorough. It made us aware of all the intricacies needed to stay functional.

Did it change what you thought you needed to do from a facilities perspective? If so, how?

We knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done at our Headquarters, so we needed to figure out if we should invest in our existing building or relocate. When the neighbors decided to buy our building, it made the decision easier to put the money from the sale towards the new property instead of spending money to remodel. Had we invested in a remodel, we would not have been able to get additional square footage and additional parking. By relocating, we were able to invest in a larger space to better suit our needs.

In our other facilities, it helped us set a priority of what needed to be done first. We knew the HVAC at Harbor Light was a priority. However, this wouldn’t have been the first thing we did if it wasn’t for the study. Ironically, as the study finished, the chiller at Harbor Light died, which made us realize the report was providing us an accurate priority.

We found out things we didn’t want to spend money on, but recognized we needed to so we could move forward. It allowed our board to understand the necessity and reason since it was a third-party recommendation.

Describe the process of working with Schmidt Associates?

It was certainly pleasant. They are very knowledgeable in what they do. They did a great job of explaining it to non-technical individuals allowing us to understand each priority and need. The customer service was wonderful and the organization is run with excellent leadership. We recommend them to organizations all the time.

 

If we can help you assess or master plan your facilities, reach out!

A Word from an Owner – Anne Penny Valentine

Anne Penny Valentine
Vice President, Student Experience and Customer Service 
Ivy Tech Community College

We’ve had the privilege of working with Anne over the years on Ivy Tech projects and presentations regarding our work. We wanted to sit down with her to get her take on one of our projects, the renovation of the Ivy Tech Central Office downtown Indy.

 

What was the office space like before the renovation?

The challenge with this building was that it is 3 different buildings brought together, and we were a similar hodge-podge with multiple kitchenettes, desks, break out rooms, supplies closets, etc. The offices were all really small and only half of them had windows.

Attempts were made to group functional areas together, but as the size of groups fluctuated, departments moved. I was personally in a different area than the rest of my team. It wasn’t very functional.

What is the office space like now?

Now, we have a versatile space. Every space can be used by anyone, and people work near the people they interact with. Since the renovation, we‘ve had a lot of organizational changes, and the space has allowed us to accommodate those changes while still working within the space.

The flexibility of the meeting spaces is great. We have a large variety of sizes of conference rooms, along with focus rooms. The focus rooms’ designs range to accommodate a single individual or small groups. We also combined the kitchenettes into one space, resulting in a more informal space for interaction among colleagues that didn’t happen before the renovation.

Focus Rooms

Larger Conference Room and Desks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Describe the process of working with Schmidt Associates.

We had a cross-functional group of people – HR, finance, student affairs (me), and academics who met regularly to help come up with what we wanted this to look like. The great thing about Schmidt Associates was that they helped guide the discussions to make sure the space would meet our needs. They took us on tours of other open office spaces so we could visualize the results. This process was particularly important since it allowed us to see spaces that were so different than our offices at the time.

We didn’t take every recommendation from Schmidt Associates, and we also had big ideas that we couldn’t afford. Schmidt Associates helped us rank the priorities so we could maximize the budget. Our old maze of offices is now open with clear glass walls, making it easier to find people and interact with co-workers.

Has this affected office culture? If so, in what ways

This has completely changed the culture of how we interact. In some ways it’s been great, and in some ways, it has been challenging. Figuring out how to respect others whom need more focus can be a challenge. You need to be mindful of the people around you, which we never needed to do beforehand. We have extroverts and introverts. Some need headphones so they can focus.

I have a better sense of who all my co-workers are now that I can see them. It’s interesting seeing the personality of other departments come out under this new layout. Some areas decorate for different holidays, some celebrate birthdays or accomplishments with donuts and other snacks. Now that it is an open office environment, you can go grab a donut and have casual interaction with your co-workers, which is great.

Has the renovation improved efficiencies?

