The New-New Conference Rooms In Demand by Millennials and Gen Z

by PlaceLabDec 9th, 2019

The old “meeting rooms” - four walls, a big table, and a speakerphone - no longer cut it in a flex office space that supports collaboration, productivity, and creativity in the workplace. Today’s Millennial and Gen Z talent needs quiet to concentrate and generate ideas, but they also need collaborative workspace to bring those ideas in front of others, face-to-face. 

Gen Z Face-to-Face Conversations Equal Happier Employees

According to recent research, two of the top skills valued by Gen Z are communication and problem solving. While they are the first fully digital generation, the majority prefers face-to-face conversations and positive relationships. Authenticity and pragmatism are key values, and they would like their feedback to be personal, face-to-face, and frequent. 

EQ Office's Willis Tower, Chicago. Credit: Chris Ozer.

How do you create workspace and workplace culture with that in mind? 

EQ Office CEO Lisa Picard believes workspace that delivers employee effectiveness and value to Gen Z is a blend of high touch and high tech - a place where humans can come together and collaborate, supported by technology-enabled spaces that serve every data need, especially video.

Space for collaboration is a critical part of spatial alchemy to empower talent.

“Effective collaboration between teams is a physical and emotional dynamic,” says Picard. "We know that a team must be in a stage to engage, with open levels of communication. Physically, the space must put people at ease and allow for postures to be relaxed and open. This ease is achieved through spatial sequencing, great sound levels, warm materials, and natural lighting. With these types of spaces incorporated into work, the effectiveness of the workforce grows enterprise value.” 

Sally Spinks, an organizational design director at IDEO, says: “Ultimately, it requires a company’s leadership to make a bold commitment, and set up the right conditions for creativity to thrive.”

Specialized Work Needs Co-working and Collaboration

Collaboration is essentially a way we can all learn from each other, which is exactly the priority for Gen Z talent. Benjamin Jones, Professor of Strategy; Faculty Director at the Kellogg School of Management and Northwestern University, found that collaboration is also becoming more and more important, because our work is becoming more specialized. 

Jones said, “Over time, this is an ongoing, never-ending phenomenon of increased specialization, which is ever increasing the demand for collaboration.” Through collaboration, he explains, we don’t limit our creative selves to what’s only in our heads. We problem solve together, and Gen Z loves that.

Companies can deliver the right conditions for collaboration by making sure this new-new learning space feels inspirational, welcoming, allows total ease of communication, and sparks the sharing between people who can benefit from learning and innovating together.

EQ Office's Playa District lobby, Los Angeles, Credit: Chris Ozer.

The New-New Conference Room Delivers Flexible, Real Communication 

Tech, design, and personal experience needs to hit a higher mark to meet talent’s needs today. Mobile, agile, and up for meeting anytime, anywhere, 3.9 million people in the U.S. worked remotely at least half the time in 2018, up 115% from 2005. Plus, the way we share information is also increasingly varied - from Powerpoint to videos, photo galleries, and more. However the message gets across, the physical space for these face-to-face conversations needs to step up too. 

The space where collaboration unfolds must be multi-dimensional, bridging devices, locations, and all the ways people share content. Flexible workspace means flexible meeting rooms on all fronts. Also, it must feel human.

Check out some of the ways leading companies create space for collaboration so talent has specific, authentic space that allows ideas to flow freely.

Old: Taking Notes in a Meeting and Sharing Them in Email

New-New: AI and Face Recognition 

Microsoft is working on prototype hardware for an AI-based meeting room of the future, in which a cone-shaped device scans the faces in the room, tracks voices, and transcribes every word in real time in any language. Future AI tools can ensure the right versions of documents are being used a meeting, identify relevant resources, and assign tasks post-meeting!

Old: Dry Erase Pens 

New-New: Interactive Whiteboards and LED Video Walls in the Lobby and Meeting Rooms

According to ZDNet, only 3-5% of meeting rooms have video today, and outdated conferencing platforms cost companies $33 Billion a year. LED video walls up-level the visual experience. Touch models such as Google’s JamBoard support cloud-based interaction with the display whether in a meeting room or on a phone. LogiTech launched Sync, allowing companies to manage video conferencing for as much face-to-face as they need, and scale it to virtually any presentation need. 

Leyard's LED Video Wall for Conference Rooms

Old: USB Stick or Laptop Plugged into a Projector 

New-New: Wireless Chromecast, Airtame, Apple TV (screen mirroring)

Wireless presentations are becoming a must, especially if businesses consider themselves as agile, streamlined, and effective. At home, people are becoming accustomed to mirroring their personal devices to share images. In the meeting room, Wi-Fi connect what’s in your laptop or phone to everyone in the room or video conference.

Old: Stale Conference Room Air 

New-New: Signature scents

A study showed happiness and delight were among the top reactions evoked by scent in the hotel world. EQ co-working space partner, Industrious, champions custom scents in their locations for a human element - aloe and green tea, among them. Multiple studies have mapped the effect of aromatherapy on the brain. For example, scents such as peppermint have a profound effect on alertness, concentration, and memory (International Journal of Neuroscience).

Old: Office Furniture 

New-New: Designer Furniture that Blends “Old” and “New” 

The look and feel of meeting spots have a big impact on the interaction itself. According to Toronto’s Workscape, the room itself can kill the meeting. Design trends for 2019 look to solve that by integrating the old (not 80’s office furniture) and new (not so cutting edge it’s dysfunctional). Think: touchable, antique textures and old-world craftsmanship defining somewhere that's both cozy and special. Examples include modern design accents of glass, metal/industrial materials framing modern furniture serving as office equipment, or art and wall coverings with abstract designs to help elevate the vibe of feeling special.

100 Summer Street's lobby, Boston, Credit: Nicole Franzen. Co-designer: Shannon Dunn.

The New-New Flexible Workspace OOF (Out of Office) 

There’s also this: it doesn’t have to be so fancy. Sometimes, nothing beats in-the-same room, face-to-face, as Gen Z is embracing. Bonds are strengthened with the ability to read body language, exchange energy, and speak to the point, unhindered by bad Wi-Fi (which of course never happens, ever). We’ve come to accept that we can just perch ourselves anywhere and have a talk about ideas in a real way.

Old: Conference Room Booked by an Admin 

New-New: Collaboration Without Walls

Outdoor conference room, Playa District, Los Angeles, Credit: Chris Ozer.

  • Company kitchens

  • Campus patios

  • On-site bars and coffee houses

  • Walking meetings

  • Physical gathering spots, such as yoga in the park (impromptu meetings, after savasana, of course) 

Another new trend is office space designed with both desks and walls on wheels to create any configuration needed. 

Apply some new-new approaches to these spaces too, and you’re going to win talent and cater to Gen Z's desire to check in with their managers on a weekly basis (if not more). Companies need to provide deliberate meeting space for those face-to-face talks and everything they need to support it. 

All of this is part of the spatial alchemy - the right conditions of today’s new-new conference room for Gen Z and everyone else.