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How To Create Effective Workplace Huddles For Employees

In the drive to optimize workspaces further and further, the huddle room has taken off, and for good reason. It seems nothing iterates faster than the corporate floorplan, as they are constantly rearranged to get the most out of every employee, while also keeping them engaged and fresh. But this isn’t the Feng Shui fad of the 90s, because there is plenty of evidence to suggest that workspace organization meaningfully affects productivity. Lighting, for example, can be a mood booster or a stress inducer, depending on where the light comes from. There’s a reason why forward-thinking, multi-billion dollar companies invest heavily into their office design and organization. And that’s a good reason why all businesses should consider something like workplace huddles for their operations.

What is a huddle room?

The clue is in the name. Huddle rooms are designed for small groups to quickly and organically come together for collaboration purposes. Ideally, they are employed with a small team that needs to quickly hammer something out. This approach to collaboration means companies have to maintain several huddle rooms at once, as they are intended to be used with little notice. Huddle rooms are beacons of advanced A/V technology, which is needed to facilitate the kind of rapid fire collaboration on display in workplace huddles. Some of the mandatory components of a huddle room include:
  1. A compact, centrally placed table – Tables may not be high tech, but they are vital for productivity. The table can regular height for sitting or bar height for standing, which means chairs are optional. Ideally, the table will work with the room’s technology, providing connectors for various devices and providing a mounting spot for audio hardware.
  2. An interactive (or non-interactive) digital display – A room without a display is just a room with a table. A display, whether it is interactive or not, provides a platform for sharing and reviewing media with a team. Interactive displays are quickly replacing standard displays, as they are usually packaged with collaboration tools and can be efficiently utilized with simple hand gestures. It’s tough to beat interactive displays when it comes to collaboration speed and creativity.
  3. Video conferencing technology – A table and display allow for collaboration with onsite teams, but when remote employees need to be brought into the conversation, video conferencing is essential. In fact, many companies dedicate their huddle rooms to conferencing with remote team members. There is no shortage of video conferencing solutions, as they can be scaled up or down to any space. This includes huddle rooms, where A/V integrators can quickly outfit video and audio hardware for maximum image and conversational quality.
  4. Room controls – These aren’t a must, but if a business really wants to get fancy with their huddle rooms, they can give users maximum control. A simple touch interface means one tap and all of the technology powers up and is ready to go in moments. As huddle rooms are intended for collaborative speed, those extra moments can crank up the efficiency further.

If the controls are tied to room lighting, teams can improve their collaborative experience further by making the room comfortable to work in. Early in the day, brighter light can snap people to attention, while lower level lighting can keep people relaxed and comfortable during involved planning. Lighting controls are especially helpful when people are in the office in the evening or at night. If the lights are too harsh, no one is going to use the huddle room.

Consider these the building blocks of a worthy huddle room. They are now so standard that reputable integrators can outfit huddle rooms in record time, and with excellent results. But why should a company even consider workplace huddle rooms in the first place? What makes them an effective alternative to the traditional conference room?

Time and Space

Again, business leaders are constantly organizing and reorganizing their office floorplans for maximum productivity. In the last 15 or so years, one of most popular approaches has been the open floorplan. The idea behind such a floorplan is that it would naturally lead to spontaneous collaboration, as everyone would be working in plain sight of each other. While it’s certainly true that open floorplans can work in a lot of settings and for a lot of teams, they haven’t been the magic collaborative bullet that they were originally posited to be. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, open office floorplans can have a deleterious effect on productivity and well-being. The study also found that such plans can also drive up sick time among employees. That doesn’t mean open floorplans are always a disaster, as it depends on how many people are involved and how well they get along, but it does mean that huddle rooms should be taken seriously as a potential alternative. And fortunately, there are several reasons why huddle rooms are liable to take off in the coming years. For example:
  1. Huddle rooms eliminate distractions – Many people just aren’t built to work in full view of everyone, and with the noise that accompanies that. Huddle rooms cut out the noise and visual distractions, enabling collaborators to focus on the task at hand.
  2. Huddle rooms are perfect for remote employees – One of the biggest hurdles associated with remote employees is keeping them engaged with the team. Huddle rooms make this much easier to manage, with video conferencing and an intimate space that makes the remote team member feel like they are right there.
  3. Huddle rooms are beautifully compact – Traditional conference rooms can fit a lot of people, but that takes a lot of space. Every square foot counts in the expensive world of commercial real estate, so getting three huddle rooms in the same area as a single conference space means a greater return on investment.
  4. Huddle rooms are built for younger employees – That Journal of Environmental Psychology study found that millennials were especially likely to resist open office floorplans. There’s no simple explanation for that, surely, but it may have to do with the pursuit of genuine personal connections that millennials favor. If a company wants to improve its allure to young employees and keep them around, it will take additions like huddle rooms to convince them.
Workplace huddle rooms are a perfect intersection of technology and personality, of form and function. They are quick to set up and use, and more effective than an open floorplan option, in many settings. And because they work with space limitations, instead of against them, the huddle room is poised to be much more than just a simple trend.