While so many teams and organizations prepare to ease their way back into office life, many will be taking it slow with a flexible, hybrid office model. This setup invites teams to participate from wherever they work best–be it at home, on the road, or in the office with the rest of the team and staff.
For the last several months, many young students have found themselves on the forefront of the hybrid/e-learning curve. These students, grades K-12, and their teachers have had to quickly adapt to an education model that can work from anywhere.
Through so many challenges and solutions, these learners know a thing or two about successful hybrid meetings. Here are a few tips we’ve learned from elementary school we can apply to our teams as we move into our hybrid workplaces.
Hybrid Meeting Tips
- Acknowledge the tradeoffs
- Establish rules for communication
- Save time for in-person meetings when necessary
- Take breaks
Acknowledge the tradeoffs
“I can have snacks whenever I want!”Kate W., 3rd Grade
Hybrid work has been labeled as the best of both in-person and remote working, but often overlooked is that both systems’ challenges are now present in a hybrid office.
“At home, you can get more distracted, and at school, it’s harder to get distracted,” added Kate. Working from home has its comforts, but it also comes with its own set of distractions. It can be helpful to set time blocks and order the workweek to take full advantage of working from home and working from an office.
Have a dedicated office space at home
“My school is made out of brick, but this is just made of flat wood.”Rylen G., Kindergarten
As many remote workers have noted before the hybrid shift, having a dedicated workspace can help limit distractions and promote work-life balance for remote workers. A dedicated desk or workroom can prevent surprise visits from kids and pets. It also has the added benefit of giving workers the ability to ‘turn off’ and separate their work time from other life responsibilities.
Establish rules for communication
“You still have to raise your hand. You can’t just shout out. If you shout out, the teacher yells at you.”Kate W., 3rd Grade
For meetings in particular, hybrid teams need to address how best to communicate types of information so as to avoid bottlenecks and keep everyone on the same page. Teams can use asynchronous channels like email and internal wikis in conjunction with more real-time technologies like chat and video conferencing to provide the right tool for the right information whenever necessary. To ensure knowledge and decisions are captured, teams must examine their communication preferences to find a process that works best for the team, the organization, and other stakeholders.
Practically, this may mean providing longer pauses for questions during meeting times or sharing meeting recaps with all participants once the meeting is adjourned.
Use the mute button
“If the teacher is talking, you would be on mute, but if you raise your hand and she calls on you, then you would unmute to say what you needed to say.”Kate W., 3rd Grade
Another important finding from well-established remoties is the proper use of the mute button. When hybrid meetings feature multiple participants from various locations, it can be beneficial to mute one’s microphones when not speaking.
One clear exception to this rule would be if everyone has followed the above recommendation of securing a quiet, distraction-free location from which to participate in the meeting. In this way, having everyone keep their microphones on can set the expectation that everyone should remain engaged in the meeting and free to comment and interrupt at any time.
Still, the muted microphone indicator can have other uses. For example, a meeting moderator can view a user’s microphone mute icon disappearing as a sign that another person wants to speak.
Save time for in-person meetings
“On the computer, you can’t physically touch stuff that another person can. In-person, you can actually react to things.”Luke W., 5th Grade
As alluded to, one of the major drawbacks of hybrid meetings is that technology gets in the way for some meeting participants. For some types of meetings like brainstorming sessions or long, quarterly planning sessions, it can be beneficial to have everyone together. Intensive meetings like these can often involve multiple side conversations and tangents.
Whiteboard sessions and creative exercises can often be more productive when held in person. Read more about other types of meetings that are better held in person.
“I don’t like being in the Zoom too long. When on a Zoom meeting, I have to sit in my chair and look at the screen at all times. It hurts my eyes after a while.”Luke W., 5th Grade
Zoom fatigue is real. Moving from screen to screen remains a challenge for many remote workers, and hybrid office set-ups alleviate this problem only slightly. Every team culture needs to build in feedback loops and channels to allow for team members to take regular breaks to step away from their screen or block off portions of their weeks for meeting-free focus hours.
Our students have shown great resilience throughout this transition period, and we have so much we can learn from them. E-learning and flexible work setups have so much in common. Ask the young students in your life about their experiences–what they enjoyed and what they didn’t. Take these learnings back to your team to maximize hybrid meetings and enhance your company culture.