Remember those distant, halcyon, days when so many of us blithely crammed into meeting rooms for a conflab with colleagues, without a second thought? Clearly things are a whole lot different now, with most meetings conducted virtually via the likes of Microsoft Teams or Zoom. However, the world continues to change, and a gradual move back to some level of office life is likely, in time. So, we look at how the meeting room will need to evolve to not just remain relevant, but play the pivotal part it always has in powering collaboration, in this brave new working world.
What is the future of the meeting room?
Still at the heart of business
While videoconferences have been invaluable in keeping businesses and teams connected in these strange times, many still feel that there is simply no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. In fact, a growing number of workers who have been experiencing video meeting burnout, or ‘Zoom fatigue’ as it is also known, will no doubt welcome the prospect of returning to more in-person meetings, when circumstances allow. However, it is likely that in the ‘new normal’ of post-pandemic business, there will be a greater mix of virtual and face-to-face meetings, as we settle into a more hybrid way of working, where employees split their time between home- and office-based work. Indeed, a recent survey suggested that as many as 73% of workers would favour such a hybrid arrangement.
But, why is it that employees would still want to work in the office, at least some of the time? Well, according to a recent PwC survey of 1,200 office workers, 50% of respondents said that the main reason was to collaborate with colleagues, and research by Unipos reported that 70% of remote office workers said the thing they missed most when working from home was face-to-face chats with colleagues. So, in the long term, the video screen is unlikely to totally supplant the meeting room, as human beings are intrinsically social creatures and need in-person interaction. If anything, the importance of the meeting room as a hub of collaboration, at the heart of business, looks set to be heightened, as the role of the workplace becomes increasingly somewhere we visit when high-quality interaction is needed.
Your guide to creating a modern meeting room.
Download your free Modern Meeting Room eGuide from Prodec Networks and discover:
- How to transform your meeting spaces into more modern collaboration hubs, which meet the challenges of our rapidly changing times.
- How to ensure your meeting room refurbishment remains cost-effective.
- The hot, new technologies that are revolutionising a meeting room near you.
Making the meeting room more modern
So, there will undoubtedly be many more meetings where attendees are widely dispersed. It will therefore be vital for meeting room equipment to seamlessly connect all potential meeting participants – wherever they are, whatever devices they are connecting on, and whichever operating system they are using. This can be summed up in one word – ‘interoperability’. While you may think that this would be automatic, it has not traditionally been the case, but now, by choosing the latest tools, it no longer needs to be an issue. It is also vital, that you employ user-friendly videoconferencing equipment in your meeting rooms, if you want to ensure maximum usage by your workforce. The key to this is that whatever you instal should be an extension of what employees are already using on their desktops, to provide a familiar interface. With the right all-in-one unified communications system in place across your meeting rooms, users can effortlessly achieve seamless collaboration.
However, ensuring your meeting room is fit for purpose does not end there, as many organisations may find that much of their legacy, pre-pandemic meeting room equipment falls short of new requirements, with the whole working landscape having evolved over the past year. After all, your meeting rooms have probably lain dormant and unloved for the last few months and can’t be expected to be up-to-the-minute, when little thought has gone their way. In fact, since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, businesses have had to step up their digital transformation strategies across the board, replacing outdated, on-site technology, to make their workforces more agile in these challenging times, and the meeting room is by no means exempt.
Stay safe and secure
In this new era of social distancing, there may also be certain physical obstacles to overcome when reviewing the effectiveness of your meeting rooms. For example, your small huddle room may now need to be repurposed as a space for an individual, or two, to collaborate or connect with remote-based colleagues or customers, if space no longer safely allows for larger gatherings. You may also want to rethink some of the equipment you use to incorporate more touchless technology, helping to reduce risk of infection transmission.
This is possible, with the help of tools from the likes of Microsoft, Zoom and Cisco, who now use artificial intelligence-based mechanisms within their products to provide touchless facilities. For example, in a similar way to how you might use Amazon Alexa, you can now enter a videoconference room and join your meeting by voice control alone. You can also control in-room facilities via an app on your personal device, thus avoiding the need to touch a central console. In addition, the latest room booking systems will not only allow you to book a meeting room via an app on your device, but also monitor room occupancy for no-shows. So, you can maximise usage of this invaluable resource.
However, it is not just your workforce that will need to be kept safe, as cybersecurity is also a crucial issue to consider when updating your meeting rooms. Indeed, during the course of the last year, the importance of having robust cybersecurity measures in place has been highlighted by reports of a rapid rise in cyber attacks. It is therefore vital that you ensure you have secure network connectivity, which can not only protect your data, but also improve application performance and communication efficiency across sites.
Where to start?
So, clearly, there are many elements to consider when reviewing the effectiveness of your meeting rooms, in light of the changed circumstances we all find ourselves in. It might therefore be wise to seek expert advice, such as that provided by Prodec Networks, to carry out a full meeting room health check, in order to take stock of the situation and see where improvements should be made. As it may no doubt seem daunting to know where to start, Prodec has also created a new Modern Meeting Room eGuide to talk you through all the aspects you may need to review, so you can create the very best meeting rooms for your requirements. This covers everything from a small huddle space to a substantial board room and looks at the most recent advances in related technologies that could take your collaboration hubs to a whole new level.
So, if you want to update your meeting rooms, but don’t know just where to start, contact an expert at Prodec Networks for assistance, or download our new Modern Meeting Room eGuide now.