The future of work is a hybrid work environment. With companies like Google, Twitter, and Discover planning their return to work with limited occupancy, businesses will have to rethink and make adjustments to their physical office spaces to accommodate social distancing and the new remote work "normal".

Many organizations are taking a multi-strategy approach; they are staggering employees returning to work, implementing systems where some folks or teams come in on Mondays and Wednesdays, and others come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, implementing new remote work policies, and physically changing the workplace.

Office and building managers are becoming increasingly more vital to company-wide safety, making changes like eliminating shared food areas in favor of individually packaged food items, installing HEPA filters, and creating hand hygiene stations throughout the workplace.

Meeting rooms are not immune from the changes to the office space. The CDC recommends maintaining social distancing precautions, which include keeping six feet of distance between employees, not gathering in groups, and limiting close contact. Many meeting rooms, huddle rooms, and conference rooms will need to transform into meeting rooms of the future to meet these recommendations. It's time to reimagine the office.

1. Larger Meeting Rooms

This one is fairly obvious. Many huddle rooms and meeting rooms that exist now aren't suited for socially distanced meetings. According to SHRM, when in-person meetings are unavoidable, as is the case in many healthcare facilities, people should be able to sit at least three feet from one another. SHRM also recommends keeping meetings short, so make sure your staff has sufficient technology to support quickly getting hybrid meetings (with some tuning in from the office and others from home) up and running.

2. Bigger Conference Room Tables and Fewer Chairs

Many companies have small huddle rooms or meeting rooms with tables designed to fit 3-5 people in fairly close proximity. Opt for larger tables with fewer chairs, or individual desks for folks to sit in a circle without being near anyone else. Think about how you'll incorporate those calling in from home, and make sure everyone can be seen as well as see those calling in.

3. Easy-to-Clean Surfaces

When choosing new, larger tables and workstations, opt for hard (non-porous) surfaces that are easy to wipe down before and after each use. In general, optimize your office like you would your home. Choose durable, easy-to-clean fabrics like vinyl that can be wiped down after use. Avoid fabric when you can; change out carpets for tile, stained concrete, or laminate and get rid of curtains in favor of window shades that can be easily sanitized.

4. Sanitization Supplies for Hands, Surfaces, and Equipment

Provide your staff with the materials they will need to keep themselves from getting sick. Encourage cautious hygiene practices and enable staff members to help to keep your workplace clean. While those in environmental services are a piece of the puzzle when it comes to preventing the spread of disease, each employee must play their part to keep up with the level of sanitization needed to maintain safety. Place sanitation stations in accessible areas and give your employees wipes and other supplies they will need to disinfect surfaces, hands, and equipment regularly.

For hands:

  • Offer sinks with soap and paper towel, and use signage that hands must be washed for at least 20 seconds when they are visibly dirty, prior to eating, and before and after using the bathroom
  • The CDC recommends that alcohol-based hand rubs must be greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol

For surfaces and equipment:

  • Clean surfaces using soap and water as well as disinfectant
  • Clean surfaces like tables, door handles, phones, keyboards, sinks, and other areas that are frequently used
  • Opt for hands-free whenever possible
  • Think about using motion-sensor lights, sinks, paper towel dispensers, doors, and more
  • Use bleach-based solutions or alcohol-based cleaners with at least 70% alcohol
  • Place wipes near meeting rooms, desks, doors, and frequently touched items so they can be wiped before and after each use
  • Offer wipes compatible with technology for staff to clean phones, computers, and headsets


5. Accessible for Remote Participants

Now that 66% of people are working remotely in some way, offices will need to be prepared to rethink the idea of meetings. The new normal means that all meetings will have the option for employees to call in remotely. With this in mind, those in the office need to be able to easily set up and connect with those tuning in from home. Since meetings need to be as efficient as possible, teams won't have the luxury of spending additional time troubleshooting technology, and they certainly won't be able to huddle around a laptop in order to have the team member at home see everyone.

Set up meeting rooms so they're accessible for remote participants. This includes video conferencing setups in all meeting, conference, and board rooms and additional digital collaboration tools. Consider if you'll need to get your staff access to video conferencing hardware like video cameras or headsets, or video conferencing software like Zoom or Skype for Business.

6. Inclusive Technology for All Attendees

When your employees are meeting in today's socially distanced world, it's important to bring the most authentic experience possible to those joining from home. The best way to do that is to have a video conferencing camera that captures everyone who is in the room, both their face and their voice.

The 360° Meeting Owl Pro video conference camera autofocuses on whoever is speaking, and offers a dynamic meeting experience for hybrid teams. Being able to see and hear everyone in the physical space, even when socially distanced, is a key component to effectively working across locations. Its plug-and-play functionality helps your teams get in the room, jump on a call, and instantly meet with the rest of the group.

By following social distancing and sanitation best practices, and setting up conference rooms with the best equipment and technology, you can hold effective hybrid team meetings. The workplace of the future may be different from what your employees are used to, but it is a vital step in protecting your workers and their families.

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