Common space conferencing: The space type you didn't know you needed

Common space conferencing

Why does a conference room need to be a room?

It doesn’t.

Something we’re experimenting with is common space conferencing. It increases comfort. People can use that space for casual collisions. — Nathan Manuel, Sr. Director of Workplace Experience at PagerDuty

The common space conferencing space seen above came to life out of necessity. As offices reopened, many people were uncomfortable lingering in confined spaces like meeting rooms.

At the same time, people wanted to come to the office to collaborate with others.

Manuel wondered if it were possible to merge the amenities of a conference room with the expanse of open space.

And so evolved common space conferencing.

Under the hood

PagerDuty’s two common space conferencing areas are reservable tables (one 9-seat table and one 12-seat table) that are outfitted with complete Zoom Room kits, meaning:

  • Large monitors (48-inch monitor and 60-inch monitor, respectively)
  • Microphones and speakers
  • Touch-screen device pad on the tables to easily join and end calls
A full telepresence experience in an environment that seems like it wouldn’t be a space chosen for a conference. — Nathan Manuel

Workplace Insight: Manuel has insisted that every meeting space at PagerDuty be Zoom enabled to ensure a democratized experience for all employees.

A popular space type — beyond social distancing

People are growing more comfortable sharing enclosed spaces with others. Knock on wood that trend will continue.

Yet despite growing more comfortable sharing confined spaces, people are still using these common-space conferencing spaces regularly. Not just for Zoom calls either. Teams will often use this space for casual in-person gatherings.

The challenges (and how to overcome them)

Your IT team might object. There’s less control over sound quality and visual environment (like passersby interrupting meetings).

That said, Manuel says it’s pretty well understood you don’t book these spaces to have private or focus-heavy meetings. In fact, the potential of interruptions can be seen as a value add.

“Since we don’t have the opportunity for casual encounters these days, I love the idea that you might actually see someone from a different team and wave to them," Manuel says.

And to date, sound pollution coming into (or out of) these spaces hasn’t been an issue. Manuel was intentional on where he set up these tables — closer to collaborative “we spaces” like soft seating rather than heads-down “me spaces” like desking — see below:

The common space conference room, adjacent to soft-seating collaborative spaces.

Anything new is met with some fear. People aren’t used to meeting in open spaces. Understanding that, Manuel makes a point to lead by example — his team often books these spaces to show their value and purpose.

The value of “what if”

There’s no guarantee something like common-space conferencing will work in your office. But there was no guarantee they’d work at PagerDuty.

Manuel’s “I wonder what if” mindset helped introduce a new workplace experience that employees can’t get at home.

In this era of uncertainty, workplace leaders need to be willing to try, fail, and learn.

Learn more about what Nathan Manuel, and PagerDuty, are doing to redefine the workplace in the hybrid era.

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