The Covid-Secure Conference Room: How to Update your Office for Efficient Virtual Meetings
Virtual Meetings are now part of our gig economy. Cubicles and conference rooms may be empty, but don’t let that fool you: Companies and their technology partners are working around the clock to prepare for a Covid-secure workplace that keeps business alive both during and after the pandemic. Of course, changing the decades-old tradition of in-person offices is not an easy feat.
Offices have long existed as a way to unify colleagues, bringing a business’ sharpest brains together in the same room for creative brainstorming, strategic thinking, and employee-to-employee mentorship. Emulating these physical connections virtually has been one of many struggles for businesses throughout the pandemic, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. In fact, it shouldn’t be—because like it or not, the post-pandemic work world looks more virtual than ever.
What does this new workplace normal—a normal that saw 300 million daily Zoom users in April—look like? Like everything with the pandemic, no one knows for certain. Some experts guess that even after social-distancing guidelines ease up, companies will have to keep employees at a safe distance. In some cases, that means flex offices that are work-from-home friendly. For other companies, it’s a hybrid workspace with half of a company’s employees in the office on certain days, and the other half in the rest of the week. With that strategy in mind, some smaller workspaces or meeting rooms could be turned into “Zoom rooms,” with the common one-on-one meetings replaced with one employee in the room, and the other employee back home.
However the pandemic work setting plays out, one thing’s for certain: Offices will be more virtual than ever, and it’s up to company leaders to adapt. That’s why the Covid-19 conference room isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s a must.
Now, this is more than a laptop camera, Zoom, and a string of technical difficulties. The “Covid-secure conference rooms” center on making employees feel like they’re in the room together, no matter the distance. They’re spots where privacy and security aren’t afterthoughts—they’re priorities. And they’re meeting spaces where few if any employees have to ask, “is this thing on?”
Does the Covid-secure conference room sound too good to be true? Sure, but it’s not. Here’s how to build a Covid-secure conference quickly.
- Smart meetings start with a strong and secure network
The most important piece of advice for business owners and office managers is to invest in a solid network.If you’re going to do higher bandwidth video—which is a trend we’re seeing now—you need to upgrade your network from a bandwidth and security perspective.
It may not be flashy, but security is by and large one of the biggest considerations for a Covid-secure conference room. Just look at Zoom in the early days of the pandemic, when privacy professionals and even the FBI cautioned about Zoom’s lackluster security settings—a prediction that proved itself true all too quickly when “Zoombombers” started hacking into Zoom calls to prank users with explicit content. That hardly scratches the surface of potential security problems.
If you don’t have a correct network with a nice router, and an access point where security is built in, change it. Plus, if you’re a larger company or a company that has something to lose with intellectual property or patents, you need to secure your network from somebody trying to access it remotely. Security is really important, especially from the standpoint of competitive advantage when leaks could be detrimental to your business.
- For lifelike virtual meetings, invest in quality cameras and microphones
Companies don’t rent or own office spaces for the fun of it. This unified meeting space brings employees together for brainstorming, collaborative working, team building, presentations, and more. These activities have centered on in-person connection for decades, then poof—the pandemic changed that overnight. As the headlines illustrate, virtual work shows no signs of letting up.
To replicate face-to-face meetings, consider two simple gear updates: high-quality cameras and microphones.
There are a lot of companies now using higher-resolution cameras that have better low-light capability. You can even use PTZ tracking cameras that follow a person as they’re conversing. Beyond that, you can have multiple cameras working together, which is critical since people are going to be situated throughout the room. These switch from camera to camera as people speak, similar to microphones on Zoom calls.
Speaking of microphones, be sure to space the tech out across the room, particularly as social distancing remains paramount. Companies with larger conference rooms will need to space people out, and when you do that, you either need more microphones or better microphones distributed across the room.
Another trend among Covid-secure conference rooms is the use of a video wall, or for smaller rooms, high-definition monitors. This lets businesses get the most out of their high-res camera investments while recreating the in-person meeting experience.
We created live streaming gear packages that include everything a connected conference room needs. Upgrading your space with a Sony streaming switcher, remote controller, compact full HD camcorders, as well as a video monitor, condenser microphones, and lighting kits can not only bring your video calls to the next level, but allow for professional-production quality content creation.
- Cure “technical difficulties” once and for all with employee training
Nothing kills the vibe of a new-business or all-staff meeting like technical difficulties, and with today’s virtual office, tech headaches abound. Nine times out of 10 the issue has something to do with the network. That’s why an employee-wide tech-training program should happen as soon as office updates are in place.
Once the network, gear, and applications are set up, it’s time for a quick training, because technology skills vary across companies. A lot of employers assume once you have the equipment, your teams can log in and go. But there’s always something—you have to download a specific file, or you need to configure it with new wireless settings. Testing is key.
- A Covid-secure conference room doesn’t have to break the bank
As the pandemic effects shift, companies are reevaluating their budgets and best ways to invest in a full office upgrade. But it doesn’t have to be an all-at-once investment. Many conference-room enhancements are surprisingly affordable, not to mention scalable. That means you can future-proof your meetings and overall business livelihood while weathering the brutal storm that is Covid-19. Partners like us offer financing options to ease the upfront cost for those that need it.
And the investment goes beyond a couple meetings per week. Unlike pre-pandemic conference rooms, the Covid-secure conference room can double as a content hub, with the proper technically-sound equipment. Tech investments, including high-quality cameras and powerful microphones can be repurposed for content creation, whether that’s launching a company podcast, creating a niche YouTube series, or hosting thought leadership livestreams to attract potential clients.