July 12, 2022 - As people increasingly come back to work in-office and companies rethink their spaces, now is an opportune time to fully embrace one of the biggest (yet technically smaller) trends in offices around the world: the huddle room.
But to optimize their value, it is essential to understand AV technology's role in encouraging huddle room use, promoting meaningful communication, and getting things done.
What are huddle rooms anyhow?
Over the years, the way we do business in offices has changed. While the conference room will never disappear, big meetings around a big table are rarer than they used to be. We're moving away from rigid work protocols towards flexibility, innovation, remote work and collaboration.
Small rooms, big advantages
As hot desking and open-space work areas become more popular, huddle rooms provide a quiet environment, ideal for a few great minds to come together for a face-to-face discussion or brainstorming session. The fact that huddle rooms tend to be spread throughout the building, close to the teams' workspaces, makes them all the more convenient.
While they can be scheduled in advance for any meeting, the typically spontaneous, informal nature of huddle room gatherings, with fewer participants, means they are often more focused and therefore shorter – a plus for productivity.
And, of course, huddle rooms are perfect for remote collaboration and hybrid work.
Five unique AV demands of hybrid huddle rooms
The huddle room advantage easily gets lost if people can't see and hear everyone properly. Whether they're in the same room or joining remotely, if they can't follow along, they're going to be bored, contribute less, and maybe lose track of the discussion. For example, according to recent Stanford research, participants were significantly more likely to multitask (32%) when the video camera and microphone were turned off. This tracks with other research on engagement that shows only 4% of people multitask during video meetings as opposed to a full 57% during phone meetings.
That's why a strong audio AND visual solution is required. And when choosing the right AV solution, it's important to consider these five factors.
- It must be very easy to use. Workers need to be able to jump into a huddle room on a whim without calling IT to help them out. Spontaneous collaboration needs to happen automatically, with minimal-to-zero effort involved. Plug and play, enter and go, for first-time users and repeat collaborators alike.
- The AV solution absolutely must support BYOD (bring your own device) with connectivity for mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. But more than that, the BYOD experience must be plug & play, with a platform-agnostic AV set up so that Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, and others are all supported.
- Everybody must be heard and seen to make a meeting more effective. Cameras, microphones, speakers, and displays are needed to pick up on (and show) all participants, both in the room and connected remotely, while minimizing background noise.
- Cost-effectiveness is vital, particularly due to the large number of rooms that will be outfitted. That means a relatively low acquisition cost (without compromising on quality), easy installation, and minimal demands on the IT infrastructure.
- And of course, an inherently secured setup that follows the security policies and requirements of the organization is a must.
The requisite AV equipment to make the magic happen
Those five requirements apply to all collaborative workspaces, but the needs of huddle rooms are somewhat unique. They're smaller spaces, and the technology needs to match.
For example, a smart camera with a wide panoramic view that is quickly installed and doesn't take up much space is ideal for capturing the entire field of view. This ensures people sitting close to the camera and on the sides of the room are seen equally well.
A compact omnidirectional speakerphone with 360° pickup is helpful where additional audio coverage is needed to ensure all meeting participants are clearly heard, especially by those joining remotely.
Or an all-in-one video and audio communication bar combining microphones, speakers, and video camera is another option, offering the added benefits of saving space and reducing cable clutter in small rooms.
In a nutshell
In reality, huddle rooms have become an integral part of any modern workspace, a must-have for productive interactions and meetings, whether scheduled or impromptu. Because many or most of these interactions are hybrid, a user-friendly, space-appropriate AV solution is a fundamental enabler for meaningful collaborations.
By Alon Turkaspa is Director of Enterprise Markets Development at Kramer Electronics Ltd.
Additional sources: Stanford University & Microsoft, The Muse