Prior to the renovation, we had multiple kitchenettes, storage rooms, desktop printers in every office (and they were all different!). Being able to consolidate into one kitchen area with fewer storage rooms has reduced redundant supply orders. We can actually press print from our computers and go to any printer, use our FOB, and our document prints. There’s no more loading a printer or walking across the office to the printer nearest your desk. It’s been great.

Dining Area

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A huge bonus has been natural light no matter where you go. This is extremely important in the middle of winter to see natural light, which we never had before. Some departments don’t even turn on the overhead lights anymore because they get enough natural light through the windows, which is great.

For those whom open space is difficult, we have plenty of focus rooms and they are regularly used. This has been important for both individuals, and small group meetings. We never needed to worry about noise before since everyone was in offices. Now, we have the flexibility to accommodate everyone’s personal work preference.

 

To view more project details, check out the project page or the Flickr album.

Impacts of Growing your Business Beyond 50 People

Great news! Your business is booming, and it is time for you to find a new location that serves the needs of your business and growing staff. You have possibly gotten by with renting a small space, maybe just a few rooms in an office building or a co-working space. But now you need a space of your own, and you don’t know what to do. If your business is still relatively small you can probably work with a local interior designer and get what you need for your new space. However, if your business is pushing or has passed the 50-person mark, I suggest you hire an architect specializing in workplace design.

Indiana uses the International Building Code and there are many additional code implications, mostly relating to egress, that need to be addressed when you are designing spaces for over 49 people. Your local architect is going to know and have experience working within these requirements to help you design a space that not only serves the needs of your business, but also keeps your employees and visitors safe. Let me tell you a little story about why this is so important.

I attended a meeting at a recently renovated office of a local Indianapolis business the other day and was very impressed with the space, until it was time to leave. When preparing to walk out the main door to the space, I noticed a deadbolt *gasp* right over the door handle! I quickly thought to myself that this new office space could easily support over 50 people. I look up. Sure enough, there is an exit sign over the door. Oh no!

Why does any of this matter you ask?

Architects are tasked with protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Making buildings and spaces safe environments for people is at the forefront of what we do. Making them look and function fabulously comes in at close second.

Being a licensed architect, I often find myself looking and noticing things that most people would never see. When I go through a space that has basic code infractions, my hackles go up a bit. Now, there was an attempt at correction made by a small sign affixed over the deadbolt saying something along the lines of “This door to remain unlocked during business hours”. But what about after hour functions, or if someone makes a mistake and forgets?

Or what if there is an emergency? As everyone is attempting to evacuate the space, what happens when they head for the door only to find it locked? People then pile up against each other pushing and shoving trying to get the heck out, but because of an inappropriate locking mechanism and high levels of panic, no one thinks of flipping the deadbolt. Not good. Properly designed, this door should be equipped with panic hardware – meaning you can push on it in a panic and the door will ALWAYS open. An exit sign should always mean “Go this way to safety and easily get out of this space”.

This is just one example of how an architect is needed to make sure you are getting a safe and functional space for your needs. So when you are ready to expand your business, give us a call. We can help you think through your options and determine if hiring an architect is the correct next step.

 

 

Improving your Business Through Office Design

Have you ever noticed that walking into some office spaces fills you with a sense of energy and excitement while others make you want to curl up and take a nap?

Good design can help engage employees and create an environment that makes them more excited to come to work every day.

Studies show that adjusting certain design elements can have a direct impact on improving your business through the effects it has on employees. Thinking through how you develop your office space can help create an environment that allows for happier and more productive employees, reduce turnover, and increase your bottom line.

Take a look at how we’ve designed for productivity, collaboration, and innovation – using Regenstrief Institute Headquarters as our project example.

Adding Value

Schmidt Associates was founded on the guiding principle of Servant Leadership. This value threads itself through every interaction we have both internally and externally, resulting in a constant search to add value in every project. Flip through the magazine below to see five examples of how we have added value to our recent projects by focusing on culture shifts, energy savings, telling the story through facility design and being a true one-stop-shop for our Owners.

