Productivity isn’t always easy in the era of open floor plan offices. Here’s your guide to leveling up your office with intimate, collaborative workspaces that employees love.
After more than a year of social distancing, people are hungry for in-person contact. And even though remote work is more popular than ever, more and more employees are opting to return to the office.
Still, employees expect a greater degree of flexibility from their jobs. And now that more accommodating work practices are becoming the norm, office infrastructure is changing, too. The days of wall-to-wall cubicles are coming to an end. In their place are open floor plans and comfortable, bright spaces that support more inspired communication and collaboration between team members.
While open floor plans can improve employee engagement and team management, they aren’t appropriate for every situation. By design, open floor plans don’t offer much privacy–a necessity for confidential conversations. Open floor plans can also lead to noisy working spaces, which can add a layer of distraction to meetings and tasks that require concentration.
Some studies have shown that open floor plans can decrease productivity and employee well-being and even make workers more likely to take sick days.
Despite this, most people agree going back to the cubicle-filled office plans of the past isn’t a desirable solution. To make these workspaces more successful, on of the most important hybrid workplace tools is the huddle room.
These small, quiet, and private spaces bring the best of both worlds to open floor plans–employees can gather to have discretionary conversations or enjoy moments of peace. And, since huddle rooms can be designed for a variety of group sizes, these spaces flex according to team needs.
Designing huddle rooms for your office space
On a practical level, a huddle room is a small, private meeting area. Typically, these rooms can accommodate quick and informal meetings of up to five people. Much like a football team huddles to plan their next moves in a game, a company’s team members can use huddle rooms to have critical strategic conversations without being interrupted.
Like traditional conference rooms, these spaces should be equipped with high-quality audio and video devices. Good quality AV infrastructure also ensures that you can host webinars, run sales presentations, hold job interviews, and make remote employees feel included in the collaborative process.
Equipping a huddle room with a high-end AV setup can be more cost-effective than equipping a larger space. And the right equipment can significantly enhance the experience of video calls, which can help build personal connections with clients and better working relationships with remote team members.
Investing in high-quality equipment can also save you from dealing with time-consuming and costly technical difficulties down the road. We’re biased – but also consider working with a qualified AV installer to get the most bang for your buck and keep equipment running smoothly.
Ideally, each huddle room should include:
A TV, LCD, or LED display screen: The price of high-quality monitors has dropped significantly in recent years, so go as big as your wallet permits–but remember that huddle rooms are small spaces, so anything in the 42”–50” range probably works well. Mount the display close to eye level–this is especially important for video conferencing.
A smartboard: Having an interactive touch screen allows team members to whiteboard, annotate, and collaborate. Smart Boards also make it easy to share and save ideas. A regular whiteboard or pane of glass will also work in a pinch. One of the best on the market is the Neat Board.
Cameras for video streaming: If you’re remotely connecting with partners, clients, and employees around the globe, having a high-quality video display adds a professional touch to your online presence. Aim for smart-framing cameras that automatically frames all participants in the huddle room.
Videoconferencing microphones : High fidelity audio is a must for effective video conferencing, particularly if your company is hosting webinars or giving sales presentations. It’s definitely worthwhile to invest in suitable microphones is essential to make sure that your voice is heard loud and clear. Beamforming microphone arrays can ensure the best quality audio for the most efficient cost. If great audio is crucial for your business, we can also recommend audio fencing and advanced acoustic echo cancellation.
Making the most of huddle spaces
Beyond AV equipment, huddle rooms should also have furniture that supports collaboration. This can include adjustable lighting, a table, and ergonomic chairs. Standing-height tables can also work well in these spaces. As you master your Zoom Rooms setup, here are a few extra tips to truly get the most out of creating and using huddle rooms in your workplace:
- Keeping huddle spaces open for inspired moments: Companies know that many of the best ideas come from spontaneous collaboration. But having sudden brainstorming sessions can be a challenge if meeting spaces need to be reserved weeks in advance. Therefore, many office managers choose to make huddle rooms into areas that can’t be reserved–they’re simply open and ready when team members feel inspired or when urgent conversations need to be held in private.
- Break up large rooms into smaller spaces: To accommodate simultaneous meetings, some companies will install multiple huddle rooms throughout their office space in addition to main conference rooms. If you’re searching for the right place to build a huddle room, consider partitioning a larger space into several smaller ones. Having more than one huddle room works especially well for companies that have large numbers of employees.
- Build huddle rooms at the intersection of work areas: If your office is split into multiple departments, consider locating your huddle rooms around places where these workspaces meet. This can help to foster inter-department communication and encourage employees to collaborate more commonly across teams.
- If you can’t build it, buy it: Companies that own office spaces have much more flexibility than companies that rent. Therefore, if you don’t have the option of repurposing that big old conference room into several smaller huddle spaces, consider purchasing or leasing meeting pods. Small structures can work well in many office spaces: phone booth pods are great for private phone conversations, while cabanas and work pods provide intimate workspaces for small groups.
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Do more with less
It’s time to get your office ready for remote work. A huddle room in your workspace is a smart, cost-effective opportunity to add more productive “heads down” spaces for employees. Staff will be more satisfied – and be happy to have focus time!