Meet the Huddle Room – The New Meeting Space Experience

Formality is out of fashion in business – the huddle room is in

Meet the Huddle Room – The New Meeting Space Experience

As more and more meetings go ad hoc and virtual, the demands on conferencing technology are changing…

Formality is out of fashion in business. Once unthinkable, it is now acceptable for executives to wear a shirt and jacket without a tie. Staff address their bosses by their first name. And meetings, once carefully planned, orchestrated events, are increasingly becoming ad hoc, off-the-cuff occasions just as likely to happen in a coffee bar as a proper meeting room.

To reflect this change in meeting culture, there’s a new phrase in town – the huddle. Well, it’s not even that new anymore – companies like Walmart did away with team meetings in favour of team huddles long ago. Participants are encouraged to bring cake to share. Many huddles happen without people even sitting down.

The huddle is a reflection of an evolving working culture which prizes flexibility, open knowledge sharing, collaboration and innovation. The complaint so often levied against more formal business meetings is that have a tendency to be long-winded and even pointless – people would hold meetings for the sake of holding a meeting.

A huddle is an altogether different beast. You only have a huddle when you need to have a huddle. It has a clear purpose, and it lasts as long as it needs to meet that goal. And because you never know quite when you might need to pull together a team of colleagues to mull over a problem or knock around a new idea, a huddle can take place at any time. No use waiting for that scheduled meeting a week on Friday, when the idea has gone cold. A huddle is a meeting for in-the-moment thinking, and you have to be ready to huddle whenever the call comes.

Huddle RoomExperts in the business space are constantly searching for ways to improve collaboration and communication in the workforce, if that means improved productivity. As a result, new solutions for meetings have begun to evolve, thanks to the use of new technology and office design. Businesses are currently exploring something called the “huddle space” or the “huddle room“. These unique areas have been proven to be effective at helping remote employees collaborate over work projects, and may even improve employee recruitment and retention.

The only problem is that many companies simply don’t understand what huddle rooms really are. On the surface, we assume they’re a place where people in a team get together to communicate, but what is it that makes the huddle room so special?

The Emerging Trend of Remote Working

Perhaps one of the key reasons why huddle rooms have begun to gain traction in the workforce, comes down to the fact that employees are spending more time working remotely, pushing a need for external collaboration. Let’s take a look at the facts about remote working, telecommuting and flexible working:

  • Between 2013 and 2014, the employed population grew by 1.9%, but the telecommuter pool grew by 5.6%
  • Around 3.7 million employees currently work from home around 50% of the time or more
  • Employees working from home have increased by 103% since 2005
  • Up to 90% of employees would prefer to have the option for remote working
  • Most Fortune 1000 employees spend less than 50% of their time at the office
  • 50% of the workforce currently have jobs that could be done remotely

The Need for Small Meeting Spaces

The change in the remote working environment has driven the need for smaller meeting spaces that allow remote employees and local employees to come together and collaborate more efficiently. These new rooms share a range of crucial themes, including the presence of 6 or less users in any room, ad hoc scheduling, simple technology, and the ability to hold meetings for 45-60 minutes. Today’s workforce often have multiple huddle rooms for every corporate location.

Often, huddle rooms are appealing because of their laid-back and creative nature. Most of these spaces are lounge-like in design, and the technology that’s available is both creative and user-friendly, including:

  • Laptops and tablets
  • Whiteboards
  • Simple connection interfaces like wall plates and table inserts
  • Flat panel display
  • Easy-to-use speaker or conference phones

As more of the workforce opts for the work/life balance afforded by remote working, it makes sense that we’ll continue to see increased opportunities in the world of huddle rooms and creative meeting spaces.

Remote connections

The rise of the huddle has also been influenced by the emergence of remote working, and the mobile technologies which support it. Increasing numbers of people do not spend five days a week sat in the same building as their closest colleagues. They might spend a couple of days working from home. They might be based at a different site altogether.

This has weakened the emphasis on getting big groups of people together to hold a meeting. If half a team are working somewhere else, there is no point. The physical space needed for meetings has therefore been reduced, while the focus on having the right technology so you can connect and collaborate effectively with your colleagues via their laptops, tablets and smartphones has increased.

