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Office spaces have always offered unique challenges.
Often populated with dozens of people, all with their own tasks and individual requirements, it can be difficult to provide spaces that meet everyone’s needs.
The modern office is currently undergoing a paradigm shift, one that hasn’t been seen since the invention of the cubicle.
Where employees were once being herded into boxes, given a sort of pseudo-privacy, the walls are now coming down. Offices are becoming open concept, shared spaces, which employees are encouraged to explore.
The future looks bright for free-range workers.
While open-concept spaces may be excellent for a creating vibrant workplace culture and fostering a collaborative atmosphere, they fail to meet the unique requirements of individual employees. In fact, they add additional problems.
In the past, office’s privacy (or at least the illusion of it) was readily found behind the cold grey fabric and plastic of a cubicle wall. For larger meetings, there was always the trusty board rooms to book.
But as drop ceilings and primer grey have given way to bare ductwork and exposed brick, the ability to operate privately has been seriously diminished.
However, necessity has proven the mother of invention. Enter the “huddle room” a new space for the modern workplace that seeks to allow open-concept offices the ability to have their cake and eat it too.
Huddle rooms are small spaces, separated from the rest of the office where mini meetings can are held, calls can be taken, and video conferencing happens. They aren’t meant to cordon off employees – rather they exist to provide a temporary oasis from the bustle of the workplace.
Here’s the top three ways huddle rooms are addressing problems faced in contemporary workplaces:
When there’s no walls to duck behind, sound and activities can carry obnoxiously in an office. We’ve all been near a coworker on a loud conference call – it’s not exactly conducive to productive work.
It wasn’t so bad muffled behind cubicles, but at shared workspaces like the solid wood tables that seem to come pre-installed for new startups, it can be a real headache.
Loud calls and conversations can be distracting for those around you – but where to go when they inevitably happen?
“The more we’ve got these open spaces for people to work in, it doesn’t negate the need for private spaces to have conversations,” explains Brian Phillips, Polycom’s Senior Product Marketing Manager. “Whether it’s a private topic or you just need to have a conversation for 20 minutes without bothering your neighbors around you, you need a space to pop in and be able to do that.”
The small, intimate space of a huddle room is a perfect solution for the situation Phillips describes. It can provide an oasis for conferences and small meeting without disrupting the whole office.
Of course you could escape to a full-sized boardroom. But if you’re just participating in a conference call or having a small meeting, using the whole room can be a waste of space, and block it for others who might need it more.
Huddle rooms act as small, dedicated spaces perfect for the kind of individualistic work that will always need to take place in some capacity.
Video conferencing is quickly rising in popularity for many companies, and it’s easy to see why.
As bandwidth and video quality improve, video conferencing allows for cost effective communication by cutting down travel time without sacrificing the benefit of face-to-face interaction.
“Just adding video overall gives such a different layer of interactivity in communication,” Phillips says. “When you’re talking with someone truly face-to-face it adds so much to that meeting experience.”
But this modern advent is clashing with another – the open-concept office space.
Like any noisy phone call, these conferences can be disruptive to fellow employees. However, even more challenging is the very setup of the call itself.
Sure, it’s possible to interact via video with nothing more than a laptop enabled with Wi-Fi, microphone, speakers, and webcam. It’s just not all that great of an experience for any party involved in the conference.
Some people don’t mind the awkwardly-angled tilt of a simple web camera, the grainy image of Skype-tier video, or the tinny sounds rendered by a laptop microphone. If we’re being honest, though, a video conference benefits from a bit more than the bare minimum.
Problem is, outfitting a big boardroom with the requisite kit to produce high quality picture and sound can become quite expensive. Plus, large rooms like these are disappearing as quickly as open-concept workplaces rise.
“Now you need solutions that give you good quality conferencing experiences from these huddle spaces but at a much lower price point,” Phillips adds.
Huddle rooms offer the perfect solution. Compact, private and rapidly increasing in popularity, conferencing companies are targeting technology at these spaces to meet the needs of video conferencers.
With affordable, high-quality, compact technology available for huddle rooms, modern offices can embrace the benefits brought by video conferencing.
The space we work in largely impacts how we work. That’s part of the reason modern offices are tending towards open spaces – there’s a palpable sense of teamwork that comes from open concept setups.
There will be times, of course, where you’ll want to buckle down for a meeting with a small team, outside the general office area. Huddle rooms act as the perfect medium for small meetings.
In a large board room, the setup can be awkward and communication strained as you shout across an expansive table. Huddle rooms bring teams physically closer, and help them stay on task.
“If you’ve got all these standard conference rooms and board rooms that seat a dozen or more, it’s an inefficient use of space,” Phillips says. “That’s why companies are starting to deploy more of these huddle spaces, because it better fits their collaboration needs.”
As huddle rooms rise in prominence, technology is being introduced to make the most of the space. This means hardware and software directly tailored to the small space.
“Polycom is making it easier to collaborate across distances from these smaller huddle rooms, because they do have unique needs that are different from larger conference rooms,” Phillips says. “We’re making it really easy to walk in the room, press a button on your integrated calendar and it fires up you’re call.”
Technology like Polycom’s RealPresence Centro are reshaping the way we interact and offering a lot more capability to the average huddle room meeting.
Plus, when combined with the video conferencing that comes with the huddle room, you team can collaborate with other teams remotely, ensuring thorough, collaborative and effective meetings.
An evolution in work culture means an evolution in technology to accommodate it. This is happening right now with huddle rooms, which are becoming increasingly popular to address the problems of open concept offices.
The great news is that technology and conferencing providers are rushing in to outfit these rooms and make them as user-friendly as possible.
“I don’t think huddle rooms have reached their peak, and I don’t think they’re a flash in the pan. I think it really is indicative of this new way of working,” Phillips explains. “It’s going to continue to drive the need for smaller, drop-in-type rooms, which in turn is going to increase the need for really powerful collaboration technology in them.”
It looks like huddle rooms are far more than a passing fad – they signal a paradigm shift in how employees interact with their office space, and seem to promise a more effective workspace than ever before.