Given how people are using the office these days, it’s no surprise that huddle rooms are all the rage.
With the rise of hybrid work, the physical office is becoming more of the go-to spot for collaboration, saving heads-down work for the days you work remotely.
In response, companies are exploring fresh and innovative ways to create better collaboration spaces that are more in line with current needs.
Enter the huddle room: a small and incredibly flexible collaboration meeting space that offers a very different experience than the traditional conference room of days gone by.
In this article, we explore the mighty huddle room, why you might want to consider one for your hybrid office, and how to make one that fits your needs.
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A huddle room is a collaborative workspace designed for informal and/or impromptu meetings of two to six people. In short, they’re small rooms for small meetings.
Because of their small size, huddle rooms usually have a small shared table and a few chairs. Users typically ‘BYOD,’ or ‘bring your own device.’
They’re also usually outfitted with cutting edge video conferencing solutions, making these areas great for hybrid meetings.
They’re also the perfect place to duck into for those quick, face-to-face brainstorming sessions. This can support productivity, innovation in the workplace, and even employee experience and workplace wellbeing. Note that employees who engage in collaboration report being 17% more satisfied with their jobs.
Huddle rooms are small meeting areas designed to accommodate small groups of people. They can get up to 250 square feet or bigger.
They need enough space for some comfy chairs, a small table, and audio-visual equipment.
Beyond this, the size will vary depending on whether you just want to accommodate one-on-one meetings, or small teams up to six people or so.
As a good rule of thumb, you probably don’t want to go smaller than 100 square feet. Note that if spare rooms are in short supply, a huddle room can simply be a small, spararated section of the office, delineated with furniture, plants, and/or sound blocking panels.
Compared to large conference rooms, huddle rooms are much more multi-purpose, punching above their weight (i.e.: their small size) when it comes to functionality.
On the whole, they’re designed to support better collaboration in the workplace, by offering fresh, new spaces to connect with colleagues.
Specifically, huddle rooms can be used for the following five purposes.
The latest research suggests that idea-generation (often the hallmark of brainstorming) is generally best accomplished face-to-face.
But brainstorming can be tricky in an open office (who wants to disturb their seatmates?).
Meanwhile, stuffy boardrooms generally aren’t designed for ad hoc buzz sessions either.
This is where huddle room solutions really shine, offering a readily available space when inspiration strikes. Small teams can also use them for any planned brainstorming sessions.
Hybrid meetings are also where huddle rooms shine.
Thanks to the pandemic, virtually every office worker has sat through at least a few hybrid meetings. So we all know how critical the right setup and collaboration technology is to their success.
If you’ve ever sat in on a video conference, where you’re remote, but half the team is in a large meeting room, then you know how awkward this can be. But because small huddle rooms are built with virtual users in mind, they can make these meetings much less clumsy.
Namely, it’s much easier and more natural for a handful of in-office workers to connect with a handful of remote workers, when they’re in a small room. Everyone gets a life-size presence, instead of being a barely recognizable, tiny face on a screen at the end of a long table.
As a result, these small spaces can feel much more intimate. They can make remote meetings feel a little more grounded. It’s a real win for the remote team in particular. They may otherwise feel disconnected and left out of meetings and content sharing.
Despite their popularity, open floor plans have many drawbacks.
For example, it’s hard to take a long phone call without disturbing team members sitting close by.
To solve this problem, many offices create private phone booths. These are very on-trend, but also a very specific type of workspace that won’t work for all budgets and floorplans.
The great thing about huddle rooms is that, while they might be designed with groups in mind, they can also be used for phone calls. If it’s free, anyone can jump in for a private chat.
In other words, think of your huddle room as a phone booth with perks.
Similarly, one-to-one meetings can be challenging when you don’t have your own office space.
And similarly, huddle rooms offer a comfortable place for these private meetings.
Huddle rooms can be particularly helpful when employees regularly meet with clients; it’s a much nicer customer experience when you don’t feel like you’re on display to a whole office of strangers.
Depending on the size of your team, huddle rooms can also provide just the right setting for your daily or weekly stand-up meetings.
Causal and more relaxed than your average conference room, they’re a non-intimidating space to quickly check in and catch up.
Like we’ve covered, one of the beautiful things about huddle rooms is their versatility. And just like they have many uses, there are many benefits of huddle rooms, too. These small spaces work very well with a variety of collaboration strategies in the workplace. This makes them a cost-effective way to improve workflows and teamwork overall.
Having break out spaces to collaborate can lead to more camaraderie and meaningful connections in the workplace. This is important since 22% of workers say they’re more productive with friends, and 21% say friendship makes them more creative at work.
Having a change of scenery can spur new ideas. And a more relaxed space can be much less intimidating than a traditional meeting room.
Not only is this great for productivity and efficiency.