That, in a nutshell, is how the huddle room has come about – smaller, more informal spaces for ad hoc gatherings which are equipped just as well for virtual collaboration as for face-to-face discussion.

Huddle room technology

Huddle RoomsHuddle rooms are closely associated with the buzz around collaboration in business. The collaboration hype is a largely technological phenomenon. People have always worked together, but in the last few years it has been the new possibilities created for more flexible, productive collaboration through technology that has created all of the excitement. Including, of course, the opportunities to collaborate effectively over distance.

So one aspect of huddle room technology is the association with increasingly popular collaboration and team messaging software platforms. Whether you are actually in the huddle space, or connecting remotely, all colleagues want to be able to see, share and work on the same documents and materials.

Screen and file sharing are vital, as is the ability to annotate and sketch out ideas on whiteboard platforms. These are common to most collaboration apps for laptops and mobile devices. But for ease of physical collaboration in the huddle space, many businesses are using large interactive whiteboards or smart screens to plug into these apps. Groups can get hands on with sketching out ideas on the big screen, while changes made on individual devices are instantly shared.

Video conferencing is another essential element of the huddle room experience. While so-called team messaging platforms prioritise IM for convenience of ongoing interaction with colleagues as you work, when it comes to effective group collaboration, you cannot beat the face-to-face experience. Again, it is about merging the virtual with the physical, making sure remote participants can see and be seen just as if they were in the room.

Audio visual (AV) hardware has been a feature of conference rooms for many years now. But with the new emphasis on virtual collaboration, AV in the huddle space has a different set of priorities. Screens, cameras and conferencing endpoints are still a feature, but to meet the new demands, business are choosing solutions with the following features:

  • Wireless connectivity, via WiFi and or Bluetooth, so devices can plug in to huddle room hardware quickly and easily for ad hoc meetings
  • Instant access, so repeat connections are established immediately
  • Open standards for device interoperability, so any device can connect to the system. This is helps to support BYOD, for example
  • Software that supports responsive screen resolutions, so visuals are optimised on any device, large screens and small

Benefits of the huddle space

One of the main arguments made in favour of improving the ways workers collaborate is that it leads to better employee engagement – and that in turn brings benefits like increased productivity, lower staff turnover, and overall better business performance. The more you encourage and involve employees in open knowledge sharing, the more innovative your encourage them to be, the more interactive work is and the more they feel a valued part of a team, the better they perform.

Collaboration platforms tick all of these boxes, and so do huddle spaces. It helps to promote a culture where, if someone has a great idea or needs help quickly, they can pull together a group of colleagues in the moment to throw it around. It encourages flexibility, freedom and trust in how and where people work.

Huddle rooms also have some more immediately practical benefits. Smaller than traditional formal meeting rooms, they free up valuable space in the office. Pretty much any nook or cranny can be turned into a huddle space – it is not the physical area that matters, it is the approach they encourage.

Finally, huddle rooms can save money. Compared to traditional conference room equipment, the hardware you need to set up an effective huddle space is less of a burden. The biggest capital outlay is likely to be a smart screen or interactive whiteboard. Other than that, one of the key points is for staff to be able to connect the laptops, notebooks and tablets they usually work from straight into the system. On top of that, cloud-based video conferencing and collaboration platforms offer excellent value for money, as well as flexibility and ease of access on any device.

The transition to smaller spaces

Increasingly, we’re beginning to see companies transition to smaller, more flexible spaces – largely driven by the costs of larger IT infrastructures. According to Marco Landi of Polycom, huddle rooms mean that meeting organisers don’t have to schedule meetings anymore, or ask for help from IT. Instead, they can simply jump into a meeting by walking into a room.

Huddle rooms aren’t exactly a new concept, but it’s only been recently that businesses have started to recognise the possibilities that they have to offer. The standard large meeting space has been a default setting for so long, that few companies understood what might be possible with something smaller. Now, in the coming decade, it seems as though we’ll begin to see transformations in the workplace, driven by ease of use, flexibility, and better user experience-  all through huddle rooms.

