By: Carol Emmens
Open space floor plans are now the norm in corporations. According to the International Management Facility Association, approximately 70% of all employees in the U.S. work in open offices, which were popularized by hi-tech companies such as Google. Open spaces are viewed as a way for the employees to interact and to innovate.
In practice, open spaces often buzz like a beehive and make it difficult to concentrate or to collaborate with a team. Consequently, architects and facility managers are designing and constructing small rooms for team work. The rooms are often called huddle rooms and they are in use in almost every industry ranging from finance to technology to healthcare and they are also use in universities and colleges. They create an atmosphere for collaboration and for brainstorming, which help teams deliver (in theory) better performance in sales, marketing, research and productivity.
Typically huddle rooms are small to encourage everyone, even those who are normally less vocal, to participate in collaboration. Technology is the key to making a huddle room popular with employees; a highly used huddle room has the audiovisual equipment and IT access which makes collaboration easy by allowing information within the room and outside the room to be shared and displayed. Both audiovisual companies and IT companies were quick to develop equipment for use in huddle rooms
The majority of huddle rooms are equipped with only the basics: A 42” or 50” flat panel screen with an overlay to encourage annotation or a short-throw projector and a whiteboard. But that is only the first step. For employees using a wide variety of devices, a huddle rooms requires a wide range of connectors (HDMI, DVI, and VGA). Employees use iPhones, laptops, and tablets daily at home so they bring them into the work place. They expect to use their own devices as well as company computers; BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is commonplace.
The employees’ device cameras are used to connect to colleagues and industry leaders located elsewhere for impromptu FaceTime or Skype. For most rooms, however, higher quality wall mounted speakers and cameras are needed to create an atmosphere of eye to eye contact and collaboration.
To minimize the plugging and unplugging of devices from the display, high speed switchers allow the participants to hook up all at once and to switch easily from laptops, tablets or Smartphones. A high resolution switcher/scaler allows multiple images to be displayed on one screen or multiple screens.
Content sharing including information online is the number one objective and huddle rooms often have Wi-Fi. It is often necessary to connect to information on the network or in a cloud based storage system such as Drop Box. Wi-Fi is sometimes slow or unstable; a router or a bridge in the huddle room provide the teams with faster and more reliable way to access information and to provide more security, which is a priority to protect confidential information. A top notch huddle room requires the audiovisual team and the IT department to work together and to understand what each is doing to avoid blocking a network set up for the room.
Frequently corporations require multiple huddle rooms which are earmarked for specific activities such as videoconferencing (check our February blog for more information) or project meetings. On occasion a room is used for one team of experts drawn from cross cultural fields to work together on one project from start to finish. These have been dubbed “scrum” rooms and they serve as the primary work space for the members of the team.
There is no typical huddle room, and no typical budget. The budget needs to be based on the number of rooms desired and the objectives of each. A modest budget of $3-4,000 is the norm for the vast majority of the rooms and it is usually sufficient as the costs for technology continue to drop.
Whatever the cost, users agree that huddle rooms are necessary and that benefits are enormous in terms of generating innovation, critical thinking and problem solving. Forget the water cooler – the huddle room is where the action is.
To learn more information click here to download the ‘Tech Managers Guide to Huddle Rooms’ from AV Technology by New Bay Media.