In an effort to better support the return to office of newly hybrid employees, companies across-industries are implementing any number of workplace changes. While all of these changes are done so with hybrid collaboration and communication in mind, there is one facet of the modern workplace that often goes overlooked during transitional times such as the one we currently find ourselves in— huddle rooms.

Huddle rooms— a smaller, private meeting room alternative to a standard conference room— have been in use at companies of all sizes for years now. However, due to ongoing social distancing guidelines, health and safety concerns of returning employees, and the rise of hybrid teams they have taken on a new importance in the recent year and moving forward will be playing an even more prominent role in the daily life of hybrid and flexible employees.

Even before COVID-19 and the hybrid-minded return to work shone a spotlight on the hyper-accessible nature of huddle rooms, they were already seeing a rise in prominence with an estimated 32.4 million huddle rooms being in use across the globe back in 2018. While this may seem like a promising number, it’s also important to note that less than 2% of those huddle rooms are video enabled. Meaning, there may be no shortage of huddle rooms but without video conferencing capabilities they are ill-equipped to efficiently support the evolving needs of your returning hybrid employees.

Companies may have considered how to wire their larger conference spaces, but what about the huddle rooms? Let’s take a look at how you can begin incorporating tech into your huddle rooms and spaces to better support hybrid work.

Hybrid Huddle Rooms 101

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A hybrid huddle room— similar to a hybrid meeting room or conference room— is a small, enclosed meeting space that has been designed to bridge in-person and remote work in a hybrid format. For example, hybrid huddle rooms can be used to connect on-site employees with their remote teammates for regularly scheduled meetings, last minute brainstorming sessions, or even fully-fledged collaboration sessions. 

When properly designed and after the necessary tech tools have been implemented, hybrid huddle rooms can be game changers for organizations looking to create sustainable support systems for their hybrid and flexible employees. Regardless of the size of your workforce or how frequently your individual employees work on-site as part of their new flexible schedules, your organization can benefit from investing in the redesigning and rewiring of your huddle rooms to better support the return to work.

The key here is to remember that the employees who left your office to take shelter in their home offices during 2020 are not the same employees who will be returning to the office when you reopen this year. Sure, they may look and sound the same but a year is a long time and during such a tumultuous year, their needs and expectations for the workplace have changed. Expecting them to return to the office without making any changes designed to support the employees they have evolved into would be like buying a dog bed for a puppy and refusing to buy it a bigger bed once they’ve grown into an adult dog. 

In order to show your employees that you support their evolution and changing needs, begin rewiring your workspaces to better support hybrid work starting with your huddle rooms.

The Benefits of Rewiring Your Huddle Rooms with Hybrid Tech

  • Optimizing previously unused space for increased and more varied usage
  • Creating increased opportunities for hybrid team collaboration
  • Huddle rooms boost creativity while improving hybrid team efficiency
  • Huddle rooms are designed to support impromptu meetings for flexible teams
  • Huddle rooms are often a cost-effective alternative to larger, more involved conference rooms and meeting spaces
  • For organizations experiencing a smaller rate of on-site work due to flexible schedules, turning larger spaces into huddle rooms can help make better use of space
  • When you rewire spaces to make them more accessible you are communicating to your employees that you prioritize their happiness

Hybrid Huddle Room Tech Necessities

  • A large monitor
  • A whiteboard or smart whiteboard
  • A smart video conference camera
  • Speakers
  • External microphones
  • HDMI/VGA cords
  • WiFi (and an ethernet cable for backup)

Hybrid Huddle Room Best Practices

  • The most efficient huddle rooms are equally accessible to all employees regardless of where they are located.
  • To create completely inclusive hybrid spaces, double (and triple!) check to ensure that every employee has an equal opportunity to lead, participate in, and contribute to huddle room meetings.
  • Because they are designed to be smaller than typical meeting rooms, only include the necessary people to your huddle room meetings.
  • Use a round table in huddle rooms to promote accessibility.
  • Place your smart video conferencing camera in the middle of the table so remote participants can see and hear everyone easily.
  • Incorporate a 360° video camera to give your hybrid huddle room meetings that coveted in-person feel.

The 5 Steps to Rewiring Huddle Rooms to Support Hybrid Work

The good news is, rewiring your huddle rooms to better support hybrid work is just as easy as rewiring any of your other facilities. Throughout the process remember to stay flexible and adaptable— and keep your IT department on speed dial.

Step One: Survey your hybrid employees.

Considering the root of all workspace changes is to benefit your employees, the first step toward optimizing your huddle rooms is to survey those who will be most affected by the changes you make— the hybrid employees themselves. When you take the time to open up a clear channel of communication between yourself and your hybrid teams you are not only communicating to them that you respect their opinion, but you are also tapping your most reliable resource.

No one understands the evolving needs of hybrid employees like the hybrid employees themselves. In order to get the most out of your surveying efforts, ask your hybrid teams questions like:

  • If you could change one thing about huddle rooms, what would it be?
  • Which tech tools would you most like to see integrated into the huddle rooms?
  • Do you view huddle rooms as a useful workspace? Why or why not?
  • When you are working remotely with teammates in huddle rooms, is there anything you would change about that experience?
  • When you are working from a huddle room and collaborating with your remote teammates, is there anything you would change about that experience?
  • Which tech tools do you feel are essential to the hybrid huddle room experience?
  • Are there more foundational changes you would make to huddle rooms if you could? Such as changing their size or shape?

Once you have collected comprehensive responses from your hybrid team leaders and employees, it’s time for the most important aspect of this step— actually implementing these changes. After all, why survey your employees if you aren’t going to listen to what they have to say?

Step Two: Consult your IT team.

The changes you make to your huddle rooms in an effort to optimize them for hybrid use will be a combination of what you learn from surveying your hybrid employees and what you learn from consulting with your IT team. Considering they will be the ones physically implementing the changes and wiring the tech, it’s imperative that you work side-by-side with the IT department throughout this process.

Start this process by getting them up to speed on your expectations for transforming your huddle rooms. Then, inform them of your employee expectations so they have all of the information they could possibly need to move forward with implementing the tech into your huddle rooms. Once they’ve determined which tech tools can and should be used to transform your existing huddle rooms into hybrid facilities, you can begin the transformation process.

Step Three: Train  your hybrid teams on new tech.

A big mistake you can make during the process of rewiring your huddle rooms to better support hybrid work is to forget to properly train your hybrid teams on the new tech. Sure, some of the tech might be software or tools they are already familiar with and may have already been using for years. But there’s no good reason to make that assumption. Instead, approach the transformation of your huddle rooms the same way you would approach implementing any new company-wide changes by taking the time to thoroughly train employees on huddle room best practices, expectations, and the ins and outs of all relevant tech to ensure a smooth transition.

This training could look like a few things depending on the locational makeup of your teams, the familiarity level they already have with the tech, and the shape and size of your IT support. Some ways to train employees on the best practices of hybrid huddle rooms are:

  • Have your IT team members hold regularly scheduled office hours where employees can pop in to have any and all of their hybrid huddle room questions answered.
  • Create digital training guides so employees can train themselves independently.
  • Set up a shared Google Calendar for IT team members to display their availability, then employees can sign up for 1:1 appointments to have their questions answered.
  • Host a mandatory training session to cover all new tech and huddle room guidelines all at once.

The future of work is hybrid. To be as prepared as possible for what exactly that future holds for your company and your employees, begin the process of rewiring your office spaces to better support hybrid work today. To support you in your effort to support your hybrid teams, we are launching a full meeting room suite of tools to ensure a smooth transition into the future of work and the return to office (whatever that may look like for your organization). Take your first look at room solutions here.

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