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Huddle Spaces: What Good Looks Like

With workspaces finally being designed for optimal team size, organizations are getting a productivity boost from small working groups.

The days of employees being an army of individual contributors are over. But what does a collaborative workforce actually look like?

The answer is an army of small working groups.

Forbes, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Press all agree that the optimal working group is made up of between three to six individuals. 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.

The graph below depicts the speed at which team members reported communicating and resolving issues in relation to the quality of their shared space.

Imagine the operational costs saved if every employee could collaborate in a quality shared space.

Results of study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University

Characteristics of a good huddle space

Huddle spaces can come in different forms — a designated area within an open floor plan or a small conference room — but regardless of the form, good huddle spaces share common characteristics:

  • The physical space accomodates two to six people.
  • There is a shared visual space to support co-authoring or review.
  • The availability of the space is easily recognized.
  • The layout caters to individual ergonomic needs.
  • Employees can easily learn how to use the space’s technology.

With that in mind, we can dig into some tips to ensure your huddle space is designed for optimal productivity.

Make sure everyone is an author

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.

Access to knowledge and information is essential when working away from the office. Several key attributes have been observed as critical components in the technology stack, including:

  • Corporate and office productivity applications that are available outside of the office, on any device.
  • Applications that are de-coupled from devices to give users freedom to share ideas within context of the moment.
  • Mobile voice/video that allows to bring in an expert ad hoc to drive business outcomes
  • Enhanced file sharing across devices that features caching and securing 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

Don't play hide and seek

Huddle spaces are small by design, so it’s important that employees are actually able to find them and take advantage of their availability.

Room scheduling

There should be an easy-to-use, integrated booking platform, and room availability should be visible to all employees, across multiple device types. There’s nothing worse than under-utilized 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 so other groups can take advantage of the freed up space.

Wayfinding

Consider upping Wi-Fi capabilities to support location analytics and wayfinding displayed on interactive monitors to make it easy for your employees to find the spaces they crave, especially when they’re trying to find a huddle space in an area of an office they may be unfamiliar with.

Remember the physical

For all the cool collaborative technology you can put into a huddle space, don’t 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. Individual ergonomics is an important consideration. A good huddle space provides adjustability and flexibility within the room that enourages collaborative work by catering to individual ergonomic needs.

Dependent on the work styles of the group, standing height stations may 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.

Optimal space for the optimal team

Huddle spaces have the power to bring people together, get employees aligned on tasks and allow employees to produce, participate and make decisions, in and away from the office.

When properly implemented, they empower small but mighty working groups that yield greater productivity.

We know the optimal size of successful teams. Isn’t it time we built the spaces they deserve?

References

Robert E. Kraut, Darren Gergle, Susan R. Fussell “The Use of Visual Information in Shared Visual Spaces: Informing the Development of Virtual Co-Presence”. Human Computer Interaction Institute Carnegie Mellon University. 2002.