Employees are working from home at an increasing rate thanks to multiple factors that include companies addressing work/life balance, cost savings, and the realization that sometimes your best hiring options are not always local. According to International Workplace Group (IWG), each week the workforce sees 70% of employees work away from the office at least one day a week. However, working offsite or at home can create additional challenges for remote workers if companies are not careful to work with the employee to ensure the environment is conducive to productive behaviors. While video conferencing for meetings is a great solution that can bring remote teams together, without governance, can introduce habits that create distraction and prevent productivity. Here are some ideas that can help make remote meetings more effective when avoiding the potential pitfalls.
1. Send the agenda or deck early.
There is no need to hold back presentations for a big reveal (unless you are sharing information that can move stock prices). Share agenda templates from a collaborative meeting tool like Docket in advance of the session to give remote workers a chance to review the information and be prepared with questions, feedback, ideas, and solutions.
2. Start on time. Stay on time.
It is very difficult to be remote, on time, sometimes in another time zone, and waiting online while others are filtering into the room, grabbing lunch, chatting with others, and creating lots of background noise. Make sure the video is up and running without technical difficulties and those locally gathered are ready to start. In order to do this, you may need to ask your local employees to be in the room a little early. In addition, use a tool like Docket that has a meeting timer displayed throughout the session so attendees can see how much time is left in the session.
3. Make sure they can hear you. And see you. Throughout the session. Not just one time.
Check with remote attendees at several times throughout the session to make sure they are not experiencing technical challenges that may not be obvious in main room. Inform guest speakers sharing a mic where to stand, how to hold the mic for best sound, and ensure that remote employees have a way to communicate issues throughout the session for a quick resolution by assigning someone to keep an eye on group chat provided through a tool like Zoom video conferencing. If it is a large room and everyone has mobile devices, try flipping on individual videos so remote employees can see faces and not group blurs.
4. When posing a question, open the mic to the phone first.
It is so easy to lose yourself to the audience in the room. Try to shift your mindset and offer responses from remote attendees first before opening response to the local attendees who have an advantage.
5. Rotate recurring meetings when time zones are affected.
While it is instinct to accommodate for the majority, shifting schedules from time to time to accommodate for others is courteous, thoughtful, lets those remote know they are treated as fairly as possible, and reminds those local of how lucky they are to be on a normal schedule.
6. Eat away from the phone or mic.
We’ve all attended that lunch meeting where those sandwiches are being unwrapped…right by the speaker phone! Avoid this by handing out lunch before the meeting so the majority are unwrapped and settled in before the content kicks off. And if you order food for the local group, think of a way to give to the remote workers as well to make it equally special.
7. Avoid group breakout activities.
Unless very well coordinated, it can be awkward for remote callers to participate or feel left out of these types of meeting techniques. Sometimes this can be pulled off by splitting groups into quieter rooms and having remote employees call in separately for the smaller session but this can introduce other technical challenges. Try to keep these activities to a minimum and think through the logistics.
8. Record the session and provide a recap.
Sometimes attending remotely is not possible due to timezones, technical challenges, language barriers and many other reasons. Recording the meeting enables remote workers to attend on their own time, catch up on the content, and have time to re-review if necessary. And a recap on meeting minute templates can ensure everyone is aligned on what was said or decided in the meeting.
9. Bonus: Change up the location.
Run a meeting from a remote office once in awhile! Remote employees love when leadership comes to their neck of the woods to see their work in action and temporarily make their world HQ! Flip the script, enable the now local remote employees a chance to run the meeting, showcase their work, and have a little fun sans video to help accelerate the business from the other side.