All Zoomed out? Here’s how to keep remote meetings engaging and effective

Posted on: 15th September 2021

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As hybrid working becomes the new norm, hybrid meetings are set to become a permanent fixture in our lives. Here, we look at ways to ensure that they’re productive, effective and engaging for all

Over the past 18 months, companies around the world have relied on virtual gatherings to get things done. But, as many of us make a slow and cautious return to corporate offices, it’s becoming clear that the days of Zoom calls and Microsoft Teams meetings are far from over.

According to a recent report by McKinsey, 90% of companies intend to adopt a hybrid way of working post-pandemic. This approach empowers employees to split their time between the corporate HQ, home and a third location such as a flexible workspace.

As fewer people head into companies’ offices each day, ‘hybrid meetings’ will become a permanent part of our working lives. Gatherings will inevitably bring together some people in person, and others via video call.

Chris Dyer is co-author of Remote Work and the founder and CEO of PeopleG2 – a firm with a 3,000-strong remote workforce. Here, he shares his top tips for making sure meetings are productive, effective and engaging for all participants.

1. Be consistent

If possible, make sure that all meetings are ‘hybrid as standard’. If everyone in your organisation expects every meeting to include both remote and on-site employees, setting up the technology and facilities required to make this work will become a standard part of preparation.

Always consider the logistics of a meeting. How many will attend? Will they be watching a PowerPoint or a presentation? Will you need screen sharing or recording facilities? Test technology in advance and nominate a facilitator – someone who, on this occasion, will take responsibility for ensuring the session runs smoothly.

This will help to avoid the development of an ‘us and them’ scenario, where those people attending the meeting in real life have an advantage over those who are remote, for instance, because there are hardware hiccups.

2. Choose the right tools

It’s important that technology is used to streamline the meeting process, not make it harder. “You need to determine how meetings will work, and ensure everyone has and knows how to use the right technology,” says Dyer.

‘Dialling in’ has come a long way since the early, glitchy days of web conferencing. For many of us, applications including Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet have become part of daily life.

However, it’s important to ensure that whatever platform your company uses for meetings is truly fit for purpose, and that all employees are equipped with the hardware, software and training they need to make the most of it.

3. Establish ground rules

We’ve all been there: sitting in a meeting with no clear idea of its purpose, our mind wandering and nursing annoyance that we were summoned in the first place.

In the new world of work, badly organised and poorly run meetings are more problematic than ever: people not only have greater freedom to switch off than before, but they are also likely to feel more resentful of their time being wasted. Hybrid working has allowed us to be more in control of our schedules, so it smarts when someone swoops in and claims an hour of our time for no reason we can fathom.

Dyer explains that it’s key to “Define some ground rules around meetings so people will know what’s expected of them, how to show up, and what they’re showing up for.”

It’s vital to lay out clear guidelines of what’s expected of everyone who attends a hybrid meeting, according to Dyer. For instance, do all remote employees need their camera on, or just the speaker? Are attendees, both remote and in-person, allowed to join in and converse freely, or should questions be asked via Chat or at the end?

Sharing these guidelines in advance of the meeting will help ensure that everyone’s on the same page, wherever they are. Dyer says that his company’s rules for meetings are simple: start on time, finish early so that discussion doesn’t expand to fill the time allotted, and always have a set agenda.

4. Have a solid agenda

Ensuring that all meetings have a clear agenda will reduce time wasted, avoid employees becoming frustrated and help to prevent meeting fatigue.

Every meeting should have an aim, whether it’s to make a decision, seek expert opinions on an important issue or to brainstorm ideas.

The agenda must be crystal clear and made available in advance to ensure that participants come prepared.

5. Keep meetings human

In a hybrid world where meetings will involve people who aren’t there in person, it’s important to help maintain the human connection between colleagues.

In meetings for PeopleG2, Dyer uses a ‘check-in’ and ‘check-out’ system to gauge his employees’ engagement and state of mind. “We’re starting the meeting off with, ‘What’s going on with you as a person?' And then when we're leaving, it's, 'Okay, what's going on with you as the employee?’” This approach encourages employees to be open about any challenges they’re facing right now, then allows them to share how they feel about the session that’s just taken place.

It’s also vital to remember that people – whether IRL or online – have their limits when it comes to meetings. Keeping sessions productive is, to some extent, about making sure that people have the time and headspace to bring their A-game.

Research by Microsoft reveals that virtual conversations and meetings can be more taxing for our brains than face-to-face meet-ups, so it’s more important than ever to keep a lid on how many we hold each day. As a rule of thumb, says Dyer, “Don’t have a meeting when an email or a Chat message will do.”

Giving people access to local flexible workspace can help to stem the tide of Zoom calls, too. Colleagues based in the same region can agree to meet at a venue that’s convenient for all, enabling them to touch base in person without travelling to the company HQ.

Regus locations are well set up to meet remote workers’ needs, whether they’re after fully equipped meeting space, quiet time for focused work or a coworking area that will inspire creativity and networking.

With locations all around the world, find out how Regus can help your hybrid teams stay connected

Topics in this article

  • Productivity


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