Nov 03, 2020

What are hybrid meetings? Why should you prepare your offices for them?

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Hybrid, we use the term for many things these days. In biology, chemistry, engineering and even in the arts. We drive around with hybrid cars or bikes. And more recently, we have started to work and meet in a hybrid way. Before we get lost in the many interpretations of hybrid, let’s explore what hybrid meeting actually is. Because when it comes to equipping the workplace for hybrid meetings, there’s only one way forward, as the new research on hybrid meetings unravels.

The definition of a hybrid meeting

“A hybrid meeting is a meeting where a part of the audience joins from the office and another part joins remote, enabled by audio and video conferencing technology with a strong focus on content sharing.”

Don’t be mistaken. A hybrid meeting is more than just a synonym for a remote, or virtual meeting. In a hybrid meeting part of the participants joins live & in-person from an office meeting room and another part joins remote - so from home or another location, like a coffee shop, the airport or even a satellite office. Hybrid is a unique blend of both an in-room component and a virtual online component with live video streaming and online presentation of content. It combines the best features of both meeting types: in-person communication and virtual meeting benefits for information sharing, recording and interactivity.

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In hybrid meetings the focus is on seamless collaboration and on content sharing both in-room and remote. The ultimate aim is to make hybrid meetings as intuitive and straightforward as face-to-face meetings thanks to meeting technology: SWAPS and AV peripherals, video conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex and wireless collaboration technology.

Why do we have hybrid meetings?

When businesses opt to enable hybrid meeting in the workplace, they have several reasons, often related to time constraints, reducing budgets and their carbon footprint. But mostly these companies realize that they want to enable true collaboration and foster innovation even when not everyone is present in the office.

  • True innovation and collaboration happens when people meet, in one and the same space. When everyone is stuck at home or remote, it’s hard for a company to thrive, innovate and progress. It’s clear that the meeting room will make a comeback to enable exactly those meetings where physical presence in a room is required. Hybrid meetings bring at least part of the workforce together physically and enable easier virtual collaboration with remote team members. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s the next best thing. Discover more on the 5 key benefits of hybrid working
  • Working with global project teams located all over the world and consequently in different time zones and working schedules, makes live meetings impossible.
  • The introduction of efficient, low-cost hybrid meetings in the new company culture are a great solution to tackle travel restrictions and answer the need for going green and improving sustainability.
  • More recently, lockdowns and quarantine measures during the COVID-19 pandemic have forced people to look for new ways of collaborating like home office, and more recently, in some regions, a shift towards hybrid work which makes social distancing easier to organize.

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1 in 4 meetings today are hybrid

Today, over 50% of all meetings is fully remote, which is twice as many as last year. Taking local regulations for the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, many enterprises have gone for a full WFH policy wherever possible at the beginning of the crisis. Today some parts of the world are planning to get (and even getting) employees to return to the office in a mixed work model. So, it comes as no surprise that already 23% of meetings today are hybrid meetings. A number that is more than likely to go up in future, when restrictions are lifted and more normal work regimes can be taken up again. We’ll probably see a shift to a better balance of remote, face-to-face and hybrid meetings.

How offices can prepare for hybrid meetings?

Post-Covid, meetings are expected to shift away from all-remote and more towards hybrid and face-to-face alternatives. This expected change will require a new company & meeting culture in many businesses and organizations in private and public sector. Some, especially more formal meetings really require physical presence in the room e.g. the ones where important decisions are taken (42%), formal introductions are made (45%) or creative brainstorms are needed (40%). While other, more informal meetings like recurring team catch-ups or quick info-sharing sessions, trainings or presentations to a larger audience can easily be organized in a remote or hybrid way. These meetings require a pre-existing level of trust.

To facilitate this need for both face-to-face and hybrid meetings, offices will need some rethinking and redesigning. Especially when employers want to ensure rules for social distancing and restrict movement in busy areas at the same time. Workers want more structured, planned in-person meetings and consequently more closed and formal meeting spaces that enables video meeting. Larger meeting rooms are preferred, no new investments in huddle spaces where spontaneous, ad hoc meeting takes place, are advised. The huddle space might well be on its way out.

Even in workstation design we see this trend popping up. Less regular desk space and open plan offices are necessary when people come to the workplace mainly to collaborate. More rooms to foster (hybrid) interaction, interactivity and connection are required. Offices will become smaller, more focused and predominantly used for in-person human collaboration.

Now is the time for companies to rethink their ideal office location. Is it in an energetic, big city where they can attract young talent? Or do they prefer smaller, flexible and easy accessible satellite offices outside of city centers? 

To equip the workplace for seamless hybrid meeting, investments in setup of video conferencing rooms and in better video conferencing technology are number 1 priority for organizations. Be it rolling out new or uniform UC platforms in the entire enterprise, equipping meeting spaces with SWAPS like camera’s, mics, speakers, soundbars for good audio and video quality, investing in decent display and visualization solutions or enabling wireless content sharing, collaboration and conferencing for more engagement. Turning a meeting room into hybrid meeting room can be done in just a few, simple steps. Read more

“Technology will be crucial to achieving this blend. The message comes through loud and clear from our Hybrid meeting survey. Of all the things office works want their companies to invest in, collaboration technologies are top of the list. To survive, rebuild and eventually thrive again in the post-pandemic world, businesses will need to invest in new technologies, redesign or at least reconfigure their office spaces, and give their employees the tools they need to work in the best way possible, no matter where they are located or how they choose to connect.”

(Lieven Bertier, Segment Marketing Director Workplace at Barco)

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