The Escape Pod (or The Opposite of the “Huddle Room”)

Like she is prone to do, Kelly Perkins of AVI Systems shared a great article on LinkedIn recently.  It was a piece in the Harvard Business Review called Collaborative Overload.  It’s premise wasn’t a crack at the overuse of the “collaboration” buzz word, although that is a problem in itself, but was aimed at the larger problem that collaboration has eroded the “me time” many employees need to actually accomplish their individual tasks at work.  To steal a quick quote from the article:

How much time do people spend in meetings, on the phone, and responding to e-mails? At many companies the proportion hovers around 80%, leaving employees little time for all the critical work they must complete on their own. Performance suffers as they are buried under an avalanche of requests for input or advice, access to resources, or attendance at a meeting. They take assignments home, and soon, according to a large body of evidence on stress, burnout and turnover become real risks.

Bringing work home leads to burn-out over time and actually affects productivity and turnover.  Not a good equation.  There needs to be a balance between “we” and “me” spaces.

This problem of the new “open” work environment affects introverts exponentially.  By nature, they are introspective and like time to think and digest things without the eyes and ears of their coworkers upon them.  In fact, innovative furniture companies like Steelcase are even enlisting experts on these “Quiet Ones” to help design spaces specifically for the purpose of giving people permission to disengage.

It’s a Collaboration Detox if you will.  A space that I like to call an “Escape Pod”.


These spaces are even important for people who are extroverted and like to collaborate.  Sure collaboration can increase productivity by giving people real time access to each other and common resources but it can also decrease productivity by giving people real time access to each other and common resources.  (See what I did there?)

To give an example, there is a book by Chet Holmes called The Ultimate Sales Machine.  One of the best chapters in the book IMO is actually not unique to sales but addresses time management.  One of his tips?  Eliminate “Got a minute”  meetings, or at least confine them to set times each day.  Think about how many times you’ve been sitting in the office trying to get something done when someone asks “Got a minute?”  The time spent reacting to other peoples needs on their time frame can crush productivity.

Well to this point all I’ve done is reference industry friends and link you to other blogs, so here is where I hope to always do different and provide some potential insight as well.

If you are doing integration in the Corporate AV vertical, you should be spending some time coming up with an “Escape Pod” strategy just as you did when you came up with your Huddle Room designs.

Create potential designs for spaces that allow someone to share their music from personal devices to an installed sound system.  Spaces that use sound masking to eliminate any potential outside distractions or even offer high end headphones.

Go beyond the obvious.

Create lighting scenes and moods with controllable, color changing LED lights.  Install a content management system that not only allows someone to choose the sounds of the beach, but also throws the lights into a one hour simulated sunset scenario, while the projection mapped wall plays a real time video of a California sunset over Catalina.

Integrate the room scheduling system into Outlook, so that as an employee takes advantage of some “me time”, an auto response is generated for incoming emails and calls relating that responses may be delayed slightly for a short period of time.  Create a user group for teams that alerts team members that you are in “escape” mode for an hour, but you’ll be refreshed and available again soon.

In other words, have a plan that allows you to proactively address the needs of the modern work place and suggest technology that will help increase productivity.  Let them know you can create a highly productive space that allows an employee to disengage and “mono-task” (that’s my term too), getting important tasks done while increasing morale and reducing fatigue.  You’ll create a place where employees can escape without locking themselves in the bathroom or a dark janitor’s closet.

You may just find that you further your position as trusted technology advisor and separate your firm from the rest of the “let me sell you a flat panel” pack.   It’s all a good thing for your client and for your bottom line as well.

Do you have a unique suggestion for using technology in creating an Escape Pod?  I’d love for you to add your comments below!