Gone are the days when people attending the same meeting were either physically together or behind individual screens. With the new hybrid reality comes increased complexity and the need to re-think the inclusion of all participants in meetings – no matter their location or device. At Microsoft, we truly believe that we should practice what we preach. And that includes designing hybrid meeting rooms accommodating the needs of modern organizations, employers, and teams. Therefore, we have totally refurbished two meeting rooms at the Microsoft Lyngby HQ with the scope of creating state-of-the-art inclusion.
Inclusion is not just about having access to a Teams link and technically being able to join. The meeting experience and the feeling of being truly included, heard, and seen is something many organizations are struggling with. Mainly because meetings and meeting rooms as we know them to cater to the needs of either the ones present in the room or the ones participating digitally. The fact is, however, that an increased number of meetings will no longer be in one of these two categories. Meetings are increasingly going hybrid with participants both in the room and remote – and that’s why both the room and the technology need to accommodate new expectations and new ways of collaborating. In other words, we should expect more of our meeting rooms than before – simply because they, moving forward, have more tasks to fulfill.
You might think it doesn’t really matter what a meeting room looks like, but it really does.
– Kit Ingwersen, Modern Work Business Group Lead at Microsoft Denmark.
Meeting human needs with technology
“We know for a fact that a sense of belonging is more important now than ever. We also know that it is quite difficult to accommodate”, says Kit Ingwersen, Modern Work Business Group Lead at Microsoft Denmark. She and her team are in the middle of producing a film that tells the story about the new meeting room facilities at Microsoft Denmark and the purpose they serve. “We just had the remote meetings figured out”, she says. “But when it comes to hybrid meetings there is still some legwork. For example, a small but crucial part of building trust and enhancing collaboration is that you have eye contact during a meeting. We have been concerned about how to address that very human aspect using technology. Teams Frontrow is actually a very good feature that allows people to do just that”.
Teams Frontrow is a new way of displaying all participants in a meeting with a layout that makes the dialogue feel more natural. The video gallery at the bottom allows for face-to-face interaction giving participants that all-important eye contact, no matter if they are in the room or somewhere else.
A positive development for obvious reasons
The pandemic clearly showed us that it was possible to work together from different locations, and while many of us now can return to the office there are still some benefits in not always being physically together while working.
“Emerging technologies such as HoloLens and Mesh are on the rise. And for good reasons”, Kit Ingwersen states. “With HoloLens you can facilitate remote assistance that previously required personnel on the ground or go through blueprints or other designs without being in the same room as the architects. “With the right meeting room applications and set-up the meeting participants can also be in on the action”, she continues.
“That’s a positive development for obvious reasons. You can save time and resources when assisting remotely instead of sending out technicians – sometimes flying halfway around the world to fix a problem. That also means reducing carbon emissions. Furthermore, using HoloLens in the meeting room enables teams to collaborate much more freely with no technical boundaries given that the view inside the HoloLens can be cast on the screen for everybody to see and chip in.”
Can everybody hear me and see my slides?
Probably one of the most common statements exclaimed in meetings over the past few years. But with the right equipment, we can hopefully eliminate bad sound and cameras that only show half the person speaking. Nothing makes one feel more excluded than not being able to see or hear (or sometimes even both!) the person presenting. “Intelligent cameras and build-in sound-system should be standard equipment in modern meeting rooms”, says Kit Ingwersen. “And being able to co-work in the same framework, presentation or document is also important for effective collaboration. That’s why our meeting rooms have intelligent cameras, content cameras, and, of course, a Surface Hub, which is the ultimate tool for collaboration”, she says while showing how the touch screen Hubs can be accessed by all meeting participants no matter their location.
A home away from home almost sounds like a cliché
Nevertheless, we all feel more inspired, energized, and creative when we are in surroundings that spark our senses. Modern meeting rooms should therefore cater to these human senses. And that has nothing to do with technology and all to do with creating an atmosphere that’s inviting and pleasant. Much like a home.
“We know that many organizations are now trying very hard to get their people to come back into the office. And that also entails creating a physical environment that makes it worth the effort”, says Kit Ingwersen, while showing us around the new hybrid meeting rooms at Microsoft. Here there are no white and sterile-looking surfaces, but soft and organic shapes and forms, wooden furniture, nice and comfortable chairs, soothing colors on the walls, and small but important items such as glass vases with flowers and nice coffee mugs. All are designed to make us feel safe, comfortable, and energized. “You might think it doesn’t really matter what a meeting room looks like”, says Kit Ingwersen, “but it really does. When you choose a nice hotel, I bet you check the interior and the photo gallery before you even check the location. As human beings, we simply love to be surrounded by beautiful things and I think we have accomplished that with these rooms.
Book a VIP hybrid meeting room tour here.
Learn more about the hybrid workplace here.