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Understanding the Evolution of Enterprise Multi-purpose Rooms

Enterprises are making multi-function rooms an important part of their strategy for greater flexibility in the use of collaboration places

As enterprise collaboration infrastructure becomes more widespread across organisations, CTOs are increasingly taking a more strategic view of what form it should take.

For some years now, many organisations have chosen to create a large number of smaller huddle spaces, as this meets the needs of the most common groups. These huddle rooms seat 2 to 6 people and are considered a more efficient use of office space.

Increasingly though, organisations are turning towards multi-purpose or divisible collaboration spaces for greater flexibility – especially when larger teams interact or more specialised applications need to be supported

A new era of Multi-purpose rooms (MPRs) for collaboration

Multi-purpose rooms are not a recent innovation and have been present across corporate workspaces and the hospitality sector for some time now. But organisations are now looking at them with a fresh perspective, which is leading to wider adoption in India and across the globe.

a. More rooms combined and larger spaces overall – In the past organisations had relatively modest expectations from multi-purpose rooms. This was both in terms of the size of audiences they could host and the room configuration that businesses chose to adopt.
Town Halls or All-hands meetings have been a major driver of this change, as organisations increasingly want the rooms to accommodate hundreds of people simultaneously.

The most common room configurations in the past would have been simpler – perhaps 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 layouts accommodating 30 to 40 people when combined. These would usually be a combination of video conference rooms and training rooms. Newer rooms however can often be divisible into 5 to 7 distinct rooms of varying sizes, which provides much greater flexibility.

b. Maximising the flexibility for various scenarios – Organisations now have pretty high expectations from their investments from MPRs. On one hand, these spaces need to cater to events like town halls, product launches, investor meetings, media briefings and more. This may help in terms of reducing their reliance on hotel banquet rooms but also need to provide enough flexibility to host spontaneous or unusual events.

Flexible seating layouts and movable furniture are one aspect that gets a lot more attention nowadays, and table layouts may also change when video conferencing is required. Or perhaps classroom seating may be required when a training space is the need of the hour. Today, well-designed MPRs would cover all of these and more. The technology (and cables) incorporated need to be flexible too, making the room transitions quick and painless without incurring redundant costs. Sound insulation in the spaces and the collapsible partitions is also important to help ensure privacy at all times.

c. Artificial intelligence and automation make meetings seamless – Another important development that helps make multi-purpose rooms more effective and more usable has been the advent of various intelligence (AI) technologies. Intelligent wide-angle cameras and microphones track the participants even as they move around the space while video conferencing. They also help to “block out” unnecessary noise so everyone is clearly audible.

AI can also help in making whiteboard content more visible to all participants or keep track of the people participating in a meeting. Rooms can also be automated with various types of sensors to respond to changes in the internal and external environment. This can help implement “true” one-touch-join in rooms, adjust the HVAC, monitor participation or minimise power wastage in unoccupied rooms.

d. Greater investments for enhanced collaboration – With the greater importance placed on multi-purpose rooms there is also an increased willingness to invest. The new generation of these rooms often uses a high-resolution Active LED video wall in combined mode to raise the visual experience to a new level. Projectors have also been replaced by larger Active LED displays in the divided rooms – with significantly larger displays becoming the preferred choice.

Organisations are also willing to spend more on technology for audio, control, automation and lighting to make the rooms simpler to use and manage. In well-designed spaces, all of these work together to simplify the transitions in room usage and assist in smoother collaboration.

Planning for future collaboration needs

CTOs and IT teams face several important questions when they are planning future-proof collaboration infrastructure.

What types of collaboration rooms does the organisation need? How many of these rooms would bring the best returns? What should the capacity for these rooms be? What equipment should be incorporated into them?

Multi-purpose rooms can provide exceptional flexibility to address these questions and help ensure businesses are equipped for unforeseen scenarios. These are highly adaptable meeting spaces that provide the flexibility to meet future needs. When needed, they can quickly be combined to accommodate larger groups, which reduces the reliance on external venues like banquet halls.