Huddle rooms have become an essential component of the modern office. Here, Michael Helmbrecht looks at the evolution of these collaborative spaces and explains how to get the most out of them
Over the last five to 10 years, the traditional office has given way to a more transient work environment. The growing popularity of flexible working, coupled with a mobile, dispersed workforce, has reduced the need for separate offices and desk spaces and encouraged more businesses to explore alternatives, including hot-desks in open plan environments.
With many offices transitioning to an open floor plan, it has become more important than ever to have designated collaboration spaces free from noise and distractions. This in turn has given rise to the concept of smaller meeting spaces – or ‘huddle’ rooms – where small groups of three to five people and virtual teams can meet and work together on the fly.
Huddle rooms are arguably the most productive spaces in any office, as they provide privacy for collaboration and require little physical space (up to 10-12 square metres). It is not surprising, therefore, that businesses of all sizes in all industries are moving to this model. In fact, Frost & Sullivan estimates that there are currently 30 million huddle rooms worldwide1.
The desire to create more collaborative, flexible workplaces is a major factor in the popularity of open offices. So, too, is cost. Businesses simply cannot afford wasted office space and low employee productivity.
With the increase in flexible working, companies are finding they require less physical office space per employee. A recent study2 estimated that flexible working could generate workstation savings of £1.1 billion for the UK economy. This is a pretty big incentive for companies to consider when investing in new workspace environments.
In addition to providing a flexible meeting space in open plan offices, the huddle room can instil a culture of fluidity and collaboration within organisations by enabling people to sit and work together more closely. This collaborative culture is very attractive to millennials, who by 2020 will make up half the global workforce.
So, how can organisations ensure a good return on their investment in huddle rooms? Quite simply, by ensuring they optimise their use of space. For the facilities team, this means creating a huddle room that makes use of wasted space in open plan environments; and for management, it means building a culture within an organisation to ensure all spaces are optimised for different requirements.
Traditionally, a huddle room would have been equipped with two to four seats and a telephone and would have been used for one-to-one meetings or private phone calls. Audio and video conferencing technology was mainly confined to the boardroom and executive suites.
Today, companies are extending collaboration technologies throughout their organisation. By providing the same functions and capabilities in all meeting rooms, they enable these smaller spaces to be used for all types of meeting, from internal brainstorms and senior management strategy sessions to interactions with customers, thus maximising utilisation of every meeting space.
An essential tool
Video conferencing has emerged as an essential tool for organisations’ communication and collaboration strategies. The cost, ease of use, flexibility and scalability of video conferencing open the door to a wide range of new use models that meet the needs of today’s dynamic work environments.
Yet, according to Frost & Sullivan, less than 5% of the 30 million huddlerooms worldwide are video-enabled1. This could be due to several factors, including the high acquisition and operating costs of solutions and low user awareness – many companies simply do not know what is possible with the latest conferencing solutions.
In addition, while some businesses are willing to pay for an increase in video conferencing users, they may be reluctant to invest in extra IT resources to support a solution. A cloud-based video conferencing solution acquired on
a SaaS model can help overcome that barrier by dramatically reducing the time to deploy and manage a solution and by lowering costs, both for the IT department and end users.
An all-in-one cloud collaboration solution with audio, web, video conferencing and group chat from a single, trusted provider gives users an easy-to-use, consistent communication experience across platforms and devices, enabling them to optimise productivity and collaboration wherever they might be.
For the IT administrator, a fully integrated system, including the hardware device, software, service and support, means less time spent on deployment, training and management, which itself contributes to a lower total cost of ownership.
Michael Helmbrecht is Chief Product and Operations Officer at audio, web and video conferencing specialist Lifesize.