This one is simple – not everybody wants to do the same thing in the same way. By understanding that you can design experiences which enable people to bring their best approach to gatherings and help them feel together at work.
The most common example happens when programming social interaction through coffee events, cinq-a-sept or drinks hours on campus – not everyone in your community may enjoy or be able to consume alcohol. To make people feel together at work in these contexts its important to plan for alternative beverages to be on hand and make sure that everyone feels comfortable together.
Taken a bit further, offering groups of people different ways of coming together at work be it for productive brainstorms or social pause, we advise that mixed seating formats be provided (read our post about the right chair for the job?) No one enjoys sitting around a single board room table for more than a few hours – so its best to allocate optional lounge space nearby, possibly accessorised with call rooms for private conversations and even break out space to encourage teams to pursue collaborative brainstorming as it happens with subsets of the larger group.
No one wants to feel foolish in front of their peers – so providing complicated technology in-room may actually hinder comfort. You should also be mindful of how technology can establish power dynamics between people that usually get in the way of encouraging open and productive communication.
Technology at work should allow people to do tasks with ease and confidence, enabling people to be brought closer instead of isolated in fear and desperation. In fact, technology should help bring people together in a collaborative way.
For example, in large conference rooms we have found it import to do a few things:
- Use a 360 degree mic in the middle of a conference setup – this allows everyone at the table to talk naturally, albeit usually a little louder than at home say. When no one is holding the only mic, people generally have freer conversations and don’t try to hog or steal the show.
- Provide a computer system for video conferences in-room for anyone to drive – knowing that there is a reliable machine which has been dedicated to the task of interfacing in-room guests with presentations and virtual attendees gives your staff confidence in offering support. There are added benefits in attendees not fighting over who’s computer is more flashy and you don’t confuse purposes for presenters – the person managing a Google Meet conferencing on the venue’s hardware can focus on just being logged in for that purpose, without their Slack blabbering on with team chatter from outside of the group.
- Design your conference setups to allow participatory presentations – make sure that your screens are visible by everyone gathered, allowing mirroring on multiple monitors if the room is very large. Additionally, add a device like AppleTV as an alternative presentation source on another HDMI input to your screen(s) – giving attendees the ability to cast screens from their phones or laptops or tablets to present in any way that feels natural when the conversation turns to them.
- Extend the reach of audio to the whole room + its applicability – relying only on the little speakers in a wall mounted screen for ensuring everyone can hear remote presenters is a bad idea. A better one will have you provide a sound system in the room that spreads sound evenly with at least two speakers – even better if it sounds nice for music playback. People love listening to music in between sessions and it provides a welcomed subconscious break from focusing on work.