In this era of hybrid work, teams all over the world are working differently, and adapting to new workplace trends and employee preferences. Employees want the choice to come into the office to connect and collaborate with their colleagues in flexible and often spontaneous ways.
That’s why hybrid team collaboration is at the forefront of the workplace experience conversation — and it’s why your office space may be due for an upgrade.
This year, employees are using the office for collaborative space much more than they did in the past — the State of the Hybrid Workplace Report found that the use of collaborative spaces is up 50% year over year, and the new space planning ratio companies should use is one collaborative space for every two desks. This is a huge jump from pre-pandemic data, when companies planned for one collaborative area for every six desks. As workplace strategists plan for the months ahead, they need to consider why employees are using office spaces and how they can be designed for the best possible engagement.
One of the most immediate and lasting changes in the workforce is in how meeting rooms operate and how hybrid teams collaborate — and both depend on reliable technology.
How have workplace meeting rooms changed?
In the past, most employees were onsite daily. They’d run from meeting room to meeting room, sometimes barely seeing their own desk all day. Meetings were conducted in rooms of various sizes, depending on the number of attendees. Collaboration happened almost entirely in person.
The most cutting-edge companies had video conferencing technology built into every meeting room, but many companies got by with meeting rooms containing little more than a table, chairs, and a conference phone.
Now, with new hybrid workplace expectations from nearly all employees, meetings have new requirements for both remote and in-office participants to ensure equitable conversations, like having reliable spaces for on-the-go chats.
Many companies are letting their teams take a location-flexible approach to work, meaning that they need to make the office a special place where employees can accomplish things they can’t at home, like taking a break from screen time, collaborating, brainstorming, and socializing with coworkers. That also means every meeting needs to accommodate employees both in the office and those videoing in from elsewhere, and it takes a lot of great technology and space planning to truly achieve this goal.
Enter huddle rooms.
Huddle Rooms: The New Hybrid Meeting Space
Huddle rooms are replacing or joining what we used to know as meeting rooms or conference rooms. They’re smaller than a typical meeting room, accommodating anywhere between 2 and 6 attendees, and should include best-in-class hybrid meeting technology, flexible design, and adaptable setups.
Huddle rooms are agile spaces that support easy, productive collaboration between colleagues in the office, or with those working from home.
If your workplace data has shown that a significant portion of your team is choosing to work from home even just some of the time, your office needs huddle rooms.
How Huddle Rooms Encourage Collaboration
With large screens, high-quality video conferencing cameras and microphones, and comfortable seating and tables, teams can collaborate with ease, regardless of where they may be located.
With better video conferencing technology built right into the spaces, there’s no wasted time at the beginning of a meeting where the person in the office has to get the meeting connected. There’s also no seemingly eternal waiting to be done by employees calling in from home while in-office attendees chat as the Zoom starts up.
What makes collaboration work, even in a hybrid setting, is mutual respect and equity. And if everyone is sure they can be seen and heard in a meeting, they’ll be more likely to speak up and make their ideas heard, which isn’t a given when there’s audio or video lag or other issues.
Designing Huddle Rooms for an Optimal Work Experience
1. Video conferencing technology
The number-one most important element of any huddle room is great video conferencing technology. Cameras that go beyond the webcams of previous decades, built-in microphones that pick up voices of all volumes (not only just the loudest ones!), and virtual whiteboard platforms can all make hybrid collaboration successful.
2. Comfortable seating
Huddle rooms should be comfortable and support collaboration. Include round tables for the ideal conversational setup and invest in chairs and tables that feel more like a lounge than a classroom. Ensure that huddle rooms have a whiteboard and dry erase markers — you never know when a great idea will strike, and some employees are more tactile and prefer to write instead of using their laptop when brainstorming and collaborating.
3. Natural light and plants
It makes a huge difference to employee wellness to infuse as much natural light as possible into a space. Plants can help create a more engaging and enjoyable work environment too, so include them in huddle rooms when possible.
4. Ample space for longer work sessions
Include space for circulation so people don’t feel cramped and can work together for several hours.
Collaborative Office Spaces Improve the Employee Experience
Today, team collaboration is possible even across countries and time zones. Building a strong, respectful, equitable company culture is the first step, encouraging ideas from everyone and pushing teams to learn from one another. But once you’ve got collaborative teams ready to work together, provide them with the tools and spaces they need to connect under any circumstance.
Huddle rooms are the future of office collaboration and workplace design, since hybrid work only stands to gain popularity. Update your workspace to encourage hybrid collaboration with huddle rooms today. You can even start small with an experiment.
Whether you’re experimenting in one floor or one huddle room, you can make informed design choices with real data in a low risk, high reward environment. This is especially helpful if you are experiencing low workplace utilization so you can produce a business case for what will have an impact, prior to a full-scale rollout.
Download our free guide to learn about the basic principles of experimentation, as well as a series of recommended experiments for different workplace and real estate use cases. This guide also includes a template to help you run your own experiments, so you can update your workspaces with confidence.