It’s also great for improving everyone’s workplace experience, making the office a much more engaging and welcoming place for everyone. And since workplace experience has direct, positive impact on employee well-being, this may even indirectly help with talent retention and talent attraction efforts, too.
Finally, having a space that is specifically designed to improve the hybrid workplace experience can help companies overcome many of the challenges of hybrid working.
For example, we know that 66% of women who work hybrid feel like they’re excluded from important meetings.
We also know that people of color, women, and working parents are more likely to want flexible working options.
So creating spaces that lead to more inclusive hybrid meetings is a great way to support diversity and inclusion efforts overall. This can lead to a more connected workplace for everyone.
In the past few decades, open offices have become ubiquitous—so much so that 80% of office spaces now have this type of modern office floor plan.
There’s a reason for this, as open offices can support a wide range of flexible work arrangements. For example, agile working, free addressing, and ABW: Activity-based working.
But, perhaps counterintuitively, open offices can actually have a negative impact on collaboration.
Namely, studies show that when companies switch to open offices, face-to-face interactions can fall by 70%.
Think about it… When you’re sitting right next to your co-workers, with no space to divide you, then you’re going to be hesitant to jump on the phone or into a conversation. You’re simply not going to want to disturb your neighbor.
Instead, when you’ve got a huddle room on hand, you can jump in as necessary and chat ‘til your heart’s content!
Finally, huddle rooms can be a great resource when looking to improve space optimization.
In a traditional office setting, up to 55% of meeting room space ends up wasted. This makes low-cost huddle rooms a smarter alternative.
Companies can still maintain larger rooms for larger meetings as necessary, while creating fit-for-purpose spaces that better serve less formal meetings.
As with all meeting room design, companies will want to create a great huddle room experience.
Like we’ve covered, you’ll need comfortable chairs and a comfortable table that accommodates the desired number of people.
You’ll usually find a whiteboard in these spaces, to capture all those brainstorming ideas (bonus points for a digital one).
And since people will be bringing their own devices, you’ll need to ensure you have enough hookups to accommodate them.
Depending on your layout, you may also want to consider noise canceling options like acoustic wall panels.
Beyond these considerations, the focus should be on using cutting edge technology and video conferencing solutions.
This means you’ll need a large monitor or TV equipped with screen sharing (and don’t forget the remote!). You’ll also need good video conferencing equipment, including a webcam and great audio solutions.
Always keep your remote workers in mind. Ideally they’ll already have a great digital workspace, including the equipment they need at home to connect to meetings easily.
And finally, consider that 20% of meetings run late thanks to technology issues. That’s no small number, since in the US there are 17 million business meetings each day. In other words, 3.4 million meetings are running late today.
So facilities teams will likely want to collaborate with IT to ensure that all the technology is always good to go. Employees may also need training on how to use the video conferencing equipment and software.
Of course, one of the reasons huddle rooms are so popular is because they don’t require the same formal booking process reserved for more ‘official’ spaces.
For this reason, they typically don’t require meeting room booking software. Although this room booking software could be considered if the rooms get too popular.
That said, employees will need guidelines on how and when they can use these spaces.
In particular, meeting room digital signage can help keep employees informed about how long a room will be in use.
These spaces can also be even more easily managed if they’re part of a free address workplace, which uses occupancy sensors to indicate when different areas and desks are in use.
Companies can pull from a variety of great conference room ideas to make their huddle rooms more fun and enjoyable to use.
Of course it goes without saying that these spaces should be clean and comfortable.
From there, think about ways to bring in your company culture, perhaps with clever room names or on-brand artwork.
And never underestimate the power of a good potted plant.
Ultimately, your huddle room should be just one piece in your collaboration puzzle.
Yes, employees need space for informal meetings.
But they don’t just need space for informal meetings.
Instead, solicit feedback to see what types of spaces they think they’ll need to be more productive and collaborative.
You can also use workplace reports and analytics to see how employees are currently interacting with the office—so you can start to get a better idea of what types of spaces tend to get used the most.
In short, adding some huddle rooms to the office is almost always a smart idea, but it’s not a silver bullet to better collaboration.
Instead, huddle rooms work best when they’re part of a broader strategy to improve both the hybrid workplace and the employee experience. For example, they might be part of a free address workplace that encourages cross-functional collaboration through flexible seating and working neighborhoods.
Perhaps it’s an obvious question: why is collaboration important in the workplace?
We all intuitively know that ‘team work makes the dream work.’ In fact, 86% of business leaders and employees all say that poor collaboration is the main reason for workplace failures.
But building the right space for team work may be a bit less intuitive. Employees need big and small meeting rooms for big and small interactions, but getting the right balance can be tricky.
Ultimately, a good huddle space is one that is fit for purpose. In other words, it’s built with employees in mind, designed to meet their needs and make the workspace just that much more enjoyable.
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Photos: Vasyl Dolmatov, Inside Creative House, fotostorm, alvarez, insta_photos