We’re finally getting a glimpse of what things at the office will look like moving forward. We all know how we got here, so I won’t bother with that recap, but safe to say we’re seeing the predictions of hybrid offices filled with flexible spaces start to come to life.
As some of these discussions and plans turn into realities, I've been reflecting on the key components for a successful conferencing and collaboration space. While I'm not an interior design expert, I can certainly weigh in on the technology for conference rooms.
First and foremost, get your integration partner involved as early as possible. Hard stop.
Well, you may have suspected that I’d start there, but it cannot be said enough: the sooner you bring your technology partners into the conversation, the better for everyone. The ongoing convergence of technologies means your trades need to be working together and have a clear understanding of who’s responsible for what and when This is traditionally good advice, but it is also contemporarily good practice due to the current strain on supply chains being felt throughout the world.
So now that you have your technology partners in the conversation, what should you be asking for?
Well, hybrid spaces are all the rage—and for good reason. Minimizing your footprint and maximizing your space can be a huge swing in the right direction on the balance sheet, but it needs to be well-executed and maintained along the way. We’ve discovered you can maintain a smaller physical footprint and get just as much productivity out of it in exchange for offering people flexibility on when and where they work.
Scheduling Solutions for Conference Rooms
A scheduling system is critical to pull this off effectively. The idea is collaborative spaces are flexible, and then you have a mixture of everyday workstations and offices that are both flexible and perpetually occupied. If person A wants to work three days from home and spend the other two days in the office on a flexible schedule, they book a shared workstation for those two days. If you have people rotate days, they can also share regularly assigned workstations. Your conference rooms and collaborative spaces are all bookable space. I recommend asking your integration partner about automation solutions that supercharge your scheduling system by giving people real-time access to the room’s status at any given time.
Conference Room Lighting
In addition to a good scheduling solution, you should also consider a conference room's lighting technologies. The modern space often involves camera angles, and it would be wise to design lighting solutions that are designed to light accordingly. This is not to say you need to turn your modern collaboration space into a television studio, but if you’re building a new space, it would be wise to opt for something beyond the can lights and ceiling grids of the old days.
And in cases where you have dedicated presentation spaces (I’m looking at you lecture halls), then you absolutely can and should have dedicated lighting for your focus area. As far as I’m concerned, if it is going to be on camera, then do what you can.
Tying lighting into your control and automation systems is a no brainer. This may seem like a luxury, but the goal here is removing variables from the users and people in the room so they can get into the room and start collaborating quickly—all while having a consistently good experience.
Conference Room Audio
In terms of audio, you want your integrator working in tandem with your interior designer to ensure the space has great acoustics. It can be disengaging for people on the other end of your calls to have to put up with poor audio, and it is often said that audio quality is more important for a good experience than good video. While hard surfaces and glass seem to be very popular in conference rooms, there are several design friendly ways to improve your audio experience—for both you and your colleagues on the other end of the call—by making sure your design team takes sound quality into consideration. From there, it’s all about selecting the right audio pickup solution for the space and making sure you support any in-room audio needs in addition to those on the far end.
There are many other things worth considering but given the focus on flex spaces and the surge in video conferencing, these few key aspects should get you going in the right direction. At the very least, if you only took my first piece of advice (get your partners involved as early as possible) then you’ll be in good shape to explore your options and potential solutions before having to commit to a decision.