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The Huddle What?


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Not too long ago, enterprise IT managers were busy equipping small meeting spaces to facilitate on-the-fly collaboration among team members… you remember, this was the huddle room craze predicted to continue growing throughout the year and beyond. Some of these spaces were enclosed, while others were just tucked away in a corner or other out-of-the-way place. Some were pretty low tech, while others offered technology videoconferencing systems so remote team members could participate, too.
The idea of gathering in such close proximity is ludicrous now, leaving many enterprise decision-makers to ask: What becomes of meeting rooms in general and huddle spaces in particular when workers return to the office?
If a recent Enterprise Connect Virtual Bootcamp webinar is any indication, all might not be lost for meeting rooms. “Don’t write [them] off,” Jim Kelly, analyst and consultant for Recon Research, unequivocally stated during that session. But do evolve your meeting room strategy to account for coronavirus safety recommendations like social distancing and reduced touchpoints, Kelly said.
Enterprises should think about converting huddle rooms into single occupancy executive offices and using medium-sized rooms as their new huddle spaces — ease of collaboration is still the goal, but in a larger area that allows team members to abide by social distancing guidelines. Likewise, large meeting spaces become medium-sized rooms, Kelly explained.
In addition to changing space allotment and room capacity, enterprises will need to consider all the touchpoints in a meeting room and in the office, Kelly said. This includes phones, desktop devices, tabletop tablets, and so on. One way to address this is by adding voice interfaces, such as Amazon’s Alexa for Business or Cisco’s Webex Assistant, to meeting rooms and other touch devices. Cisco even recently announced that IT admins can now remotely deploy Webex Assistant, via the Webex Control Hub, to conference room devices. This means neither IT nor in-person meeting participants, once the voice interface is installed, need to use a touchpad or touchscreen to launch a conference call.
Enterprises will also increasingly rely on meeting analytics to make informed decisions, according to Kelly. Are employees violating new room capacity specs? Are they booking too many back-to-back meetings, and not leaving time for proper sanitation? Being able to assess meeting rooms in real-time will enable enterprises to take immediate actions, informing employees they need to spread out meeting times, for example, or reduce the number of in-room participants, Kelly said. Additionally, knowing how many people are using a meeting space, and with what frequency, can help optimize the newly re-designated meeting spaces. Maybe you don’t need as many large meeting spaces and can repurpose those, for example.
Meeting rooms don’t have to be scary, Kelly said. Through proper planning and optimization, enterprises can utilize these spaces for the reason they were designed for — to foster creativity and spur free and open collaboration.

Looking for more on meeting room planning for COVID-19 and beyond? Then, make sure to attend "Meeting Rooms & the New Normal" at Enterprise Connect Digital Conference & Expo 2020, taking place online Aug. 3 to 6. Register today and view the full conference schedule here.