Huddle Spaces for Collaboration: What Good Looks Like
In this article
The days of employees being an army of individual contributors are very much in the past. But what does a collaborative modern workforce actually look like? The answer is small working groups known as huddle spaces.
Forbes, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Press all agree that the optimal working group is a huddle space of between three to six individuals. And when groups exceed six people, productivity diminishes.
Unlike old-school cubicles or the new-school open office plan, huddle spaces finally account for the optimal working group size. And when small working groups get together in a well-designed shared space, the results are impressive.
Huddle spaces are small rooms or repurposed areas of an office that enable teams to hold private catch-up meetings. Conference rooms are traditionally expensive, underused and take up huge amounts of space that could be better served by having several small meeting rooms.
Huddle spaces solve this by providing a more cost-effective option that avoids wasting both money and space. They also allow more teams to hold more meetings in two to four people groups. A huddle space can also be easily set up with cost-effective conferencing technology, such as a microphone, TV screen, webcam and speakers, to enable individuals to hold web conferences with remote colleagues.
The huddle space approach makes conferencing easier and more accessible while encouraging collaboration between teams.
The graph below depicts the speed at which team members reported communicating and resolving issues in relation to the quality of their shared space. So, imagine the operational costs that could be saved if every employee could collaborate in a quality shared huddle space.
Quality of shared visual space impacts team problem solving
In Carnegie Mellon's study, teams were timed on how long it took them to solve puzzles and the impact of having access to shared visual space to talk and work. Those with immediate access to shared visual space to interact solved problems 25% faster.
Huddle spaces can come in different forms, from a designated area within an open floor plan to a small conference room. But regardless of the form, good huddle spaces share common characteristics such as:
- The huddle space accommodates two to six people.
- There is a shared visual space to support co-authoring or review.
- The availability of the huddle space is easily recognized.
- The huddle space layout caters to individual ergonomic needs.
- Employees can easily learn how to use the huddle space's technology.
It's important to understand the critical characteristics of a good huddle space to optimize the layout. It's equally important to know what your employees expect and need in a huddle space to be productive.
Before designing your huddle spaces, we recommend developing dynamic personas, or groupings of employees that share common characteristics, services and/or requirements. Doing so will provide you with a holistic vision of how different personas will use huddle spaces, allowing you to increase productivity and extract the most value from your investments.
After developing dynamic personas, leaders can then dive into these key design principles for huddle spaces.
Co-authoring is a vital aspect of a huddle space. This includes the creation, manipulation and reviewing of artifacts, documents, presentations and other deliverables the team is producing.
It's also vital to ensure huddle space users can easily access knowledge and information when working away from the office. To do this, you need to ensure you have several critical components deployed in your technology stack, including:
- Corporate and office productivity applications that are available outside of the office and on any device.
- Applications that are de-coupled from devices to give users the freedom to share ideas at all times.
- Mobile voice and video solutions that enable you to bring in an expert ad hoc to drive business outcomes.
- Enhanced file sharing across devices, which includes features like caching, secures data on any device and intuitive search functionality.
- Digital whiteboards to create a shared visual space for in-person and remote participants.
The chart below shows the survey results of varying tool use when working as part of a team.
Results of WWT and customer survey on team productivity and collaboration
Huddle spaces are small by design, so employees need to be able to easily find them and take advantage of their availability. This includes features like:
Room scheduling: Your huddle space should be available via an easy-to-use, integrated booking platform. Room availability should also be visible to all employees and across multiple device types. There's nothing worse than underutilized room space for working groups looking to get stuff done, so you'll also want the ability to remove unattended meetings from the reservation system, enabling other groups to take advantage of the freed-up space.
Wayfinding: An important consideration for your huddle space is upping Wi-Fi capabilities to support location analytics and wayfinding displayed on interactive monitors. This makes it easier for employees to find the spaces they crave, especially when they're trying to find a huddle space located in an area of an office they may be unfamiliar with.
Remember the physical when it comes to huddle spaces
In addition to all the cool digital and collaborative technology you can put into a huddle space, it's also important not to forget the physical layout. After all, users have to feel comfortable when they're hunkering down to get stuff done.
Huddle space setups can include chairs, tables, monitors and other physical features. A good huddle space also provides adjustability and flexibility within the room that encourages collaborative work by catering to individual ergonomic needs.
Depending on the work styles of the group, standing height stations may also be appropriate. These enable a person to walk into the meeting space and give their contributions for 15-20 minutes without having to bend over the workstation or spend time locating additional seating.
Your huddle space requires optimal space for the optimal team
Huddle spaces have the power to bring people together, get employees aligned on tasks and enable them to produce, participate and make decisions, in and away from the office. When properly implemented, a good huddle space empowers small but mighty working groups that yield greater productivity. We know the optimal size of successful teams. So isn't it time we built the spaces they deserve?
Connect with WWT experts to learn how to encourage collaboration in your organization. And discover how WWT's next-generation meeting solutions helps you to simplify and enhance the meeting experience.