Meetings are a staple of the work week. They're also a time-sink. To make meetings more effective, we've tried to learn from the best and implement various strategies. Unfortunately, most of us continue to fall victim to unproductive meetings.
Fear not! Here are 8 simple hacks that don't involve coercion or twisting of the arms. They simply involve doing a little meeting room interior design.
1. Wall Color
The last meeting you attended probably took place in a space awash with gray or white walls. If that's the case, it's likely the meeting didn't reach peak productivity. Gray and white are neutral colors.They lack energy and induce feelings of depression. What's more, Nancy Kwallek, director of the University of Texas' interior design program, has found that neutral wall colors cause workers to make more errors.
It turns out workers prefer a light blue-green wall color. We associate blue with nature - with a clear sky or serene body of water. Blue walls lead to feelings of peacefulness and a calming of the mind.
Mark Zuckerberg has a preferred room temperature - a blistering 59°F. Attendees have reported a need to don jackets. It turns out that this arctic-like environment isn't ideal. A study by Helsinki University of Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that the optimal range for peak productivity is around 71.6°F. When temperatures are too cold, we become preoccupied with staying warm and make more mistakes.
As you walk into your next meeting, remember that a simple switch of a thermostat could make the difference between a productive meeting and an unproductive one.
The next time you find yourself in a meeting, try pushing the chairs aside.
The "stand ups" that tech workers are so renowned for tend to be remarkably productive. When employees assume a dynamic standing position, they tend to be more focused, less likely to multitask, and more likely to communicate clearly. Stand-ups have been shown to reduce meeting time by 34%.
4. Table Shape
According to Arthurian lore, King Arthur opted for a round table to reinforce the notion that all knights had equal status. Science suggests, however, that King Arthur's tactics may have actually discouraged productivity.
According to management consultant Ruth Haag, a rectangular table is actually optimal for spurring productivity. Rectangular tables convey a clear sense of leadership (leaders typically sit at the table ends). Meetings around rectangular tables are therefore more likely to generate decisive action.
The next time you find yourself seated around a circular table, odds are high that, if the goal is decisive action, your meeting outcome will end up feeling bent out of shape.
There's nothing worse than sitting next to someone who reeks of bad body odor or cheap cologne. The flip side is that certain scents can promote productivity. A study spearheaded by Takasago (Japan's largest fragrance producer) found that workers made fewer errors when exposed to scents of lemon (54% fewer), jasmine (33%), and lavender (20%). These scents have calming effects that keep emotional stress in check.
Try bringing a Glade Plugin to your next meeting. If you're bent on brainstorming, scientists suggest trying peppermint, a natural energy booster that invigorates the mind.
Research has shown that the degree of artificial (versus natural) lighting can also impact productivity. Exposure to artificial light impairs cognitive performance because it reduces cortisol levels, in turn triggering fatigue and causing us to commit more errors. Natural light, on the other hand, energizes us.
Do yourself a favor and, when selecting your next meeting room locale, choose a room where you can catch some rays.
While blue might be optimal when it comes to meeting room walls, the name of the game is to "go green" when it comes to decor. Adding plants to an office locale can enhance attention capacity and increase employee productivity by 15%. Plants supply oxygen to our brains, resulting in us feeling more energized and alert. The removal of carbon dioxide by plants also is a boon. High carbon dioxide levels can lead to drowsiness and impaired concentration.
8. Ceiling Height
Tall men and women are more likely to achieve career success and bring home bigger paychecks. It turns out that height also offers an advantage when it comes to meeting rooms.
Research has shown that when people are situated in high-ceiling rooms, they engage in better abstract thinking. University of Minnesota researcher Joan Meyers-Levy, explains, "When people are in a room with a high ceiling, they activate the idea of freedom. In a low-ceilinged room, they activate more constrained, confined concepts."
In planning your next meeting, if the objective is big picture thinking, opt for a high-ceiling room. Or, at a minimum, encourage ladies to leave the stilettos at the door.
Many elements of a meeting are outside of our control. No matter how hard we try, it's always a struggle to get stragglers to show up on time and keep the Type As from dominating or derailing conversations. Thankfully, meeting room "landscaping" can be a powerful means of taking your meeting productivity to new heights.