Equipping conference rooms for a purpose

Businesses have begun embracing a new trend when it comes to designing their collaborative spaces. More organizations are tailoring their meeting rooms to specific types of meetings.

For example, one conference room may be equipped with a digital whiteboard for deep brainstorming sessions. Another room may offer a projector system and speakers for giving presentations. And another room may be outfitted with comfortable couches and lounge seating for relaxation or informal discussion.

According to an infographic by Ultimate Software and the Center for Generational Kinetics, 92% of employees say “having the technology necessary to do their job efficiently affects their satisfaction at work.”

These purpose-built meeting rooms incorporate the technologies best suited to their intended use. Often, they even include light and temperature controls. But the biggest benefit of this kind of conference room design is that it drives productivity by giving teammates a centralized location to meet, with everything they need to achieve a particular purpose right at their fingertips.

Connecting face to face with remote workers

How we define the workplace has shifted significantly in recent years. Businesses have heavily invested in mobile technologies to enable an anytime, anywhere workforce. And to get the right talent for the job, more companies are expanding their hiring practices to include a remote workforce. In fact, 43% of employees work remotely at least some of the time, according to a report by Gallup on the state of the American workplace.

As these changes have occurred, teleconferencing technologies have played a pivotal role in bringing teams together, despite being separated by hundreds of miles. The Microsoft Surface Hub high-resolution, touch-screen display, in particular, is a leading team collaboration tool that solves several challenges at once.

The Surface Hub features a wide-angle camera that enables remote teammates to get a clear view of the entire conference room. It works in conjunction with Skype for Business so you can take full advantage of the application’s videoconferencing and file sharing features for business meetings.

The team collaboration device also functions as an interactive whiteboard, enabling multiple teammates — including remote team members — to ink simultaneously. Features such as these make it easier for teams to create and collaborate together, no matter how many miles apart they may be.

Presenters can use the inking feature in other applications as well. So you could, for example, emphasize key details in a PowerPoint presentation by circling or underlining them.

Keeping meeting room technology hassle-free

To get the most out of your investment in a mobile workforce, it’s important to consider interoperability and ease of use when choosing conference room technologies. That means ensuring employees can quickly and easily plug in their mobile devices or laptops and get down to business.

Equipping conference rooms with built-in power supplies, adapters, cameras and speakers is just the start. Organizations that operate on a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) model should also ensure employees have the ability to connect smartphones and tablets as well.

Teammates are often deterred from using conference room monitors because of confusion about how to connect or difficulties with input settings. With the Surface Hub, teammates can wirelessly connect from multiple devices using an intuitive, easy-to-use interface.

Integrated control panels can also enhance meeting experiences by consolidating and simplifying input controls for everything from the conference room monitor to the overhead lighting to the projector screen. Many businesses have even begun to employ virtual assistants, such as Cortana, in their meeting room technology.

Paying attention to what might trip up less tech-savvy users will make a big difference in how productive your teams can be during meetings. By making your collaborative spaces more user-friendly, workers will spend less time struggling with technology — leaving more time for creativity and innovation.

Other considerations

Setting up a digital booking system for your meeting spaces is a must. Many businesses have systems in place that enable teams to quickly and easily schedule room time through their Outlook calendars. But more innovative systems take it a step further.

If your organization struggles with a shortage of meeting space, you may want to consider installing an integrated detection system that can cancel a meeting if no one is detected in the room within 15 minutes of the scheduled start time — freeing the space for other teams to use. These kinds of systems can even be set up to remove future recurring meetings from the booking system once a certain number of meetings have been canceled in this way.

Team meetings and collaboration sessions are only as successful as the action items and takeaways team members leave with. The Surface Hub lets you easily save a whiteboarding session and take it with you. What if a team member can’t make it to the meeting? With the press of a button, you can record a Skype videoconference and send it to him or her to watch later.

According to the Insight Intelligent Technology Pulse Survey, 55% of IT decision-makers say security is among their top challenges. It’s imperative to ensure proper security controls are in place to protect your organization’s data and creative ideas.

For example, using the Surface Hub, teammates can click “I’m done” on the screen before leaving the room and confirm all files and data from a team meeting or collaboration session are cleared from the device.

Also ensuring proper security protocols are in place to identify teammates who join remotely will add another layer of protection.

Engaging the next-generation workforce

Employees who rate their employers as “mobile pioneers” also score themselves higher for measures of engagement and performance (16% higher for productivity, 18% for creativity, 23% for satisfaction and 21% for loyalty), according to a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit.

“Mobile technology presents Chief Information Officers (CIOs) with an opportunity to improve their business performance by shaping their organization’s employee experience,” the report states.

The importance of leveraging technology as a differentiator to attract and retain talent can’t be overstated. The Insight Intelligent Technology Pulse Survey further underscores this point: “Since workforces that are productive, connected and inspired can add up to competitive advantage, IT [decision-makers] should pay close attention to solutions that enhance employees’ end-user experiences.”

Designing creative, collaborative spaces that inspire your workforce does more than enhance productivity or performance. It enables an environment where your teams can have positive experiences with technology that meets their expectations and fosters success — both for your employees and your business.