The COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the way and where millions of Americans work. In the beginning, the shift was from home to work. However, companies are now adjusting to the realization that things may never go back as they were.
More and more companies are adopting the hybrid workplace model, where some employees work remotely, and others work in the office. Other employees come to work on alternating days or regularly scheduled monthly, weekly, or quarterly meetings. As company managers work to ensure that operations run smoothly, it is also important to ensure that this new job is inclusive for all employees.
A hybrid workspace can break down some barriers to inclusion, and along with that, they can also present entirely new challenges. There's a lot of talk about hybrid meetings and events these days. And it's not without cause. Even if public health advancements allow for the restoration of in-person events, the requirement to reach and engage virtual audiences will continue.
While immunizations are increasingly becoming more common, many participants may still be hesitant to attend major indoor and in-person events for some time. In addition, in-person attendance is anticipated to continue to be hampered by tight travel and marketing expenditures, as well as altering municipal, state, and national regulations.
A hybrid meeting means that participants join wherever they work. Thus, part of the team may be in the office while other team members are at home.
Now that many people are used to meeting virtually, hybrid meetings are not a difficult transition. Gone are the days when you had to be in the office for every meeting. Or where it would be annoying to try to call someone by phone.
As people evolve into a hybrid work model, it doesn't seem uncommon for a team member to display a video. Video calling is how many companies have been in business for the last 1.5 years.
However, one of the main concerns for hybrid meetings is that teleworkers may be excluded. For example, what does the team discuss in the meeting room just before the meeting? What do people talk about when they go back to their desks? Remote workers do not have the opportunity to participate in these discussions.
To ensure inclusion in a hybrid meeting, think about what happens remotely. Remote control means you expect the team to be away, even if some people work in the office.
The meeting should begin on schedule
It happens: you're heading to the conference room with other colleagues to attend a meeting, but the group becomes distracted along the way, and you're all 5 minutes late. Those in the office will understand why the meeting hasn't begun yet, while those on the video conference will be looking at the screen, trying to figure out if you forgot to dial them in and the meeting started without them and wondering how long they should wait before contacting someone about it.
When remote employees lack the context of the issue in the office and can't readily perceive what's going on, it's critical always to start meetings with them.
Turn on the camera as soon as you join the meeting
To avoid disrupting guests attending remotely, it's tempting to switch on the video call (or enable the camera and microphone) just after everyone in the room has settled in and ceased small talk in hybrid meetings. While the intentions are excellent, participants on the call may feel like outcasts in the group.
Even if they can't readily participate in the small conversation and aren't particularly interested in watching everyone sit down and open computers, seeing and hearing all of the preparation helps the meeting feel less transactional and more like team engagement.
1. Establish ground rules
Let's go into the 'how' of holding hybrid meetings. How do you ensure that they are effective and that everyone who attends feels valued and included?
When individuals gather in a conference room, it's easy for them to get caught up in a rambling chat and "forget" about their distant colleagues. Your distant coworkers will feel the most left out in these situations. Begin by establishing some ground rules and principles for collaborating in a hybrid situation.
2. Establish and express your objectives
"Let's get together to discuss the product launch" may offer participants a basic idea of what the meeting is about when you send out your invitations. Still, that imprecise description isn't really useful.
Provide an agenda with a very detailed set of objectives (1. Development progress update. 2. Decide on a launch date. 3. Pick a marketing theme, and so forth.) This will help attendees understand the goals and they will be able to work on them quickly.
3. Take note of who is attending the meeting
Take attendance to make sure everyone who is supposed to be on the call is there. If someone is gone, give them a few minutes to return. They may be having technical difficulties. If they haven't arrived yet, send them a brief note to confirm their arrival.
In a hybrid meeting, attendance is even more critical since it may not be immediately evident who is there and who is not. Assuring that the entire team is there will assist you in getting off to a good start.
4. Before the meeting, gather suggestions from your co-workers
Use polls and surveys to get suggestions from your colleagues before the meeting so that everyone has an equal chance to offer their thoughts (they may not have them during the meeting).
Create a poll or a survey, then send the link to your colleagues via your internal channel. You may then have a meaningful debate regarding what others have previously posted at the meeting. This also saves you a significant amount of time. You may also do the same thing with collecting questions before your meeting if there's a hot issue on the table, such as a strategic shift or a major new project.
Share a link to Q&A with your co-workers so they may submit questions at any time and have them answered during a Q&A session during a meeting.
5. Include pauses and ask for questions
Even with the most modern meetings system and infrastructure, data transmission lags can occur. Therefore, encourage speakers and other participants to take regular breaks so that others can speak out, ask questions when needed.
Additionally, remote participants may be hesitant to speak out at times, so make sure to seek their feedback throughout the meeting. With this, they will be able to get the answers to their question and help you with the feedback if there’s any.
6. Allow space for compliments and feedback
Your virtual meetings will almost certainly end with employees being assigned tasks to do. So show them how much you value their efforts by showering them with sincere comments and kudos. Because working remotely or in a hybrid environment may be isolating, managers must serve as the team's main cheerleader.
During each meeting, make sure to compliment at least one employee. It's also a good idea to solicit input. For you and your staff, what does a productive team meeting look like? Requesting input on how the meeting went, what might have gone better, what should be avoided next time, and will help you improve future sessions.
Poorly conducted virtual meetings have been shown to negatively impact your team's success, cooperation, innovation, and well-being. In addition, employees may have "meeting recovery syndrome," They spend time psychologically recuperating from the stress that these meetings entail.
You'll never again burden your team with useless, unpleasant, and meaningless meetings now that you've learned these six guidelines and best practices. Experiment with the tools mentioned today to see which ones are ideal for your team. Then you'll be able to reap the benefits of the increased productivity and focus that remote work provides.