How to respond to the changing face of meeting room management

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Like many aspects related to the world of work, the nature of meeting room management has changed – and with a move to hybrid working, the purpose of meeting rooms has changed forever.

Technology has an increasingly important part to play in this evolving field. Let’s explore 5 different ways it’s making a difference:

1. Managing the cultural shift

A major study by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) found that 63 per cent of respondents now believe the office is unnecessary.

Hybrid working is here to stay ,and given that two-thirds of respondents in the 18-24 year old age group would consider leaving their job if it was not on offer, you need to think seriously about how you help them manage the balance between remote and office work.

2. Safety first

Of course, safety is going to be paramount concern. Increasingly, meeting rooms and desks are going to be part of a wider office experience that involved touch-free access.

Social distancing in meeting rooms will continue to play a major role for the foreseeable future.

3. A move to downsizing

With this change in mindset and working styles, inevitably offices are going to be downsized to accommodate smaller staffing numbers. This is borne out by another study from IWFM which found that 58 per cent of respondents were looking to reduce their occupied space.

Research specialists IDC have found that while daily occupancy is rising across Europe, it’s naturally nowhere near the pre-Covid level and by 2025 will be 30% lower than 2019 levels , despite an increased number of office workers by that time.

4. Smaller high-tech meeting rooms

It won’t just be the buildings getting smaller. As hybrid working is taking hold, meeting rooms will be getting smaller to accommodate reduced in-person attendees.

As is being seen already, the nature of the meeting rooms will change. A table and chairs are no longer adequate for today’s increasingly virtualized meeting experience. Studio quality audio and video are the order of the day in order to best replicate the in-person experience. Wi-Fi needs to be rock solid to avoid any lags.

Today’s meeting room comes equipped with a range of technology to make the hybrid meeting experience as optimal as possible:

  • Wireless presentation systems
  • Interactive whiteboards
  • In-room video conferencing systems
  • Robust Wi-Fi
  • Studio quality microphones
  • Docking stations for laptops
  • Digital signage for wayfinding

5. The changing nature of services

This downsizing is also going to have an impact on the nature of service provision. With fewer meetings taking place this is going to significantly reduce demand for catering and AV services. Health concerns may also mean that on-site kitchens remain shut.

With this reduced demand, contract catering providers may have to adapt their offering and offer their clients catering and services on an on-demand and flexible basis.

With safety paramount, the halcyon days of being served a communal office tea and biscuits over a meeting will become a thing of the past – the coffee will now come out of a vending machine and the biscuits will come pre-packaged to avoid any cross-contamination.

How technology is managing this adapted landscape

With the world of moving at a fast-changing pace, if organizations are standing still then they are effectively falling behind.

As Mick Heys, Vice President, Future of Workplace, at IDC notes: “The role of the office will change to more of a collaborative and creative space, with employees working from home at least one day per week. This has implications for the technologies used — it will be important they maintain digital equivalence for employees irrespective of location to maintain employee experience.”

To maintain this digital equivalence, your organization is going to need:

Meeting room booking software – with rooms in scarcer supply, it is more important than ever to have a meeting room booking system in place to ensure that rooms are booked ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

Integration with video conferencing – the meeting room booking software needs to be fully integrated with platforms such as Teams and Zoom so workers get a seamless experience when they arrive in the meeting room – simply switch on their laptop and begin speaking.

Sensor technology – as part of the touchless experience, occupancy sensors enable staff to find a desk or huddle space via digital signage and simply walk up to the space to check in. The occupancy sensors also help to monitor meeting room occupancy to help ensure that staff work safely.

A mobile first approach – giving staff the opportunity to book rooms and desks on their mobile devices is pivotal to hybrid working. Using a touch screen, staff can interact with the meeting room booking software to book their rooms and desks quickly at any time.

Space utilization – a meeting room booking system is more than just a mechanism; it can also drive change. With a wealth of usage data at your fingertips you can pinpoint exactly how often your meeting rooms are used by how many people – crucial info for making future real estate decisions.

Service provision – meeting room booking software has evolved to now include extended setup, breakdown and cleaning times automatically in bookings. Integration with desk panels also ensures that staff are kept informed about clean desk availability.

Visitor management – technology can help ensure your visitors are efficiently managed and health and safety measures observed. Integration with the meeting room booking software makes this an efficient and “hands off” process.

Conclusion

The world of work has changed significantly in the last year. In 2020, according to the IDC, hybrid working has increased 17 times in 2020 compared to 2019.

It’s premature to predict the demise of the meeting room, but it is definitely in a state of evolution, adapting rapidly to change driven by technology.

To keep up with developments, you need a robust, integrated, mobile and adaptive technology stack. Adaptability is the key to success, with meeting room booking software now central to workplace efficiency, allowing staff to book video conferences and also ensuring the safety of your visitors.

Before the worldwide pandemic, meetings had become a devalued currency – how many times did you complain that ‘this meeting could have been an email’? Those days are thankfully over, and what is emerging is a more enriching meeting experience where creativity and collaboration can thrive.

So it’s time to embrace the meeting once again, in its face-to-face, virtual or hybrid form. And this time, you can make sure every meeting minute counts.