If you’re a part of a small business you’ve probably got space on your mind. Not the “final frontier” version, the practical, everyday, “how do we all fit in one room” version.
The budget constraints of a company that supports a couple dozen employees rather than a couple thousand mean the office environment is likely built around shared resources. In companies like these, it’s about giving everyone enough room to do their job, and there isn’t usually wiggle room left over.
If there is a spare room in the office, something set aside for group gatherings, it is important for that space to be able to perform a number of roles. It needs to accommodate internal team meetings, social situations, client visits, and–crucially for any company that wants to seize the opportunities of the digital age–a functional video conferencing unit.
Fortunately, there are a number of low-cost, even low-tech ways a company can make the most of its assets through better video conference room design.
Clearing up the Video Conference Room
Indiana firm Draper Inc. knows exactly what we’re talking about. It produces a video conferencing camera lift that keeps the hardware tucked up in the ceiling while the room below is being used for other purposes, and then lowers it down to eye-level when needed.
It may not look like the most advanced technology in the video calling world, and it currently retails for more than $12,000, but it does clear away the messiest part of a video conferencing system–the audio and visuals–provided you use a camera with built-in microphones, which is standard these days.
Pair it with a wall-mountable flat-screen computer and the entire video setup will only take up as much space in that prized multipurpose room as a picture frame. With the hardware suspended from the ceiling and mounted on the wall, you don’t need to find space for them on a table, leaving you to configure the room whichever way best suits your team.
And there are more high-tech space saving solutions as well.
Space Saving Video Conference Hubs
The continued rise in video conference use–87% more people use it today than two years ago, and 50% of all conference rooms will be VC equipped by 2020–has pushed the industry’s biggest names to make the technology simpler and more accessible.
Google and Cisco have reinvented the digital whiteboard for a small business audience. Touchscreen devices like Cisco’s Spark Room kit link with a user’s smartphone for instant setup, and encourage voice-activated, always-on video conferencing that does away with heavy hardware on the conference room table.
In a similar attempt to streamline the video calling experience, Microsoft has teamed with Logitech, Crestron, and Polycom to create tablet-powered Skype Room Systems that function around a simple docking feature. The Logitech version of the technology, the first to be released, is permanently hooked up to a main screen and accessed by placing a tablet in the central dock. Again, it operates via a touchscreen interface and lets users start or join a Skype for Business call with just a couple of taps. And when you’re done you take your tablet with you and leave the room as sparse as it was when you entered.
You can enhance the visuals and acoustics of these devices without taking up any additional space by using a range of ceiling-mountable permanent microphones and cameras, or by bringing in portable USB-connected devices.
All these devices, including the camera lift, can be quickly hidden away when the conference room is needed for another event, but there are some basic video calling room design ideas that you should keep in mind when you set up your multipurpose shared space.
Video Conference Room Décor
While you want to maintain the flexible nature of a shared room when space is tight, the visual and acoustic demands of video calling should guide the overall design.
For example, you’ll want solid, muted colors on the walls so as not to distract video calling viewers or confuse your broadcast. Just as when selecting the right shirt for a call in order to make a good video calling impression, stripes and bold geometric patterns are a big no-no as they can easily become blurred and disorienting if your connection becomes even a little fuzzy.
There are several other things to consider:
- Sunlight: A room with a view is always pleasant for those inside, but natural sunlight can cause all manner of reflections and refractions over a digital video call.
- Furniture: Choose function over form, as glass settings will cause visual and audio reflection, a crowded room is distracting, and you don’t want your team buried within or behind the chairs and tables.
- Accessories: Everything behind and beside your callers will be transmitted along with them. Half-cropped or inappropriate paintings or posters are a distraction, and a cluttered room is a confusing room.
The bottom line here is that you should keep things as simple as you can so that your shared room is optimized for video calling, even if it is more often used for cutting cake on staff birthdays.