As the dominating focal point of most meeting rooms, conference tables are kind of a big deal. They are a gathering spot for exchanging ideas, sharing insights, engaging in debate, and building meaningful relationships with your work family. If you’ve been tasked with outfitting your meeting spaces with new tables, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the four F’s interior designers consider when choosing conference room tables for clients: form, function, fit and fashion.
The first thing most people notice about a table is its shape, and according to Radhika Pathak, a professor of architecture and design at the Priyadarshini Institute, the way we perceive shapes in the workplace affects our mood and performance. Pathak conducted a study in which she found, “Spatial forms, shapes and layouts at work have a real emotional and behavioral impact on employees.” She catalogued the various emotions and meanings that employees associated with shapes used in the furnishings and layouts of interior office design and found the following insights:
Circles promote feelings of belonging, and inclusion; stimulate thoughts of energy, power, and unity; and improve attention and concentration. Pathak maintains circles are an efficient design choice for conference and meeting rooms because they help eliminate distractions and foster a more focused atmosphere.
Squares and rectangles have a remarkably similar impact on the thoughts and emotions of employees. Both are associated with honesty, stability, discipline, order, rational thinking and formality. Pathak found these shapes increase an employee’s feelings of security, equality and peacefulness, which helps boost productivity levels. She suggests using squares and rectangles in small spaces, like huddle rooms, to visually create a sense of order.
Triangles produce feelings of energy and power, and visually suggest action, progression, direction and purpose. Pathak says the high energy of triangles makes them “better suited to a growing tech company than a stable financial institution.” However, they are also ideal for action-oriented departments across all industries, such as sales and marketing.
As the workplace continues to evolve, so do the primary functions associated with meeting spaces. In the not too distant past, meetings were static endeavors with lots of sitting. Fortunately, modern research on ways to drive engagement led to companies adopting practices such as standup meetings, as well as tech tools that encourage movement, like video conferencing and interactive whiteboards. In response to these more active meetings, furniture designers have created a wealth of highly functional conference tables that empower employees to enjoy more flexibility in how they meet. Conference tables that easily adapt to meeting attendees needs include mobile, flat-folding, nesting, configurable and height adjustable tables.
Ideally, you want to leave approximately three feet of space around the circumference of a table, which allows people to come and go with ease. To determine the right fit for your conference space, use masking tape to draw the proposed table outline on the floor. You may even want to gather a few folks for a mock meeting around your masking tape table so you can get a better idea as to whether or not the space feels too crowded, too cavernous, or just right.
Another thing to consider is that the length of a table in feet is typically equal to the number of people it will seat comfortably, so a 12-foot table will seat 12 people and a six-foot table will seat six. However, sometimes rules need to be broken, especially when a conference table is multitasking as a whiteboard space or project area. The best way to assess whether or not a table offers the space you need is to check it out on a trial basis. Most office furniture stores will allow you to test big-ticket items, like conference tables, for a couple of weeks before committing to a purchase.
Countless studies have been conducted to assess the impact beauty and aesthetics have in the workplace, and there is much evidence to support its value. Not only do beautiful and well-designed spaces translate into better health and fewer sick days, according to Harvard, they also result in greater cognitive performance and reduced stress. Since conference tables are the center of attention in the average meeting room layout, why not make that table a gorgeous statement piece that speaks volumes about how smart, creative and thoughtful your company is?
Finding the Best Conference Table For Your Space
A final f-word to consider when shopping for a conference table is fun, as in now that you know the four F’s of conference room table design, have fun considering your options. Be open to different shapes, colors, styles and functions. Solicit the ideas and opinions of a variety of people around the office who will be using the table. Take into account your workplace culture and meeting space goals. Finally, test-drive a conference table (or two or three). Hopefully, you’ll find one with a form, fit, function and fashion that fits your people and meeting space perfectly.