Huddle Spaces: Passing Trend, or Smart Investment?

Feb 14, 2019 | Collaboration

What Are Huddle Spaces?

First, we saw old-school “cube farms,” and then the pendulum swung all the way to airy, open plan office spaces. Now all the buzz is around huddle spaces! Before you jump on the bandwagon it’s essential to understand what that term means.  Huddle spaces are designed to accommodate small working groups- typically five people or less. These spaces are typically used for ad-hoc working sessions, when teams need to escape the noisy environment of the open office. And critically- they are enabled with technology (whether it’s video conferencing, digital whiteboarding or something else), with the end goal of making collaborating across time and space a seamless task.  Whether it’s ease of use, privacy, courtesy or efficiency, workers are demanding those spaces to huddle more than ever now.

In a recent study conducted by Dimensional Research, 93% of huddle space users, facilities managers, and IT professionals state the current open office environment is driving the need for huddle spaces.  The dynamic nature of many work tasks makes huddle spaces the perfect solution.  Today’s workers expect their environment to not only support, but also enhance their daily work routines.  The business value and flexibility of the work space make huddle spaces worth consideration, if not a necessity.  This is an admirable goal, but one of the most critical challenges with building effective huddle spaces is the mix of technologies from different vendors within a huddle space- or even across various huddle spaces within the same office! Once you overcome the hurdle of interoperability, the advantages can quickly help you sing a new tune.  At MMITC, this is one of the biggest reasons we enjoy the Webex platform, especially the portfolio of hardware that can flexibly support huddle spaces of any type!

Why Huddle Spaces?

According to the study, the top value of huddle spaces is the ability to have a quick meeting.  Imagine walking into a huddle space on your floor and simply clicking a couple of buttons to instantly be connected via audio and video for a collaborative meeting. This is where the technology underpinning those huddle spaces becomes the make-or-break factor in how useful they are- that same study also noted how fragmented or unintuitive technology gets in the way of effective “huddling.” However, when properly set up with the end-user experience in mind, huddle spaces are a great way to facilitate everything from long brainstorming sessions to a ten-minute impromptu meeting to get clarification on a project task.  Users in the study noticed a higher rate of productivity and saw huddle spaces as a more effective information sharing medium than what they were traditionally using.  Probably most telling was that of those surveyed 99% indicated they saw value in huddle spaces. One of the goals of any workspace should be to remove hurdles that hinder work.  When you eliminate or at least ease the complexity of collaboration technology infrastructure you help people concentrate on getting work done- and that’s really the heart of collaboration technology. For example, I personally love being able to duck into an open room, wirelessly share some content up onto a Webex Board, get some work done, and take it back with me in Webex Teams.

Who Uses It?

It sounds a bit glib, but do you work on things with people at your job? It’s virtually guaranteed that you’d have a use for a huddle space. In the study, one most telling was that of those surveyed 99% indicated they saw value in huddle spaces.

  • A marketing team might get together to review and mark up the latest website layout during a redesign.
  • Customer Success management could huddle and discuss their customers’ health and usage metrics as they’re building a presentation for their quarterly business review.
  • An Agile development team might cluster around a Webex Board to check on the delivery status of the next feature release, and then bring in some remote participants to check on the latest code.
  • A live events team might gather to review the latest booth layout for a tradeshow, and then conference in a vendor to confirm logistics.
  • A sales rep might duck into a huddle space for a customer call, just so they don’t disturb their colleagues in the office.

As our teams, partners and customers are growing more geographically distributed, and the nature of work overall shifts to smaller teams working more closely together, work isn’t just happening in conference rooms anymore. Having well-equipped conference rooms is important, but building “virtual” huddle spaces is the other side of that coin- and team collaboration platforms like Webex Teams are great for meeting that need.

Setting Up Your First Huddle Spaces

So you’re sold on the concept of huddle spaces- how do you equip them so they’re most useful for the people using them? Collaboration is about people- so when thinking about how to equip them, consider who will be using them, and for what. Huddle spaces aren’t one-size-fits-all in terms of what users need, and on top of that there’s the budgetary and support considerations.

From the study:

  • Technology needs to be easy to use (and support) and reliable
  • Top technology needs are for audio/video conferencing, content sharing and digital whiteboarding
  • Whatever technology is implemented, it needs to be consistent across the office

From a technology perspective, as I mentioned in the beginning, we’re fans of Cisco’s hardware portfolio- we like the easy content sharing enabled by Webex Share devices, and the all-inclusive Webex Board makes digital whiteboarding (in-meeting or not) a snap. Any huddle space is only as good as the technology that supports the work that gets done in it. That’s why we love how Webex Teams works seamlessly together with Cisco’s video endpoints- so that collaboration within the room is easy, and it’s seamless to bring together remote teams.

At the end of the day though, choosing to build out huddle spaces is a “people” deployment- and at MMITC I like to think we’re experts at helping organizations find better ways of working, and managing that change in the ways people work. Let us know how we can help you get the most out of your collaboration technology!


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