When I managed a team, we had a team meeting every other week. At the beginning of the year, I booked the conference room for the entire year's worth of meetings. 

It won't surprise you that not all of those meetings happened.

What surprised me is new research out of Norway that says that 30 percent of scheduled meetings never happen and it costs businesses a fortune. They estimate, for instance, that a business with 250 employees in New York City wastes almost $150,000 a year on canceled meetings.

Yikes.

The reasoning isn't the lack of work accomplished or ordered lunches that go to waste, but in office space.

Think back to my bi-weekly meetings. I booked the conference room in January for meetings in August that were not all going to happen. That means that when one of my coworkers wanted to hold a meeting, they couldn't use my conference room--it was booked. Businesses, as a result, have more conference rooms than they actually need.

It's a hard balance--especially when you have open office spaces a conference room is the only practical place to hold a meeting--even if it's only with two people. You don't want to have so few conference rooms that frustration is the most commonly felt emotion around the office. But, more conference rooms require more space. More space requires higher rent. Rent costs money.

Their study showed that conference rooms tend to be booked 90 percent of the time, but with a 30 percent no-show rate. If that's true in your office, you could save money (or maybe even use a conference room for actual office space!) by having fewer conference rooms, if people promised to only book when really needed.

That's hard to do. 

Back to my original example, I thought it was important to have regular team meetings and I hope my team found them valuable. If I didn't book in advance, we'd be scrambling the day of to find a location where we could fit. Given the nature of our discussion (confidential employee information), we didn't want to shift to a free conference room in the marketing department or something, where someone sticking their head in could be problematic. So, I booked in advance.

And so did my colleagues for the same reason.

You could say "no booking more than two weeks out," which  makes sense unless someone is coming from another site or an outside vendor or consultant is coming in and you need to make plans in advance. You don't want to wait to book a conference room for 30 and find out that there are only the tiny ones left.

In other words, I have no idea what the solution is. Perhaps having more conference space than you absolutely need is the best way to do it--and it would cost you more money in lost productivity if you had fewer conference rooms. 

Regardless, it's something worth looking into. Perhaps pay attention and see what the usage rate for your conference rooms is. Maybe you can implement some money saving changes, or at least have a better idea of what the best use of space is.

Published on: Feb 19, 2020
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