The workplace is changing. For many enterprises, the days of large conference rooms for meetings and videoconferencing are dwindling while smaller, connected quick meeting rooms are on the rise. Typically these spaces, often referred to as ‘huddle rooms,’ include a video screen with attached microphone, a phone system for conferencing, and a central surface with four seats or less. So why are companies trending toward these small, insulated collaboration spaces rather than the large presentation rooms we have grown accustomed to?
“One of the reasons huddle rooms have taken off is because companies have open floor plans,” says John Mitton, CTO at Red Thread.
An increasing amount of employees in all industries are working remotely from home several days each week and even full time. Then there is the new global market that has become accessible to companies of all sizes. Employees are travelling more often and working varied hours based on clientele around the world. Fewer employees are in the office during typical 8-5 hours, and because of that designated spaces like offices are unnecessary.
Open floor plans allow for large spaces to be occupied by cubicles and desks, rather than wasting private spaces reserved for employees that only use their offices a percentage of the time. When these remote and travelling workers are in the building, huddle rooms serve in place of the offices that once went unused. When they are away huddle rooms are available to all employees.
“Huddle rooms are great spaces for impromptu meetings,” says Mitton.
A huddle room can be used to give presentations to an individual or small group in a quiet, enclosed space. Meetings, brainstorming sessions, and presentations for groups of two to four employees are perfect for huddle rooms. If employees need to meet with prospective clients or members of their team, a huddle room is as available as an office would be. When remote employees need to videoconference a huddle room allows for a private space to speak. Companies have taken note of the versatility of huddle rooms. Many would rather leave what real estate they have open to the entire company than to one employee.
Increased Work Flow
A traditional presentation room could hold several groups working on separate projects. One group might be at the whiteboard generating ideas while the second presents information to one another over the projector. The third is huddled around a laptop speaking with a remote worker. Each group is disturbing the other and the overall work suffers. Otherwise, a group is alone in the presentation room, two or three people using a space large enough to accommodate twenty. Meanwhile two other groups can’t meet to collaborate until the first has finished.
“The problem with traditional conference rooms is that, even if you have it for four or five hours, once you finish your time in that conference room you’re supposed to leave it the way you found it,” says Raj Mitra, IT Manager at Innosight. “People would write on the whiteboards, put all these sticky notes on the walls, and when they had to leave someone would have to take a photo. That’s not really a sustainable way to get work done.”
With huddle rooms the first group is in an enclosed space, their ideas unheard by any but those in the room. The second group is able to view the presentation without their words being lost in the first group’s ideas. The third is set comfortably around a table while the remote employee’s video feed displays on a screen built into the wall, an equal and active member of the team. In each instance the groups are offered an intimate and private space that encourages good work habits. Huddle rooms offer companies a palette of work places that can be used by any and all employees in need.
In many cases, conference rooms are underutilized as they have premium space and equipment, but can be taken by small teams looking for a meeting space. By installing huddle rooms, a company is able to fully utilize conference rooms for large meetings, presentations, and group videoconferencing without giving up the space to small groups. Huddle rooms give companies availability, and that availability allows for increased work flow as employees don’t need to plan around one another’s schedules or fight over use of private work spaces.
There are several ways to utilize huddle rooms separately from traditional conference rooms. To set a basic standard, any huddle room should be outfitted with whiteboards, or some such device, to allow for quick idea sharing and presentation. A single table should be placed in each huddle room to support collaboration; no need for huddle rooms if the employees will be separated within the space as well. The rest of the equipment depends on the type of work your employees have to do.
For mobile employees, huddle rooms should provide a way to share content. It is likely that most of a mobile employees work will be saved on personal or company distributed devices. A short throw projector or video screen can provide a means to broadcast presentations to a small group of colleagues or clients within the confines of a huddle room. A wireless streaming device such as Apple TV can allow for mobile employees to connect to the system easily. Finally, a mounted camera and ceiling speakers can allow for videoconferencing with other remote employees or clients.
Many huddle rooms are utilized by teams to collaborate on lengthy projects. To manage the constant fluctuation of these team projects and avoid overbooking rooms a room scheduling device such as a RoomWizard can be installed. This will allow for employees to manage schedules fluidly by giving comprehensive availability of each room. Many teams will be working in rooms for an extended amount of time. Security systems can be installed on huddle rooms and programmed to allow only team members into each room for the length of their project. Then, when the project is completed, the system can be reprogrammed to allow access to the next team. This prevents the need to clean up work at the end of the day and waste time setting back up the next morning.
So with huddle rooms becoming more prevalent with offices, where does that leave conference rooms and offices in the future?
“The huddle rooms are used for that specific type of collaborative work,” says Mitra. “A lot of managers will have meetings with a couple of team members in their own office. I see the future for the conference room as there being few of them, but they have more amenities for when the occasion arises. Then having more huddle rooms for when people need to get something quick done or share something quick with each other.”
The huddle room is not going to take over the conference room. Fiscally, it doesn’t make sense to outfit huddle rooms with the types of technology that go into large conference rooms. Practically, conference rooms need to be available for large meetings and presentations, where huddle rooms would be too small. Huddle rooms are needed to augment conference rooms and provide a space for the in-between needs of small groups.
Find the right balance of huddle rooms and conference rooms and your company will see an increase in actual work time and a decrease in wasted space. Time and space is money.