 

 

The Evolution of a Meeting

Since the beginning of social civilization, people have held meetings in some form or another. One could argue the first “meetings” were held around a campfire, discussing a tribes’ plans for the next season and where they would move. Over time, as humans settled and formed cities, these meetings moved into a room. The technological revolution of the past 60 years however, has had a drastic impact on how humans meet and interact inside and outside of these rooms.

the-evolution-of-a-meeting

FROM THE PAST TO THE FUTURE

Technology has been one of the biggest driving forces behind change in our society. It is evident when looking back throughout history and when looking ahead to the future. From the health field to the design world, and into people’s everyday lives, evolving technology has made a huge impact: one way or another. It changes the way we learn, communicate, work, and play. There is less face-to-face interaction and more face-to-screen conversations today. Anyone who walks down a busy street and counts how many people are looking at their smartphones could attest to this.

This face-to-screen aspect has a significant impact on how we design spaces. We’ve noticed a trend across all project types, particularly workplace and education. There is a want/need for specific technology to allow for some form of virtual meetings. Video conferences, instant messaging, screen sharing, and note transfers are just a few non-traditional meeting options technologies now brings to the table. Like anything else, there will always be advantages and disadvantages to these digital meetings:

Pros 

  • Saves time and money on travel. Between traveling costs, mileage, and possibly even hotels, a simple long-distance meeting can rack up big bucks and take hours. Technology allows businesses and schools to put that money toward something else on the list because they saved money on travel.
  • Your geographical range can expand. It is a lot simpler to meet with someone across the world if you just tap in via video conferences. Even if there is a 12-hour time difference. One less reason to hold back on expansions for your business.
  • Everyone can feel connected. Whether it is connecting long-distance employees/clients to a project more directly or allowing a sick student to conference into class instead of missing out on a lesson, using technology has a way of bringing people together to make them feel included.
  • Meetings can happen more frequently. Due to the costs of travelling, meetings would often be more sporadic and for longer periods of time. Now, you can hold a standing weekly hour-long meeting with individuals all around the world rather than traveling to one meeting every six.

Cons

  • Can be hard to read the people on the other end. Not everyone is set up with capabilities to video conference in. This makes it impossible to read body language and make direct eye contact.
  • It is expensive! It isn’t a secret that high-tech comes with a high price tag.
  • There can always be glitches that come along with technology. Jumping on an important conference call 20 minutes late because your conferencing system was having a technical problem can be frustrating.

In the past, there have been many design solutions to attempt to overcome these cons, and bring us back to the human interaction that started with that first meeting around a campfire. Several companies have developed possible solutions that were specifically designed to counter-act the inherent disconnect of looking at someone on a screen rather than physically sitting across the table from them. These “telepresence” rooms often try to recreate an in-person meeting room, through a variety of visual gimmicks such as curved tables or half of a table with a screen at the end, but these often fall flat. Furthermore, with fixed furniture, there is not much of an option to use this room for anything other than virtual meetings.

With the development of larger, thinner, and higher resolution display screens, we are approaching a time that has often been the subject of science fiction movies: wall surfaces become virtual displays, 360-degree virtual reality cameras recreating any location, holograms, etc. It does not seem like such a far-fetched idea now that you could have multiple people meeting in a “virtual” conference room, looking at the person on a screen as if they are sitting next to you. The flexibility of not being tied to a specific piece of furniture or specific set of technology frees the end user to use this room in a multiple of ways.

The biggest hurdle to this is going to be the cost and continuous development always spitting out the next “big thing”. However, designing around an idea rather than a specific product could help alleviate some concerns, so new technology could be swapped into an existing room without a complete redesign. There is no perfect answer at this point to making the virtual meeting as effective as those first “meetings” around a campfire from the human perspective, but change is coming. And with each new development, we step incrementally closer to achieving that goal.