When choosing office furniture, the things commonly considered are size, user functionality and aesthetic. However, the function that the furniture provides to the workflow is also an important consideration, specifically in terms of conference tables. In an article by Ruth Haag for The Glasshammer, she recommends a one ended rectangular conference table as the ideal shape. As this shape is not as common, you should review the pros and cons of different shape options and choose which best suits your team and office work environment.
Round Office Table
Pros: Encourages free-flowing, open discussion. Perfect for teams without the formal hierarchy, where decisions are made as a unit.
Cons: Provides a platform for an informal environment that could potentially lead to a meeting off track if the group is unruly. Not ideal for structured meetings or teams with distinct leadership hierarchy.
Long and Thin Table or Multiple Desks Strung Together
Pros: Strong conversation, eye contact, and engagement for those seated directly across from each other.
Cons: The length makes it challenging to see from peer to peer down the line of the table, which tends to cause cliquey behavior among those who are seated directly across from or next to each other. In turn, a larger meeting can turn into several smaller, independent conversations, diverting focus from whoever is leading the meeting.
U-Shaped Meeting Table
Pros: Encourages direct eye contact for those sitting across from each other and allows for the leader to sit at the head of the table, addressing all members of the team.
Cons: Team members sitting across from each other have no connection, as they are too far apart to communicate. Due to the distance that each person is seated from each other, there can be a challenge for a leader to engage everyone in the group equally.
Rectangular Conference Table
Pros: Creates a structure that supports hierarchy among teams, allowing the leader to sit a the head of the table. Individuals around the table are evenly spaced with enough room for conversation across the table and lengthwise.
Cons: This shape may not be ideal for more creative, collaborative meetings, where all team members need to engage equally. For example, the people seated at either end may have trouble communicating without interrupting peers seated in the center of the table. In many cases, offices have different sized meeting spaces with different tables to address various elements of the business. For example, you could have a conference room with a round table for team collaboration meetings, that are more creative or brainstorming based and a long rectangular table for more structured finance meetings where one person is doing most of the talking. Ultimately, a conference table should empower the team environment that you wish to foster in your office.