Huddle rooms make conferencing more acccessible

According to research from Wainhouse, about 55% of younger workers have begun to push conference managers for more accessible video solutions in the workplace. Huddle rooms equipped with conferencing technology have the opportunity to connect staff wherever they are, through a range of innovative devices. This is pivotal in a world where 90% of 35-year old workers consider flexible working to be essential.

Equipment that allows any space to become a meeting space – regardless of how small it might be – is changing the way we do business. Specialist new technology like the Polycom Real Presence Trio and RealPresence Centro have begun to support the huddle room trend. Innovations in technology are actively driving new communication solutions further, with brand-new opportunities. The old way of working over phone and email is disappearing, and collaboration with instant messaging, web-streaming, video and content sharing is taking its place.

The move to more open collaboration

RealPresence Centro

Polycom RealPresence Centro

Collaboration in the future is going to be all about providing new ways to enable people to work together across a range of devices. The huddle room can be set up using a range of devices like the Polycom RealPresence Trio, to allow for better inter-working opportunities in moments. For instance, with a 360-degree camera and four multi-media screens, the RealPresence Centro will give users a chance to collaborate more naturally in huddle spaces, rather than looking at distant screens.

When technology and imagination come together to increase productivity in huddle spaces, smaller rooms can be the source of huge solutions for cooperation.

Millennials love team collaboration apps and huddle spaces

If companies want to stay on top with the youngest, freshest talent, they need to find a way to attract and retain staff who look at the workplace from a completely new perspective.

Millennials are creative, collaborative creatures, with a strong desire for all-things technology. According to one white paper, Millennials actively work better in teams, preferring collaborative environments over siloed offices. In the past, Gen-X workers and baby boomers preferred more face-to-face interaction, while millennials are keen to jump into the future with virtual conferencing and new flexible tech. As such, it makes sense that the workforce of tomorrow would be drawn to huddle rooms, team apps, and everything that makes remote working so effective.

Millennials and collaboration

Millennials are highly self-motivated workers. They don’t need micromanagement – all they need is the right tech. That’s why we’re starting to see a lot of traditional workplace hierarchies disappear from the standard office space. With 95% of millennials craving the opportunity to telecommute, it’s no surprise that mobile collaboration apps are becoming increasingly popular.

Research shows that millennials adore mobile apps, with 90 hours a month spent on smartphone applications alone. The fact that millennials have grown up in such an inter-connected world, means that they require a different approach to office collaboration tools – one that adheres to the versatility and flexibility they need in their work/life balance.

Embracing collaborative apps

It’s the millennial workforce that’s currently setting the standards when it comes to application needs in any modern business environment. The more that you can transform your workplace with mobile team applications, the more empowered the latest generation becomes. After all, millennials inherently prefer the quicker, more efficient methods of working that collaboration apps provide.

Raised in a completely connected world, Millennials expect access to the latest and greatest solutions to collaboration – making work more efficient from wherever they might be. For instance, 60% of millennials are using SaaS applications like Dropbox and Google Drive, compared to only 38% of baby boomers. The same study to find this result also showed that:

  • 32% of millennials collaborate on phones, tablets, and smartwatches, compared to 23% of baby boomers
  • 40% of millennials prefer online meetings – through video and voice conferencing, compared to 26% of baby boomers
  • 45% of millennials prefer to use email, chat, or text to communicate with partners, vendors, and team members too – compared to only 36% of baby boomers

The rise of the huddle room

With so much demand for new and improved collaboration technology and fewer “in-person” meetings, it makes sense that the millennial generation would also be keen to adopt huddle rooms over larger conference spaces. Huddle rooms give more intimacy to the collaboration space, and also provide users with access to the latest and greatest technology – which is a key concern for the millennial workforce.

Huddle rooms are perfect for the millennial workforce because they allow these younger professionals to hold meetings instantly, in a more tech-infused environment. It also means that they can reach out to other millennials who don’t want to commute back and forth to work when they can access the same software from any device. By allowing globally dispersed workers to communicate more readily with people in the office, huddle rooms allow for stronger real-time discussions within the millennial community.

For the modern workforce, collaborative apps and huddle spaces are a dream come true.

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