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Office essentials: the all-hands room

Business
6 min read
Office essentials: the all-hands room
Simone Hjorth
December 12th, 2018

We dig into the different types of meeting rooms and collaborative spaces every well-functioning office needs. This time we’re focusing on the multi-functionary, big space that we call the “all-hands room”

In Harry Potter terminology, the all-hands room would be the Great Hall where every kid from all the different houses gather and convene for feasts, celebration, and general information. In case you’re not that familiar with Harry Potter and the whole Hogwarts gang, we’ll break it down for you in layman’s terms too.

In every office space, you need an area dedicated to bigger team assemblies. Room for all departments, individuals and maybe some visitors. That would be the all-hands room.

The essentials:

  • All-hands rooms can be committed meeting spaces or double up as a common area
  • They need to be kitted with good tech, most notably microphones/presentation tools
  • In some form or another, we deem them essential for a scaling company of 30+ people

Check out our rundown of how you can improve your workspace with huddle rooms and office pods.

What is an all-hands room?

It’s a sort of town hall meeting space where everyone at the office gathers regularly to share updates and accomplishments, bring wider team alignment or host Q&A forums. In the all-hands room, you can gather for all-hands meetings.

The name really says it all, doesn’t it? An all-hands room is crucial for work environments that are advocating for flat hierarchy and it’s a space that encourages people to speak their mind, without being intimidated.

All-hands meetings are about the team. Team wins, team learning, team strategy. Running regular all-hands meetings has the benefit of empowering your entire staff as well as keeping them in the loop. And if you – like us – have remote workers in other offices or locations, this is the perfect time to connect with them as well.

Two employees giving each other a high five

At Airtame, we call it the all-hands room, but perhaps you call it the general meeting room or something entirely different.  We use the second largest room in our office because the largest is used for dining and not equipped with the VA gear we want for our all-hands meetings. It’s not perfect, but we’ll get back to that.

No matter the size of your company, you must have an area that can accommodate everyone for when you need to share a collective message. You can use the all-hands room for:

  • Larger meetings
  • Q&A sessions
  • Company celebrations
  • Updates
  • Company-wide tactics
  • Open forums
  • Workshops

The key elements of an all-hands room

The all-hands room could be a room that’s already doubling as something else; your canteen, reception, larger conference room – maybe it’s a separate room, though ideally, it’s its own space.

Large

That the all-hands room is big should come as no surprise, seeing as it hypothetically needs to fit all employees in there, plus a few guests. Of course, as a smaller organization, your all-hands room doesn’t have to be extremely spacious, but if you have a large staff, then your all-hands room needs to match that.

Good seating

Equipment is crucial for the all-hands room, but so is good seating. We think desks aren’t quite so important – they would make the space too formal, and thus less approachable for people to speak their mind or, hint hint, raise a hand.

That being said, they do need a place to sit while meetings take place. Benches, for example, are a no-go as there’s no back support. We can testify to that! Find comfortable seats for everyone with good back support. Back support doesn’t mean bean bags – you don’t want participants to doze off either.

Meeting room full of chairs

Well-equipped

Because it’s one of the largest rooms in your office needs to meet so many different demands, it should have the equipment to cater to all requests.

We’re talking big screens – quite possibly more than one – plus microphones and camera equipment to support video conferencing with your remote team members or clients. Collaborative tools such as whiteboards or interactive sketch boards will help flesh out all of the ideas that pop up when you all meet and get creative.

Flexible

What might be the biggest room in the workplace shouldn’t only be reserved for special gatherings once in a while. Design your all-hands room in such a way that it will meet various meeting needs – both for employees and outside clients who may want to utilize that space. Otherwise, this huge conference area will just waste space.

Ventilated and well-lit

Often overlooked in big spaces but certainly one of the most important points to make. A lot of people in the same, big room is bound to come with poor air quality. You want to make sure you can crack a window in the peak of summer, and that the lighting is inviting, though not dim. What you should go for is neutral.

How to set up a successful all-hands room

It’s important to have an area in your workplace where people can get together for bigger events or discussions. It should be separate from the main workspace so as not to distract those who might not be a part of whatever is going in there.

Additionally, if this room or area doubles up as another space (canteen, reception, work area, etc.) then you need to be able to transform it with ease so that it takes on more “weight” as a serious conference space.

An idea could be to have room dividers that easily slide to the side when you need the whole space ready but can serve as decorations or dividers for when more than one group want to make use of the space.

One conference room extending to the other one by removing a wall

It’s also important to build a space that is inviting and encourages very active participation from all attendees. Just think about it – the bigger the room, the more likely people are to have reduced focus, be procrastinating or simply switched off.

All-hands room technology

You need a lot more than just a big space. It’s important to consider supporting AV equipment, depending on your company size. You should incorporate larger form projection spaces, conferencing functionalities and microphones for teams/individuals that are working remote or out of office.

Of course, technology should always be up to par with your team’s requirements but in the all-hands room, this is especially important. Microphones, and potentially a raised presentation space, will make it easier for presenters to get their point across.

Just make sure your tech solutions are not too complex, or you will end up wasting time trying to set it up or work it out. Go for something simple, yet stable.

All hands room technologies including an Airtame device, screen, camera, and a microphone

Is an all-hands room for you?

Airtame’s all-hands room is by no means perfect for several reasons. It doesn’t have seating for all employees and the acoustics and sound gear aren’t the best, to be frank. But we have plans to set up a bigger and better all-hands room once we move into our new HQ in mid-2019.

As a company that considers itself to run a collaborative, open culture and workspace, we can’t live without an all-hands room. Everyone is encouraged to voice their opinions on how the new all-hands room should look like and what it should include – to make sure that it is, indeed, a room that works for everybody.

Likewise, you should ask your wider team how they imagine improving a communal space that’s used for cross-communication.

The core principles are pretty much transferable to any company of any size. What makes them distinctive is the requirements, skills and wants of your team. Without their counsel, this will end up being an uninspired and uninspiring place to listen and communicate.

Simone Hjorth
My job is to put together words in a delightful, entertaining, and sometimes moving way. 1 part techno enthusiast, 2 parts cat lover, 3 parts creative writer. Too many parts?

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