How Hybrid Working is Changing Best Practice Setup and the Future of Meeting Rooms

The evolution of hybrid meetings has entered a new phase.

The global pandemic saw the mass rollout of kit and comms to allow people to work from home, securely and effectively. The focus was on providing laptops, tablets and phones – and the adoption of Unified Communications (UC) platforms to enable users to collaborate.

Now, with hybrid working widely established, many organisations are having to pay attention to the workplace experience. Some appear to have trapped themselves into a Catch-22.

The argument from some organisations is that they are not seeing as many employees returning to the office. So, why bother investing in smart technology today? However, failure to invest may convince employees it is better to stay at home, where – by and large – they already have a good working experience.

“Do nothing” is not a positive strategy. So, what’s the answer?

Break Down the Hybrid Meeting Experience and Begin to Join the Dots

Many employees want to continue the use of their personal devices, both at home and in the office.

That means meeting rooms need to be equipped with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for UC, as standard. Microsoft Teams has become the dominant platform in Europe and therefore ‘Rooms’ (MTR) is the popular way to go.

MS Teams certification of devices from tech providers is certainly critical. However, achieving compatibility of meeting room hardware with multiple UC platforms is also a big challenge.

The picture out there suggests that workplaces are not being used frequently by a large number of users. Anecdotally, Ascentae is hearing of occupancy rates of 20-40% since pre-Covid levels.

However, as employees return to the office they are going to expect a much better experience than the one they have at home – otherwise, why bother coming in?

Many organisations have not yet worked out their hybrid working strategy. The advice from Ascentae is to start small.

Gather your data. Build a picture of office visitors and meeting room usage. Adapt and invest accordingly. Consider carefully how technology can support you now and offer flexibility to expand as you grow.

Creating a great hybrid meeting experience can be broken down into seven distinct elements.

The 7 Elements for Creating a Great Hybrid Meeting Room Experience

In an ideal world, Ascentae would recommend breaking the hybrid meeting room experience down into seven components. When put together wisely, you have the foundations of an Intelligent Meeting Room ready for a changing world.

1. The Join experience

People want quick and hassle-free access to meetings.

Meeting rooms should support single click to join for any UC platform, as Valarea does. Organisations also want to offer users the ability to bring their own device – with a single cable to connect and charge devices, screen share, and connect to the microphone, camera and other in-room hardware. The Delo Connection Manager is a good example of this solution.

Senior female ceo and multicultural business people discussing company presentation at boardroom table. Diverse corporate team working together in modern meeting room office. Top view through glass

Additional options to consider include screen sharing content from a cloud storage location (e.g. OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.) without the need to bring a laptop and plug-in cables.

2. The Hardware

It is not recommended to invest in hardware that cannot be used with different platforms.

Although a company might be a Teams or Zoom house today, either the platform used by the company may change in the future or a more open approach to supporting other platforms might be required. The risk with choosing platform-specific hardware is it may quickly become obsolete. 

3. The Furniture and Furnishings

Not every component of the meeting room experience is about AV technology. The room, furniture and furnishings play a part, too.

Furniture design (style, height, layout and so on) is likely to drive the behaviour of users. For example, low and comfortable chairs are likely to lead to people sitting with little active collaboration or movement taking place.

Ascentae is partnering with furniture resellers and consultants to create the right spaces, fit for purpose. Our London showroom gives a flavour of that. We also apply agile and activity-based working principles to spaces. This is where defining what the users want to use the space for, should define the overall design and technology solution brought in.

4. The Screens

Intelligent Meeting Room screens should be large enough to create an immersive visual experience and interactive (if necessary) to support visual collaboration (whiteboarding, digital post-it note software, for example).

LED is becoming increasingly popular, instead of projection, for larger spaces, especially with pricing continuing to decrease.

5. The Audio

For many organisations, this is the most important component. But it’s also one of the biggest areas for complaint. If audio is poor or too complicated to achieve in medium-large spaces, that’s not helpful for good hybrid meetings.

Pro AV solutions are out there, but are usually too expensive to install at scale – and complicated to program and maintain. The Microphone Mist technology from Nureva is one of the ways to bridge that tech quality & pricing balance.

6. The Camera

With cameras, the biggest concern is picture quality, combined with users having PTZ cameras that either they never bother to move or do not know how to move.

Intelligent meeting Room cameras are solving all of these challenges and delivering AI experiences, where the user doesn’t need to learn the technology. Good examples of this include Huddly’s Gallery View for huddle rooms and Genius speaker framing, for medium to large rooms.

7. Data Capture

If organisations are being cautious in their approach to creating Intelligent Meeting Rooms, the watchword is flexibility.

As meeting room usage changes over time capturing meaningful data will be critical. For example, if meetings are being scheduled where people can either choose to attend in person or from anywhere, how will you build a clear picture of demand and preferences?

How does an organisation know how many people were in the meeting? How large the room needs to be (e.g. what if a 12-person meeting means a room accommodating 12 people is booked… but only 3 turn up in person)?

And, subsequently, how many meetings rooms, what size and what capacity is required in the future?

Without answers to these questions, an entire meeting room strategy will be blindly based on opinion – rather than actuality and trends. Room booking solutions like Evoko can help to provide those answers.

The Rise of the Intelligent Meeting Room

When these concepts and components are pulled together, you create an Intelligent Meeting Room (IMR).

This is how Ascentae has put together Intelligent Meeting Room solutions that help to overcome the challenges of hybrid working and hybrid meetings.

Smart technology is here. And, with accelerating developments in AI, it is getting smarter every day.

Organisations can remain stubbornly within a Catch-22 of their own creation, or look for solutions to support, motivate, excite and inspire their employees.

The Intelligent Meeting Room is the future of hybrid meetings best practice. The wise organisation will explore how they can embrace that future.

Author: Jon Knight