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Effective Meetings in a Hybrid Workplace

Wednesday April 13, 2022

After nearly two years of the pandemic and working from home, many employees say they are unwilling to return to corporate offices full-time. Thus, leading companies to seek optimal solutions for a hybrid type of work (article link). How to manage in an optimal way the typical moments of sharing, such as meetings?

Just as an in-person concert affects fans differently than the one seen on TV, a hybrid meeting in the workplace today can be less engaging or productive for attendees than one conducted entirely in person. Hybrid meetings are not conducive to big decision making, at least not without careful preliminary and follow-up work.

By 2024, in-person meetings will drop from 60% to 25% of corporate meetings, driven by remote work and changing workforce demographics. This is what Gartner research indicates. And this is why companies and their employees must be comfortable with hybrid situations, i.e., equally effective in all meetings, whether remote or in the office.

Design remote and office meeting spaces and processes by investing in training, higher quality audio and video, better experiences, and expecting employees to carry a personal device.

The Wall Street Journal reported that large organisations like Adobe, Apple, Salesforce, and Allstate, among others, intend to make hybrid work a long-term practice. This highlights the importance of getting hybrid meetings right.

So how hybrid meetings should be planned to be more productive? 

In today’s hybrid workplace, with workers in multiple time zones and only a few on-site, decision making often fails to account for those who are not on-site with equal weight. But in many, if not most organisations, engaging off-site workers is fundamentally to be successful. Business decisions are often made over the phone or in varied message threads. What matters is sharing new ideas or current thinking with the whole team.

In addition to the data provided by the research, there are some interesting articles that indicate how to best manage these work situations, such as the one by Michael Peachey, Vice President of User Experience at RingCentral, which appeared in Fast Company magazine, in which he identifies nine ways to improve hybrid meetings. Here is his advice:

Think about inclusion. Communicate meeting goals and any related projects to everyone on your team.

Think about completeness. Create a concise opening message on a team bulletin board explaining the goal of the job, timing, setting everyone’s responsibilities, and providing relevant materials.

Publish, publish, publish. All decisions should be highlighted on the team bulletin board, keeping everyone updated on what is happening or is in the works. Posting notes after the meeting will help ensure follow-up. Notes should tag attendees and highlight who owns which deliveries and when they need to be delivered. Even for new alerts, always tag people, so they know when there is a new message or assignment.

Asynchronous collaboration. Keep in mind that team boards are not a one-way street. Encourage feedback, questions and sharing of documents as needed. The use of cloud applications, such as shared whiteboards, allows collaboration in real time. This ensures that work continues without commitments and time differences becoming a hindrance.

Focus on the preliminary work. When it comes to planning hybrid meetings, preliminary work is what pays off. If adding an agenda helps improve team productivity and engagement, too much structure can stifle these benefits. If the agenda is too dense, for example, no one will assimilate it.

Set goals. Goal setting for a meeting is probably twice as important in a hybrid environment. By sharing goals in advance, everyone can be prepared to contribute. Attendees should know in advance who called the meeting, what it is for, and how everyone will know if the goal has been met.

Support time-shifting. Even before the pandemic, workers in many organisations with distributed locations managed time to better fit personal, family or business team priorities. There is now even less reason to assume that anyone can join a meeting in real time. That’s why it’s critical to record team meetings and make recordings available in a team space on a collaborative communication platform.

Involve remote participants. It is good to involve someone in attendance to keep an eye on them during meetings and encourage their questions and comments.

Adapt to short attention spans. Attention times have never been shorter! It’s a great idea to keep hybrid meetings as lively as possible, which means avoiding too much presentation. While we all want to be heard, there are times when it is necessary to impose limits. Everyone may want to ask questions, but keep in mind that when that happens, the meeting won’t be as productive as it could have been.

Finding a balance

The hybrid workplace is proving its worth. As many as 83% of global workers surveyed by Accenture call it ‘optimal’. But, if bosses and workers fail to create a good hybrid workplace meeting model, organisations become inefficient, remote workers will suffer, and morale – or even innovation – could plummet.

Keep in mind that the reunion itself is not the desired outcome. A team meeting remains what it always has been: simply a means to an end. Hybrid meetings need to be planned and run more thoughtfully and appropriately. What the world needs now are no longer meetings, but intelligently planned or better managed ones.