The once standard conference room with a large table and matching chairs are vanishing within enterprises. Enterprises seek to utilize modern meeting rooms that better match varying work styles, culture and team dynamics. This requires facilities managers to work closely with office design companies, business function leaders and IT to implement meeting rooms with the right technologies that enhance workplace collaboration.

A recent USA Today article highlights the evolution of meeting rooms from the 1980’s to present day. The article also provides a glimpse inside several Silicon Valley companies and their workspaces. These Silicon Valley modern workspaces are setting office design trends across the globe as companies to better cater toward the needs of workers today.

While meetings take place more frequently today than in years past, smart enterprises realize that not all meetings need to take place in the same style conference room. This explains why the number of conference rooms inside offices have increased per person. These meeting rooms can range anywhere from small enclaves to large rooms with wipe-off boards, modern furniture and technology to efficiently drive meeting outcomes.

“Meetings are never going to go away. But the hour-long meetings with 10 people in a big room are going to be fewer, and we are already seeing that…Smaller meetings go faster. You get to decisions quicker and get back to your day. That’s the definition of innovation.” – Shaun Ritchie, CEO of EventBoard, a leading software provider to make conference rooms more efficient.

Primo Orpilla, the cofounder of Studio O+A, an interior and architectural design firm, is known for designing modern office spaces with meeting rooms that match the modern work culture. Some of the offices his firm has designed include Facebook’s headquarters, offices for AOL, Uber, Yelp and OpenTable.

Orpilla’s designs are meant to accommodate all kinds of workers, which include those who love to collaborate, those who prefer quiet, and those who enjoy a mix of the two. For instance, a room with bar stools is great for a quick casual meeting, whereas small huddle rooms with wipe-off boards surrounding the walls can ignite random bursts of innovation.

“Those meeting spaces are all supposed to make you feel a different way. Are you going to be relaxed and social? Noisy and boisterous, or formal? The way the walls are shaped, the furniture – all of it is designed to inspire a particular behavior,” says Orpilla.

Of course, efficient meeting rooms that are designed to drive collaboration outcomes must also have the right communication technologies in place to connect with distributed teams across the globe. With the right collaboration technologies, enterprises can avoid what is known as presence disparity.

Presence disparity is a term coined by Steelcase, a leading manufacturer of furniture for offices. The term is short for those working remotely having a different experience than those who are working side-by-side.

In a Steelcase report entitled, Making Distance Disappear, researchers found that presence disparity is a “consistently nagging problem” faced by distributed teams, which can hinder workplace productivity. Examples of presence disparity shared in the report can include:

  • Poor phone or video connections that break the conversation flow.
  • The person on the phone is unaware that you’re all distracted by him eating potato chips during the meeting.
  • The formal videoconferencing suite in your office feels like a United Nations meeting and you catch yourself sitting very stiffly and worrying if your hair is sticking up.
  • You’ve been drawing on the whiteboard for several minutes and realize that the camera is still pointed at the table and your teammates at the other end have no idea what you’re talking about.

To prevent presence disparity, many enterprises have ramped up their use of video technology. While video conferencing provides an array of benefits, using the right platform for the right meeting room environment is critical to achieving efficient meeting outcomes. For remote collaboration to be efficient, enterprises must have crisp, clear audio and video quality and be able to also share content.

“Yes, you can stick videoconferencing in some corner of some room and technically it will work,” says David Woolf, Steelcase general manager of integrated technologies. “But it’s probably not going to have much impact. Unlike mobile devices, the key to large-scale technology is where and how it is situated in space.”

Steelcase developed a unique solution called media:scape® – a convenient and reliable workstation that uses video collaboration as a key component to connecting employees in a fast and hassle-free environment that simulates a “watercooler conversation” experience. To help paint this picture, media:scape® produces a “walk-up and connect” type of experience using their innovative PUCK™ (Personal User Control Key).

Imagine this, an employee enters a suite with cafe-like chairs and pulls a PUCK out of the countertop. He or she then proceeds to connect the device to a laptop and with a simple click of a button the videoconferencing begins. This experience helps the in-office and remote teams form a stronger bond with one another in a more relaxed and casual setting, which leads to greater collaboration, creativity and innovation.

RealPresence Medialign from Polycom is another example of a platform that provides a quality experience that can fit into any room environment. RealPresence Medialign is a pre-packaged enterprise grade turnkey platform that can be installed and deployed in a matter of minutes – no need to purchase separate parts and contact multiple vendors to configure setups. Everything comes packaged together as an all-in-one unit with voice, content management, content sharing and video technology capabilities. And since the RealPresence Medialign platform can fit into any size meeting room, there is no need to alter meeting spaces in any way.

Meeting rooms have evolved throughout the years to better match today’s work culture, styles and team dynamics. To keep up with the times, facilities managers must implement meeting room designs with the right video collaboration solutions to drive workplace efficiency and productivity.