Huddle rooms have been increasingly utilized in corporate offices over the past year. They surfaced naturally as a way to allow small teams of employees to group together and collaborate on different projects. As business operations began to reach completion more smoothly and quickly, it became obvious to many companies that huddle rooms would become a necessary tool in the corporate office of the future. However, many businesses are still trying to decide what exactly that futuristic huddle room will consist of.
First we must make a distinction between huddle rooms and huddle spaces. For some companies there may be no distinction to make. Others will recognize a huddle space as a gathering spot, often in open office areas, cafeterias, break rooms, or hallways that encourage groups of people to interact, whether socially or for the purposes of business. These spaces are not for privacy, as they are often not closed in, but for interaction. Huddle rooms, on the other hand, are classified as small, private offices where these groups can get together for extended periods of time to collaborate on projects in a number of ways. For the purposes of this article, we will be speaking to the latter, the huddle room.
Collaboration in the Huddle Room
Huddle rooms have become a great source of collaboration for projects with multiple employees. For some time that collaboration meant gathering around a whiteboard and working projects out in person. As technology advanced, however, the definition of collaboration in corporate offices was expanded to include a number of processes, and huddle rooms were no different. Today you might find an interactive whiteboard, a touch screen display, a projection system, a videoconferencing system, and/or any number of technologies based on a company’s practices incorporated into the huddle room.
“It’s increasing dramatically because facilities managers are now following these trends and trying to implement these huddle spaces and huddle rooms, especially for millennials,” says Sean Gunduz, Sr. Product Manager for Projectors at Epson. “The idea is that people will get together for quick discussions, sharing ideas, and brainstorming. They’re usually informal and there is usually multiple ways for people to collaborate. They can be in the same space or they can connect to remote parties and dial in as well.”
That, according to Sean, is really the crux of what the huddle room will be turning into — remote parties and millennials.
Millennials in the Huddle Room
There is a big transition occurring right now between baby boomers and millennials. The department of labor shows that, as of this year, the two generations make up an almost equal percentage of the workplace. By 2020, millennials will overtake baby boomers to comprise a larger percentage of the workplace. As the generations change, the expectations of the workplace change as well. Where baby boomers largely prefer in-office, face-to-face meetings with less technology encumbering the process, millennials expect a higher amount of technology in the meeting room, including BYOD, wireless connectivity, and content sharing.
On top of that, millennials have different ideas about balancing work and life than did the generations before them. Millennials don’t want to have to make a long commute every day to do the same processes in an office that they could do at home. They aren’t as willing to give up their time. For those that do jump head first into their work life, the result remains the same. Travelling employees, take sales for instance, don’t want to waste selling time by flying back to the office for an in-person meeting. They expect remote meetings to suffice so that they can spend more time on the road. As this generation becomes more talented, companies will have to change their own practices to suit the needs of the most talented prospective employees. Recruiting the best talent means giving them a reason to join your company.
“There’s a lot of disruption at the workplace,” says Sean. “There’s also time, energy, money, and everything else lost during the commute. For higher productivity, I would like to work home once or twice a week. I get more quiet. I wake up at seven, and I am in work at seven o’clock. The disadvantage is that you’re away from the office, unable to have face-to-face interaction with people.”
Face-to-face interaction is still very critical in business practices. Body language, facial expressions, and more are important during meetings. Conference calls don’t suit this need — remote employees can’t share anything visually, they can get confused about who is speaking and about what, and often they can stray and begin to multitask, possibly checking e-mails or perusing the internet when they should be paying attention. Videoconferencing eliminates all of these problems. With videoconferencing, employees can engage, they can show what they need to and witness what is being shown, and they can be seen throughout and are forced to focus and pay attention as much as those in the office.
Competition in the Huddle Room
Videoconferencing is a necessity in the huddle room. In its most basic form, videoconferencing allows for remote employees to interact with employees in the office in much the same way they would interact in person. Employees from home can set up videoconferencing capabilities in their home office for relatively cheap in order to stay connected. Those employees on the road can enlist portable videoconferencing equipment to do the same. Meanwhile they are happier, the company is spending less money on travel, and more work is getting done in the same amount of time.
Videoconferencing is going to become an ever-increasing part of every company’s operations in the future. The way technology advances, the way the upcoming generations view and work with technology, and the changes in how we view the formality of the workplace demand it. Videoconferencing is the least of what your company will need to stay competitive both as a service for potential customers and as a destination for potential employees. Huddle rooms are going to become a place of daily usage for remote employees and those in the office to interact. Make sure you’re not left behind.