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Building the Meeting Room of the Future

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Collaborating in a meeting room
Image: Hero Images Inc. - stock.adobe.com
Though some recent chatter among a handful of business leaders has been critical of remote work, the reality going forward is that most companies will continue to operate in a hybrid fashion. In late 2021, Metrigy found that only about 20% of companies planned to bring employees back on a full-time basis. With Covid apparently not going away anytime soon, even those plans are now in question. Instead, it’s a safe bet that the majority of companies will still allow remote work for those whose roles can support it, and who want to continue to work from home.
 
Therefore, those responsible for IT, HR, and facilities must work together to ensure equitable meeting experiences. Here are five requirements for evolving your meeting spaces to support effective hybrid work going forward.
  1. Meeting rooms must have video: While this seems obvious given the rise in use of video conferencing over the last 2+ years, Metrigy still finds that around 30% of meeting spaces lack video conferencing capabilities, and only 31% of IT leaders we surveyed planned to ensure that all meeting rooms and spaces were video-capable. IT and business leaders should set a goal of ensuring all meeting rooms support video conferencing.
  2. Meeting rooms must support multiple meeting apps: While most companies have a single preferred meeting app, just 47% only support a single app. That means that meeting rooms must allow employees to easily join any meeting service, preferably with a single button to push, or via easy wireless (or wired) connectivity of laptops. We see a variety of approaches, and fortunately vendors are getting better about interoperability.
  3. Meeting rooms must enable content collaboration: Pre-pandemic, the vast majority of meeting participants were in a conference room. Those who joined remotely knew going in that they likely couldn’t fully engage, that they couldn’t see the whiteboard, and that even if they had video, it likely wasn’t very good. Now, over the last few years, we’ve tracked rapid adoption of virtual whiteboard apps for virtual ideation and content collaboration. This creates the possibility that those in the meeting room won’t have access to the same tools as those who are remote. The easiest way to ensure that everyone has access to the same virtual collaboration tools, without requiring that all in-room participants use their personal laptops, is through provisioning touchscreen devices that allow those in the meeting room to see and use the same apps as those who are remote.
  4. Don’t forget about in-person meetings: Not all meetings will involve remote participants, and as such, those in the meeting room may only need to share content with other physically present individuals. Be sure your in-room video systems are easily able to allow participants to share their screens or other content as needed through apps, wireless or wired devices, or features such as Apple Airplay.
  5. Expect change: Just 38% of our research participants refresh their meeting rooms at least every three years. That needs to change. New camera and app technologies are rapidly coming onto the market that enable those within a meeting room to be pulled into windows to make it easier to engage with remote participants. These technologies are likely to require physical meeting room changes, as well as audio and video upgrades. It’s likely that the next refresh will see the introduction of augmented or virtual reality devices, at least in some meeting spaces, to support new ways of virtual engagement.

Beyond all these steps, companies must continue to focus on treating video as a critical business technology. That means ensuring network performance and insight, security, and optimization, especially for one-to-many video broadcasts. Meeting all of these needs is likely to require reassessing your current management capabilities and evaluation of new UC management and administration platforms on the market.

The new reality of hybrid work demands a proactive approach for ensuring that your meeting spaces are conducive to engagement, regardless of participant location. Re-evaluate your room strategies today, and plan for continual reassessment in the future.

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