The open workspace trend swept the country after leading technology juggernauts set the standards of open, fun, interactive work environments. Open workspaces can align with culture, creating more opportunity for teamwork camaraderie and transparency. However, along with the benefits of an open environment have come a new set of challenges.
These environments can be noisy and lack privacy. Stopping by a co-worker’s cubicle for a quick update is one more opportunity for other employees to be distracted. If the employees move to a conference room to collaborate on the problem the company can find itself wasting square footage, with 3 or 4 people taking up an entire 20-person conference room. Because of these struggles, we’re seeing the pendulum swing back from an exclusively open environment to a space which includes areas for small departmental meetings and cross-functional teams.
A huddle room is a meeting space for small groups. At the foundation, they feature audio or video conferencing and a display. That’s where the similarities end. While some huddle spaces may take a traditional path with a display at the front, others feature a lounge-like environment or take a round-table approach. Culture and workflow are morphing huddle room design, which in turn is forcing technologies to adapt to meet the needs of the space.
We’re in the midst of a huddle room technology shift. BYOD, screen sharing, one-touch dialing- it’s being expected. End users want a system that’s as easy and intuitive as their mobile phone. They want connecting with a PC to be just as smooth as connecting with an iPad. The Huddle Room solution has to work seamlessly with the standardized video conferencing platform within the organization, whether it’s Zoom, Skype for Business, Lifesize, Polycom or StarLeaf. That’s a long list of needs for manufacturers to work towards.
Some organizations are opting for a consumer USB camera and microphone in the huddle space instead of pro-AV technologies. While consumer AV may have an attractive price tag, DIY-style USB peripheries can come with their own set of barriers. It can increase reliance on the non-technical employee to make the system function each time they connect. In addition, consumer USB’s may not follow the AV standardization and (since they’re not designed for heavy use) can result in more room down-time.
We are big proponents of audio visual standardization. This is not a one size fits all, cookie cutter solution. Instead, it’s the process of strategically standardizing a company’s internal user experience to drive high adoption, low frustration and greater efficiencies.
While the huddle room technologies may differ from a full conference room integration, it can still provide a consistent user experience. Your AV partner will understand the layout of the room and can shape the technology around your standard. It doesn’t matter if it’s a huddle room with three chairs or a conference room with 20, when the CEO walks in they can see the same easy-to-use interface and push-to-join button on the touch panel.
Some companies have produced exceptional huddle rooms. They feature the right technology to augment the space and the workflow. But how do you get there?
Project managers are working with their IT team and audio visual partner to determine what video conferencing platform the audio visual hardware needs to work with (like LifeSize, Zoom, or StarLeaf). Standardizing on a video conferencing platform lets the audio visual partner put the right hardware options in front of the customer, communicate the limitations and consider how it will align with the workflow.
Once there’s alignment around potential technologies, your audio visual partner can frame up a test room. A test room is a single room which showcases the intended system and functionality. It takes time and can create a longer project timeline…and it’s usually worth it.
Take the time to let your end users try the system and kick the tires. Have multiple users in different specialties (for example marketing, C-suite, and operations) test it and give feedback. Learn about what does and doesn’t work with your internal process and culture. Armed with these insights your audio visual integrator can manipulate the overall system design and make modifications prior to the roll out. These changes are easier to make based on a test room than after fifteen huddle rooms have been deployed.
We’re seeing two big trends in huddle room technology and conference room audio visual overall. The first is click-to-join capabilities. Click to join allows the CEO to walk into the scheduled room and push the button that says “10:00 Leadership Meeting” to dial into the video conference. Click-to-join drives to an experience that’s as simple and user friendly as possible.
Analytics are also a big up-and-coming trend. From providing transparency in room usage to system up time, expect to see AV analytics begin contributing to office space changes. Paired with contemporary furniture solutions like relocatable walls, companies can consistently refine what they’re providing for the internal customers.