Collaboration Spaces and Important Environmental Considerations  

By definition, huddle spaces must be designed as the less-expensive alternative to traditional videoconferencing rooms, but they also need to deliver high quality video experience in order to be effective across cultures, particularly when multiple endpoints and more expensive videoconferencing rooms are on the other end of the call. Unless investments in the architectural environment are made, the quality of the video and audio from the low-cost collaboration spaces will substantially impact the experience of those participants experiences connecting in the more expensive spaces: inability to see and hear people at the other end of the call.  It is unlikely that companies will invest in the proper lighting and acoustics in these huddle rooms - unless someone can make the case that these features are important. Most facilities project teams will at least make sure that cameras and displays are positioned to avoid sun back light (no one is going to remember to shut the shades), and architects will typically use tables with lighter colors that bounce flattering light up into faces - provided they know that "collaboration" means rooms will be used for videoconferencing and not just local PC sharing. 

  • The more comfortable people feel about their own appearance, the more relaxed they will be over video, increasing opportunities to build trust.
  • Spaces must be properly lit to distinguish expressions. Focus and iris are highly intelligent and automatic in cameras. Effective in low light,  cameras cannot compensate for bad lighting. 
    • Use florescent fixtures that bounce the light so that is soft and not directly down, otherwise it will cause unflattering raccoon eyes.
    • If there is more light on the walls than faces, people will appear in high contrast, practically silhouettes.
    • Ask for warm background fabric colors instead of glass, whiteboards or drywall behind the participants to avoid high contrast.  
  • All collaboration rooms must receive some level of acoustic treatment on two adjoining walls, regardless of size and cost saving initiatives. In fact, the smaller the room, the more the reverberation is a problem and the more important sound absorption becomes.
  • If you are unable to convince the project team that huddle rooms require acoustic treatment, find a consultant to set them straight. It is worth the investment because the first few rooms will define the investment standard and thus impact a large deployment of rooms.   I have convinced stakeholders by recording and playing back a conversation held in a similarly designed room with four glass walls (if one is not available, the consultant can make a recording of a simulate space). Business managers are more interested in the room they are building and receiving good audio than they are about transmitting signals to other rooms. They experience what it's like to be on the receiving end of a poorly engineered collaboration space in order to become advocates for properly engineered huddle spaces.

Opposite Point of View

 Why spend money on better lighting and acoustics in collaboration spaces? These are suppose to be inexpensive spaces. If teams want to have a higher quality experience, they should book a real conference room.

Huddle rooms are not new, but adding video and using it across the globe is a new and important component of the Unified Communications and Collaboration strategy.  Architects and Construction teams consider the investment in huddle spaces and larger meeting rooms to be at the opposite end of the business investment spectrum. They are unaware of the impact that poor lighting poor acoustics have on collaborating with remote participants.  In these more intimate settings, teams need to trust and share with their partners who see the world from a different perspective. If we design these low-cost spaces to work across cultural variances, teams can come to agreements faster and be more productive.  This type of spontaneous collaboration cannot be recreated in a formal videoconferencing setting, and therefore booking a conference room is not effective alternative to the huddle room.

TURNING POINT is Mark Peterson's personal take on innovation and collaboration influencing today's corporate strategy. To have a conversion about what takes to implement collaborative solutions efficiently and at enterprise scale, contact Mark Peterson