There’s little doubt: huddle rooms – or huddle zones or huddle spaces as they’re also known – are a significant phenomenon from corporate headquarters to local government to education. According to Wainhouse Research, there may be as many as 50 million of them around the world.
In fact, Wainhouse notes, they’re not a new phenomenon; there has always been ‘that little room’ that people used to gather in. What’s changed though, is that the necessary AV technology is now available to transform those little rooms into truly productive meeting spaces, catering for today’s users with laptops, tablets and smartphones.
As well as launching a complete range of purpose-designed, ‘huddle-zone’ furniture, Saville has enlisted the highly experienced industry commentator Ian MacMurray to take a look at the emerging future of the meeting room across all sectors.
He says: “It’s widely agreed that the key characteristics of a huddle room or space or zone (it doesn’t have to be walled off), is to accommodate up to around six people and to provide an informal space for ad hoc meetings.
“The typical room is not, for example, bookable in advance. It’s designed to be a stark contrast to the more formal, larger boardroom-type space in which presenting, rather than sharing, is usually the norm.”
Rather than being seen as a potential challenge to the larger, fully equipped rooms, recent installation contracts in business and education which have included large numbers of ad-hoc huddle spaces alongside boardrooms, conference rooms and lecture theatres, show they are a complementary extension to these meeting environments.
What is the technology that is transforming the huddle space? Ian’s view is that its key function is to make the sharing of information between mobile devices as simple as possible. “It will usually have a large, flat panel display – possibly equipped with interactive touch technology – and a device that enables meeting participants to, in effect, ‘project’ their device’s screen onto the central screen. In some cases, multiple mobile screens can be accommodated simultaneously.”
That’s a ‘basic’ huddle space. Increasingly, however, those spaces are equipped with facilities for audio conferencing or videoconferencing – with the latter allowing information sharing between locations.
First among these changes is the concept of ‘collaboration’. There is hardly a business or organisation today that isn’t moving towards a more collaborative style of working – as opposed to the centralised command and control structures that used to exist. Microsoft has re-engineered its entire Office suite to reflect this new, more interactive, sharing approach.
Any discussion of huddle rooms will likely turn to the subject of so-called ‘Millennials’. This generation – born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – is now the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace.
Because of their socio-economic significance, they’ve been widely studied – and their attitudes and preferences well documented. The huddle room style of working is one that engages (and thus helps to retain) Millennials, who enjoy teamwork and interaction.
Designing the future
MacMurray sums up: “The key to a successful, productive huddle space is that it should be easy and intuitive to use, with minimal set-up time – and absolutely no requirement for an AV technician. That ease of use, however, is not something that ‘just happens’ by buying the right products. It has to be designed in from the start. The skill lies in identifying how a space will be used and integrating the relevant technologies in such a way that they operate together seamlessly.”
Huddle spaces don’t replace the more formal, traditional meeting rooms; they complement them because they’re designed to facilitate a parallel, but different way of working. As more and more organisations embrace collaboration, huddling can only become more popular.