An in-person meeting sounds like the perfect place to transmit COVID-19 — unless you take the necessary precautions to adapt your conference rooms.
The primary way COVID-19 spreads is by person-to-person contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means people in close quarters (within 6 feet of each other), sharing air space and chatting with one another may be at higher risk of infection. The virus could spread in other ways too, including by touching surfaces that it’s on.
And yet, the power of in-person meetings is indisputable. Communication remains more effective in person, resulting in better business outcomes. It’s no wonder why 80 percent of executives prefer face-to-face meetings.
As organizations approach their workplace meeting spaces, it’s important to consider how people interact with the space and with the technology used in each meeting room.
After identifying how each space is used, organizations can introduce custom solutions like touchless controls, new displays and audio systems, and better sanitization methods that occur between meetings.
Technical Considerations for Meeting Rooms
Systems designers determine what devices and technologies will work best in meeting rooms based on factors like use cases, dimensions of the room, and where people will sit.
The infectious nature of COVID-19 means meeting spaces must expand to accommodate social distancing. This affects how people use audiovisual technology to share and consume content when they gather.
Expanding the overall footprint of a meeting space means creating more distance among participants and the display and speakers.
AVI experts shared the following considerations to help organizations create meeting room environments that minimize transmission of the disease and enable employees to meet and get work done.
As meeting participants practice safe social distancing, the visual technology, or displays, need to scale and function in a way that helps people consume content.
Systems need to incorporate larger displays to meet the participants’ needs. However, if installing new displays isn't an option, participants need a way to see what’s displayed without disruption. That could include screen mirroring or the ability to zoom in and out easily.
Most huddle rooms and smaller conference rooms feature compact audio solutions that project from the front of the room. Given the size of these spaces, they work perfectly fine. But if people spread out and expand their footprint, what used to be clear sound will become soft audio that’s harder to hear.
As meeting rooms expand and change, consider a distributed audio system that ensures coverage throughout the space. No matter where participants sit in the room, they’ll hear what’s presented.
Laptops and smartphones stay attached to us constantly at work. Going into a meeting, we undock from our desk and set up shop in the conference room.
Mobile and personal devices became a norm in the office after the internet of things (IoT) exploded. We use them to share content, take notes, collaborate — you name it — and many conference rooms today accommodate these personal devices.
Many meeting room tables feature built-in cable cubbies, so those with laptops can easily plug in and present using an HDMI or USB cable. These amenities enable the increasingly mobile workforce to come and go as needed. But as the pandemic continues, employees won’t be as willing to grab a cable unless they know it gets sanitized after each use.
Long term, it’s important to find alternative solutions to content sharing that frees people from cables.
During a pandemic, touchless sharing solutions — like Apple’s AirPlay, Google Cast or Miracast — are favorable to sharing cables.
If people continue to rely on cables to share content during meetings, what measures can organizations take to ensure cables are effectively sanitized between meetings? Or, at the very least, can you keep hand sanitizer in the room?
Non-Technical Solutions to Meeting Room Safety
Just as how we shop in the grocery store has changed since the pandemic so must how we convene in the workplace.
Some stores limited the number of people who can shop at the same time. Masks and, in some circumstance, gloves are recommended. Marks on the floor show where to stand when checking out. Carts go into two rows: clean and unclean.
Similar practices should be considered for meeting rooms too.
It’s typical for meeting rooms to have one point of entry, a table and chairs, along with the technology described earlier.
As people enter the room and seat themselves, how much room do they have to file in and out?
Even if it’s for a moment, if people break social distancing to seat themselves in a meeting room, that could make some uncomfortable and, by extension, more apt to stay home.
If traditional meeting rooms can’t provide adequate space, then people will likely need to wear masks during meetings.
Or, organizations could stagger office use and limit the number of employees entering the space. For the employees who have the greatest need to be in-person, they return to the office, while the rest remain at home.
As for the shared devices — like a control panel or an HDMI cable — how are those sanitized in between meetings?
Maybe treat cables as grocery stores organize carts — ready for use in one bucket, needs sanitation in another.
Again, technology does play a big role in providing touchless solutions to collaboration, but more goes into keeping employees safe at work. Thinking through these scenarios and the nuances of meeting face to face will help organizations determine the best ways to reintroduce in-person collaboration at the office.
A Unique Approach to Meeting Rooms
Returning to in-person meetings will advance business and yield better performance from employees.
While there are concerns when getting together, there are times when it’s appropriate. It’s up the business to put the necessary measures in place to ensure safety.
Not only is it easier to pick up on subtle cues and build trust, face-to-face interactions are 34 times more effective than some forms of virtual communications, like email.
As employees begin returning to the office and using meeting spaces again, it’s important to adjust and expand the technology and infrastructure already in place to accommodate the new demands brought forth by the pandemic.
However, if the technology and infrastructure are limited, consider working with an integrator. AVI Systems provides the expertise and integration capabilities to help any workplace find new solutions to safe visual collaboration.