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Space Confusion: Is That a Huddle Space or a Hive?


Photo illustration of a bunch of question marks
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If you’re a Facilities/Real Estate professional, chances are you know all about the living office concept office furniture maker Herman Miller proposes or the recommendations from architecture firm Gensler has to incorporate work-focused amenities in an office design. But if you’re an IT professional, these ideas may mean nothing to you, whereas the notion of the huddle room strikes a chord.
But aren’t they all essentially the same thing wrapped in different, discipline-specific descriptors?
Yes, more or less, in that these ideas all speak to the overarching goal of enabling activity-based work so that individuals can achieve their best. This isn’t a new strategy, but one that’s been evolving over the last decade or so as organizations look to optimize workspaces in shrinking footprints, says Nic Milani, an executive director at AV automation and integration company Crestron and former head of Herman Miller’s technology strategy. Assigning unique spaces to activity-based work has resulted from those efforts, he says. “It’s basically saying, ‘Don't do a one-size-fits-all design.’ Give employees variety and choice and they'll go find their own spaces to work throughout the day -- and they'll be more productive and happier as a result.”
The net result, Milani adds, is an explosion of space types. And with furniture makers, design firms, and tech providers all using unique languages as they set about to differentiate their offerings, “the end customers are left trying to decode it all,” he says.
A design firm, for example, might offer Facilities/Real Estate a playbook featuring dozens of different types of spaces for activity-based work. IT, on the other hand, has a much more granular view of spaces: small, medium, large… huddle, meeting room, conference room, boardroom, he says. “It’s hard for customers to rectify that,” he says. So, is that a huddle space or a hive?
Again, this isn’t new – nor does it represent any sort of fundamental change, Milani says. Rather, he explains, “it’s that the marketplace is maturing, and we're starting to realize and learn the complexities of it.”
For Crestron, this realization has led to a recent partnership with video room system provider Logitech – the aim being to ease the complexities associated with outfitting spaces with videoconferencing gear, room control systems, and scheduling software… and easing management of it all, Milani says.
This isn’t just about providing meeting participants with a one-touch-to-join experience or platform consistency room to room. “We also have to consider the facilities side of things and the complexities [and sheer magnitude] of spaces in which these types of technologies need to go,” Milani says. “The tech world has no clue what's going on in the furniture world. And the person that pays the price is the end user who walks into the space.”
Until everybody starts working together, he concludes, “I’ll always be able to walk into almost any facility anywhere in the world and within five minutes, I bet, be able to find a room and point out at least three things that are screwed up.”