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Meeting management tips to reduce “ghost” rooms

With the average office employee spending more than five hours per week in meetings, a lack of available meeting space is a huge problem—one that no-shows only exacerbate. In fact, according to research from Steelcase, 70% of employees report losing up to 15 minutes a day looking for places to meet, and 15% of meeting room reservations are never used!

In any workplace environment, it’s likely you have encountered this common meeting management problem: you need to hold an impromptu meeting but there aren’t any available rooms. 

You’ve walked around the office and spotted an open conference room, but when you tried to grab it through your meeting room scheduling software, it’s listed as unavailable. Someone booked the room, but for one reason or another, didn’t use it and never cancelled the reservation. This “no-show” meeting has created another room booking issue: the “ghost” room.

In this situation, you have a couple options. You can squat in the room, despite the fact that it may be booked, and risk getting kicked out. Or, you can leave it, assuming someone’s about to use it as planned, and walk around the office aimlessly searching for a suitable space in the common area where you can hold your meeting. 

Neither option is ideal: 

  • If you choose to squat, you take the risk of having your meeting interrupted or cut short—and you may frustrate co-workers who reserved the room but were running late. 
  • If you choose to walk around looking for an alternative meeting place, you waste time, and holding the meeting in a common area presents a privacy risk if there’s sensitive information to go over. The meeting may also distract  employees who are within earshot.

Here are some ways to reduce no-show rooms, and tips for better meeting room management.

The dreaded “ghost” room: Why no-shows are a meeting management issue

No-show meetings can occur for numerous reasons—most of which are the result of ineffective meeting management. People may cancel a meeting and simply forget to release the room. Perhaps a recurring meeting is scheduled in advance, but the organizer is out on PTO one week and doesn’t adjust the booking. Or, perhaps people have a meeting room booked but decide to meet over lunch or at their desks instead. 

Whatever the reason, no-shows waste time and resources, and can create tension between co-workers who forget to unbook rooms and those left in the lurch without space to run their meetings. It’s important to respect your co-workers, do your part to minimize wasted resources, and ensure the meetings you run are as productive as possible. 

Tips to reduce no-show meetings and improve space utilization

Although no-show meetings are an unfortunate reality of life in the modern workplace, there are steps you can take to improve meeting management and reduce the frequency of no-shows. 

Here are five practical room booking tips: 

  1. Require attendees to check in, from anywhere. Workplace technology has come a long way, and new room booking software is beginning to offer advanced features such as remote meeting room check-in and auto cancellation. For example, advanced room booking systems can enable users to set thresholds so bookings are automatically cancelled if no one checks into and begins a meeting within, say, 10 minutes of the scheduled time. This frees up the space for other people to use immediately, without any manual intervention on the part of the organizer. 
  1. Automatically remove old recurring meetings. People often schedule a series of recurring meetings weeks or months out in advance—and some are set to recur indefinitely. But recurring meetings can become unnecessary, and organizers may forget to cancel the series. Setting room booking software to automatically cancel recurring meetings that fail to take place for two weeks in a row, for example, frees up meeting room space for weeks to come.
  1. Analyze the data in real-time. Just like other workplace technology solutions, conference room booking systems produce data that can be analyzed for patterns. Are there certain teams who often book meetings but fail to show up? Are there certain times of day (4 p.m. or later) or days of the week (Monday or Friday) when no-show meetings are more likely to occur? Access to real-time information is invaluable for understanding meeting room usage patterns, which can help office and IT managers to better plan and make recommendations to employees about when and where to book their meetings.
  1. Establish a room booking policy. To discourage squatting—using a vacant meeting room without booking it—raise awareness of the importance of managing bookings and respecting coworkers’ meeting room needs. If employees are discouraged from randomly wandering into empty rooms without booking them, they’re likely to be more attentive to their meeting room bookings in general. 
  1. Remind employees about the golden rule. It’s frustrating to not be able to find a conference room when you need to run a meeting. Just as you would want your co-workers to unbook and free up rooms they don’t need, you should offer the same courtesy. Encourage all employees to be mindful about releasing meeting rooms when meetings move or get cancelled, and help to make it part of your corporate culture. 

Reducing no-shows with better overall meeting management and room booking is an important aspect of conference room etiquette, and one way we can work better together in the modern workplace. Technology is certainly a big factor in that equation. 

Watch the webinar to learn more about how humans can prepare for the workplace of the future.