Due to the pesky delta variant, writers’ rooms that thought they were going back in person have either stayed fully-remote or have become hybrid. Since COVID first closed down writers’ rooms over a year ago everyone has become familiar with remote writers’ rooms. Hybrid rooms are a whole new thing: a combination of writers, some of whom are comfortable being in-person and some who are not, all working together in real time. Where fully remote rooms are easy – everyone has their own computer and setup — hybrid writers’ rooms are a new model because you may have several writers intheir pajamas at home and several writers all together in the same room at a studio or office. Possibly also in their pajamas, but that’s a subject for a different article.For hybrid writers rooms to work creatively and collaboratively they need to take advantage of some interesting technologies – some which are obvious and some less so. Here is our list of must-have software and hardware for a flexible yet productive, COVID era, hybrid writers’ room.
1. WritersRoom Pro- I hate to state the obvious, but WritersRoom Pro is the backbone of all flavors of writers’ rooms: in-person, fully remote, or hybrid. We know that our digital writers’ room increased productivity and helped keep the lights on during the height of the shutdown, but now it’s time we focus on our in-person capabilities for those who choose to go into the office together. WritersRoom Pro is still essential, even if your room is back in full swing. Due to studio wide COVID protocols, many rooms will no longer be allowed to pass around index cards or even share pens and Sharpies. WritersRoom Pro solves this problem, while simultaneously ensuring that your writing team can be sociallydistant, while still maintaining focus on your digital board. And I’ll let you in on a little secret; WritersRoom Pro was developed long before COVID was a thing. It was designed to be an in-person solution, first and foremost.
2. Reliable Technology and Internet- In a hybrid-workplace environment, reliable internet and reliable technology are more essential than ever before. When everyone is remote, a wonky Internet or WIFI connection knocks one person out of the room. In a hybrid room, bad connectivity could take out several writers at the same time. And while most offices and studios have competent IT support, if the computer you’re bringing into your hybrid room is older and/or your OS is outdated, you can struggle to stay in sync with the team. Additionally, whatever computers your team is using, make sure at least one has an HDMI connection either built in or with a dongle adapter to connect to our next must-have hybrid purchase or rental.
3. Large Display Monitor or Smartboard- As studio’s continue to modernize and more and more writers chose to work remotely, white boards and cork boards arebecoming obsolete. After all, how can you create a hybrid workspace if half your writers can’t see the board? White boards are great for your in-person staff, but they leave your remote writers behind and will have production assistants taking way too many pictures of the board to share with those not in the room. With a touch screen television, smartboard, or monitor hooked up to a computer with digital writers’ room boards on it, not only are you saving your writers’ assistants the time and energy of white board duty, but you are also ensuring that your remote writers can do their job successfully. A large display screen, anywhere from 65” to 85” and with a resolution of at leas 4K is non-negotiable in a hybrid room. Thanks to our arrangement with Jargon Entertainment, arguably the largest provider of video equipment assests in the business, we can help coordinate a rental for you of a large display monitor if your production needs oneand doesn’t want to buy one outright.
4. Zoom or another video conferencing app- Obviously, Zoom and video conferencing were critical for remote work. Hybrid offices will still need to utilize these programs in order to allow their writing staff flexibility in their work from home vs. in office schedule. While it’s still early days for Hybrid room, apps suchas ZOOM and Microsoft Teams are looking towards the future and are developing variants (there’s that word again) of their individual user apps that willprovide hybrid rooms a more custom solution. And just for fun, if you’re looking to spice things up with emojis and reactions, you can give popular platform Webex Meetings a try.
5. Conference Cameras and Microphones- One hybrid room must-have is a conference camera. There is nothing more annoying than a large group of people, sitting mere inches from each other, all fighting to contribute to the same webcam chat. Beyond that, imagine several people sitting around a table, all listening and talking in a ZOOM conference on their own computers. It’s a mess.The solution to this is the conference room camera. Not a camera that focuses on the entire room so it looks like a combo writers’ room and ant farm, a camera that can locate and focus in on people with a 360 degree view of your entire writers’ room. Our top two picks even use artificial intelligence to cut to the person who is talking while segmenting everyone else in the room inside their own video window. And with their built-in speaker, these devices sound great. We highly recommend either the Meeting Owl pro or the CoolPo AI Huddle Pana.The Owl will run you a cool grand to purchase, but the CoolPo is a bit less at around $700. Like the large display monitors, we can arrange to rent either to you if you’d like one for the run of your hybrid room.
6. Comfortable, Healthy Work Area- According to TheThoughtFarmer.com, “The hybrid workplace generally allows employees the opportunity to fit work around their lives, rather than structuring work around fixed hours logged into an office.” I guess this is one particular farmer who’s never seen a writers’ room! The hybrid writers’ room is a tricky combination of in person and remote, so compromises must be made. While it’s too early to know if this is universally the case, we’re hearing from our hybrid rooms that the ‘butts in chairs’ sessions are lasting longer than fully remote. With this in mind, if you’re on team ‘Work From Home’ now, more than ever, you’ll need to make your space more comfortable and healthful. We recommend splurging on an ergonomic chair so that your brain is doing the brunt of the work, not your back. These chairs don’t have to be crushingly expensive, even though many are. Definitely shop around, ask your friends who have ergonomic chairs if you can try theirs out, and see what works for you. And if you’re worried about your posture, you can always buy a lumbar support pad. If you decide to go into the office, bring it along. Everyone will be jealous of your incredible back pillow, and you will also be the exemplar, health-conscious hybrid worker.
7. Workflow and Scheduling Apps- With some writers being physically in the room it might be tempting to use corkboards or whiteboards for project management and scheduling. Unfortunately, that leaves the at-home users in thedark. For this reason, we recommend a project management solution that can output information that can be posted in the room but is still online enough for thewriters at home. Web apps like Monday.com and Asana can be used to manage your workflow between your in-person and remote staff. Not only will these apps make communication simple, but they can also help with scheduling for writers who split their time in between their home and the office.
8. Folding Keyboard- This is less of an essential but a fun addition to the work arsenal for writers who split their time in person and remotely. We suggest looking into a folding keyboard, or a portable keyboard that can nicely transition from your living room to your office. Folding keyboards are easy to carry around and even easier to pack. They can be connected to your tablets or your larger display screens, and might be ideal for writers’ assistants who want to take noteson a monitor or digital board. Also, just a fun little accessory to pull out of your bag.
Well there you have it! With just a quick shopping list of 8 products (a few of which I’m sure you already have), you can have the tools to particiapate or set up or a perfect hybrid room. Hybrid rooms can be the best of both worlds, allowing for flexibility and accommodation to individual preferences and comfort levels. By taking advantage of super cool technology, your room can run smoothly from anywhere in the world, without sacrificing that in-person magic.