Today, many meeting-goers are turning away from large, professional conference rooms in favor of smaller, less formal meeting spaces. As such, huddle rooms have become the gathering place for spontaneously exchanging ideas in the workplace and bringing together remote participants—just because the rooms are small doesn’t mean their AV technology is less sophisticated. But, to be effective, these rooms must deliver the same reliable, high-quality AV experience as their larger counterparts. That is, content needs to be visible, audio needs to be clear, and cameras need to be positioned to capture the action. It’s these simple measures that can minimize sensory fatigue and maximize collaboration and productivity.
AV technology manufacturers have responded with new products and even new divisions focused on huddle room innovation. Some companies are offering new portfolios of AV and unified communication solutions that cater to huddle rooms and their unique requirements—solutions that allow for spontaneous meetings with quick startup, accommodate limited space, and offer ample connectivity; solutions that encourage the natural, effortless exchange of ideas to foster growth. Organizations of all kinds, from enterprises to startups, schools to nonprofits, are deploying those solutions to create innovative huddle and collaboration spaces of their own.
A leading hospitality organization in downtown San Francisco has taken the collaboration baton and ran with it. Recently, I toured this organization to learn more about how the company is applying these workspace trends.
Before diving into key learnings, I must say I was incredibly impressed with their first step—the company’s first consideration was to profile its workforce to understand the needs of its “audience.” Every organization should be doing this. This particular company discovered the average employee is 27-28 years old, meaning millennial preferences aren’t suggestions, they are primary drivers. This understanding was apparent in all aspects of the company’s workspace design, but a few areas and considerations really stood out.
Space flexibility is a serious matter. For example, like most organizations, they needed a space to accommodate town hall-style meetings for the entire company. However, those meetings don’t happen regularly, so they found a way to repurpose that large space for multiple uses. It solved for the primary use first—creating collision space for employees to eat and work in a large, loft-like area with plenty of power and connectivity to support their day-to-day needs. To accommodate large meetings, recessed bleachers are located along the wall and pulled out when needed.
Connecting Virtual Teams
One of the key reason for my visit was because the company was in the middle of expanding into a new building, its third within a few blocks in San Francisco. Growth can play the largest role in isolating teams. As the IT manager described, one of the challenges was to minimize the barriers groups and/or departments face because of being split up into separate buildings. To prevent this, his team deployed virtual “water coolers”—carts with screens that live-stream to other workstations, either in the same space or at other locations. The live stream runs throughout the workday so that group members stay connected: saying “good morning” to each other, swiveling around in their chairs to collaborate, and more. Removing spatial barriers like walking to another building, picking up the phone, or scheduling a meeting keeps communication open, flowing, and simple.
Immersive Team Environments
They also deployed a new type of meeting space: immersive team rooms. These spaces contain all the amenities of a traditional meeting space with extra perks:
Immersive team rooms are reserved for special projects that require a dedicated, cross-functional team. Rooms can be reserved for one month or an entire year so project teams needn’t worry about locating available space. The space is always available and suited to the group’s size. The other benefit is that the team doesn’t consume other company space for projects, which frees traditional meeting space for day-to-day operations.
Couches and coffee tables add warmth and comfort to these spaces, and serve as an ideal place for teams to sit and brainstorm. After all, if you’re going to keep a team in one room for up to a year, everyone should be comfortable.
Workstations are located around the perimeter of these rooms so dedicated teams can be immersed together even outside of official meetings. This layout maximizes team members’ exposure and availability to one another to drive focus, communication, and innovation.
Together, the company’s thoughtful huddle and collaboration design is something all organizations can model as they rethink their own meeting spaces.
When you start with the right gear, and couple it with solid space design that meets the needs of the people who use it, then your huddle rooms will really pack a punch—and you’ll empower everyone in your organization to be more productive.