by Monika Avery
As we continue to talk about the purpose of place in a post-COVID world, it is important to reflect on why certain activities take place during the workday and how the physical and virtual environments can support them. Meetings, for example, are an ancient ritual. Why, when, where, and how will we have them? And yes, we will. Meetings will prevail, but now we must integrate best practices of interior design to support multiformat meetings.
Logistics of how the new multiformat meeting is facilitated will come with a set of organizational protocols clearly communicated to employees. Most of us have experienced when every meeting attendee is remote. But as some of us begin to appear back in the office, what happens when we have a blended scenario?
Teams will have to ensure consistency for both the onsite and remote participant experience. They may question whether to assemble the team that is in the office in a conference room and call those working remotely. Is there a camera, microphone, and speakers in the room so all participants can see and hear each other? Or does the in-office team take the meeting at their desk – camera in laptop, ear buds, microphone?
If most of the team is in the office, then is it a predominantly in-person meeting? What if taking the meeting at one’s desk is disruptive to those around them? Where do we go then? One thing is certain: teams must be able to pivot between the multiformat meeting experiences – in-person, virtual, and the hybrid. These experiences must be engaging and immersive. When the entire team is remote, informal interactions must be planned carefully to ensure full team participation.
Emerging technologies have made supporting remote participation easier. According to USIS, a global technology infrastructure and professional services firm, AV tech trends for the built environment can be contactless, frictionless, hybrid, touchless, virtual or digital events. Responding specifically to the demand for on-site communications via digital display and video walls, interactive displays are evolving to touchless gesture-based and hover interactions. Bi-directional mirroring pushes content from shared displays to personal devices. Wireless presentation platforms enable personal device content to be mirrored on the room display and vice versa. Ceiling microphones and auto-tracking video cameras ensure remote participants are engaged with the presenter.
Not all meetings are formal when the team is in person. Ideas and actions can be generated through informal settings and walking paths through a corporate campus. The idea of scheduling meetings outside has become more attractive post-COVID, as health safety and access to open air is fresh on our minds.
Outside meeting spaces conducive to conversation, collaboration, and safe socialization can range from garden cafe settings accessed through interior food service areas, roof decks and patios, courtyards, amphitheaters, and walking paths. SLAM’s landscape architects work with the workplace design teams to identify opportunities for exterior workplace environments for our clients.
In the many ways and places that multiformat meetings will be facilitated in the future, they will continue to be a key component of interaction, communication, and organizational success. Optimizing the design of a variety of meeting places, inside and out, and digital technologies to accompany them, is a critical component of workplace design.
Part three of the Purpose of Place series will focus on amenity spaces that optimize the hybrid workplace experience.
Monika Avery, NCIDQ, IIDA, LEED AP is a principal and interior designer for The S/L/A/M Collaborative (SLAM).