Metrigy’s recently released global Unified Communications Management and Endpoints: 2021-22 research study found that the shift back to in-office work has begun. Among the 395 participating organizations, 20.5% now require employees to return full-time to the office, that’s up from 12.7% in January. Additionally, 38.1% determine work location based on role. Up from 12.9% in January. 39.6% either require work-from-home or allow employees to choose their location.
As employees return to the office, business, IT, and facilities leaders face the dilemma of learning how to evolve meeting rooms to support increased use of video and a new reality in which visual collaboration is more critical to business operations than ever before.
Here are five guidelines for optimizing meeting rooms as you plan your return-to-the-office strategy:
1. Don’t expect that everyone will return to the meeting room
We found that just 23.4% of participants expect in-office workers to attend all meetings in conference rooms. Instead, the majority of in-office workers will remain at their desks for all or some meetings over fears of being in enclosed spaces with coworkers. This dilemma means optimizing meeting experiences must expand beyond the traditional conference room and include approaches, including high-quality personal cameras and audio devices, to ensure positive experiences for meeting participants, regardless of location.
2. Upgrade the in-room experience
If starting a video conference means comprehending what cable plugs into what device and how to share a screen, it’s time to refresh your in-room approach. Consider videoconferencing systems that enable participants to easily join multiple meeting room apps, such as one-click join from an in-room touchpad or compute device to your primary meeting service. Also, consider investing in cameras and sound devices that support higher quality visual and audio experiences, such as 4K video resolution, geofencing, and noise cancellation, to remove background noise.
3. Plan for gallery modes and other advanced in-room capabilities
Meeting app vendors have delivered features that capture video from individual participants within a meeting room and display each in-room participant in their own distinct box. Remote participants can then see each in-room person rather than get a poor-quality view of all of those within a room. Enabling this feature will require investing in additional cameras capable of supporting a vendor’s specific requirements. You may also have to implement multiple cameras in larger rooms, along with sufficient microphone coverage, to ensure that meeting apps can capture each in-room participant. Beyond gallery view for all, we can expect continued enhancements in apps to enable improved presentations, note capture, and integrations with additional apps supporting usage analytics and ideation.
4. Consider adding touch screens
Speaking of ideation—the last year has seen tremendous adoption of virtual whiteboard apps that allow distributed teams to work on an ordinary digital canvas to flesh out and exchange ideas, build journeys and manage business processes. Once employees return to meeting spaces, if they can’t access virtual whiteboard apps in a conference room, participants will likely turn to their personal conferencing devices, which means less meeting interaction. Among our research participants, 44.1% are currently deploying or planning to deploy touch screens into their meeting spaces to support virtual whiteboard apps. In smaller rooms, these touch screens can do double-duty as part of a videoconferencing endpoint.
5. Invest in space management
A third of our participants are reconfiguring offices to include implementing capacity limits, adding physical barriers between employees, and dividing conference rooms into smaller spaces for individual or small group meetings. The latter of these efforts, most often driven by facilities and HR, requires ensuring that in-office employees can find an appropriate space for their needs and reserve it without hassle. Consider investing in space management platforms, digital signage (external room tablets), which allow employees to view the status of meeting spaces.
Due to the pandemic, the in-office space has changed and will continue to change. To be successful, companies must take a proactive approach toward ensuring that meeting spaces evolve to support new ways of collaboration and space management.