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How should companies manage huddle room size amid COVID?

Companies are being forced to rethink huddle room size guidelines as they begin to plan how employees will be able to work together. Find out how technology can help.

The huddle room has been the biggest trend in business video over the last few years. As video room technology became more affordable and less complex, video no longer was considered a premium luxury earmarked only for the boardroom. Instead of having to fight for time in designated meeting rooms, working teams could huddle up in any small space and connect over video to remote team members. As a result, worker flexibility, freedom and productivity all increased.

Then, COVID-19 hit, and everything changed. The last thing anyone wants to do now is huddle. In fact, we want to do the literal opposite. Huddle room size is now an issue. We want to socially distance. It will be quite some time before we feel comfortable sitting shoulder to shoulder.

The smallest huddle spaces will likely become solo workspaces for some time to come. Our typical six- to nine-person meeting room may now be a two- to three-person socially distant workspace. Workers, even when at the office, may choose to attend meetings from their desktop over video, rather than walk down the hall and sit in a questionably small space.

The good news is many workers and organizations have learned to embrace remote work over the last few months and may shift to a hybrid workforce post-pandemic. Workers who used to be at the office five days a week may now work from home two or three of those days. This should enable organizations to determine a huddle room size that frees up enough space to accommodate social distancing.

Technology will continue to play a crucial role. For example, it's a lot easier to capture people on video if they are sitting next to each other. Since that can't be the case with social distancing, meeting room cameras must be engineered to either pan out fully to capture the entire room -- shrinking the size of the participants in the image -- or intelligently pan between active speakers. New options, such as the camera developed by Aura, can digitally alter the view of the room to make participants appear to be sitting closer together.

We will eventually return to the office, but we will have to find new ways to effectively use smaller spaces. We can keep two chairs between us in the boardroom, but a huddle room furnished with only two chairs doesn't leave a lot of options for social distancing. In the long term, spaces might be redesigned and walls torn down to create bigger spaces. Until then, we will have to find some creative use for our smaller spaces, with a heavy reliance on connecting through video.

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