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How to manage meetings in hybrid teams

In 2020, most of us who were able to work remotely also did. Either because we wanted to or simply because our employer or government told us to. Looking ahead at 2021, we’ll see more and more teams shift to a hybrid model. Some will continue working from home, some prefer to work from co-working spaces, cafés, or hotel lobbies and some can’t wait to get back to the good old office.

It is likely that many organizations will continue to offer remote work as an option. Why? In the short term because it is an effective way of reducing the spread of COVID-19. In the medium term because there are indications that productivity has been maintained or even increased (jury is still out though). In the long term, it will likely become a competitive disadvantage to not offer employees the option to work remotely (when all your competitors do it, you must do it as well).

"It will likely become a competitive disadvantage to not offer employees the option to work remotely"

There are mixed attitudes among employees towards remote work. Some people find it nerve-racking as they don’t have an office at home, the kids keep interrupting, the line between work and personal time is blurred, we get less exercise and fresh air. As a result, they find themselves more stressed and more likely to burnout. Other people enjoy the solitude and flexibility of remote work. It gives them more time for deep thinking, they see the value in being able to reduce commute time and they find themselves more productive.

Whether you are a fan of remote work or not, you can be sure that your coworkers will see it differently. Therefore, it is likely that you are going to find yourself in a team working in a hybrid model next year. Here are our top five tips for having more productive and engaging meetings in hybrid teams.

1. Have the right tools and processes

During 2020, innovation in the “future of work” space has had incredible momentum. The year started with a massive increase in daily active users of Zoom, Teams, and Meet. Software development in adjacent areas soon followed. It’s safe to say that there’s a ton of good tools out there by now. Some of our favorites include Slack, Clickup, Miro, Mentimeter, Teemyco, mmhmm, and of course Allting.

With Allting, you improve meeting productivity, engagement, and inclusion. Allting drives behavioral change in-meeting through AI-based coaching and feedback. Participants are encouraged to actively contribute to the meeting with live, one-click, anonymous feedback. Here’s an example: No longer will you sit in a meeting and become frustrated because two people are side-tracking the discussion for 20 minutes. Instead, anonymously hit the “park discussion” flag and watch the meeting become more productive. In addition, Allting gives you pre- and post-meetings insights so you can track your progress.

2. Measure!

Remote and hybrid work at scale is new to many of us. Right now, most people turn to pioneers like Gitlab’s Darren Murph for advice. Eventually, we’ll have established best practices but getting there will take time. Furthermore, every organization, every team, and every meeting is different. What works for Gitlab might not work for your team.

Our advice:

If you only decide to follow one of the advice in this post it should be this one: Make sure you’re able to measure meeting engagement, productivity, and inclusion. Why?

  • It’s not uncommon to spend up to 50% of working time in meetings. Poring hours into an activity without knowing what we get out of it is something we would never accept for other activities. There is no reason we should accept that for meetings.

  • Thinking about trying a new way of facilitating your meetings? Or a new tool? If you don’t measure the impact on engagement, productivity, and inclusion you won’t know if it worked (or didn’t).

  • What we measure is what we get. By measuring engagement, productivity, and inclusion in your meetings, we will inherently increase focus on those topics. It is a powerful signal to your team that meetings are taken seriously.

With Allting, you can easily measure meeting engagement, productivity, and inclusion through a combination of AI-based metrics and participant feedback. Learn more here.

3. Set communication ground rules

It’s important to remember that having productive and engaging meetings does not only depend on the meetings themselves. Meetings are part of a bigger picture of team management and communication.

Our advice:

Set ground rules that involve all forms of communication. First, decide on which forms of communication you want to use, e.g. Slack, email, phone, and meetings. Then decide what type of communication takes place where. If the team gets these communication ground rules right, it will facilitate having focused and productive meetings that stay on topic.

4. Avoid hybrid meetings

After a year like 2020, we all know that remote meetings are hard. Creating engaging, productive, and inclusive remote meetings require effort and forethought. Well, hybrid meetings are even harder. Having a few of the participants in a room together while others are on their respective laptops can cause low engagement among remote participants for several reasons. For example, side conversations in the room, low audio quality, or inability to see what physical participants see can cause remote participants to feel excluded.

Our advice:

Avoid hybrid meetings altogether. The simplest way to do this is to ask colleagues who work in the same physical location to not gather in a room together, but instead spread out and join the virtual meeting via their devices.

Sometimes, however, hybrid meetings are unavoidable. So, if you still need to have one, make sure you level the playing field by:

  • Using high-quality audio equipment (e.g. a Jabra)

  • Using a virtual whiteboard, not a physical whiteboard in the room

  • Actively encouraging engagement by remote participants by asking for feedback or thoughts

  • Avoiding side conversations in the room. Instead, use the chat function.

  • Ask physical participants to join the virtual meeting and turn on their camera.

5. Create a safe and inclusive meeting environment

When creating a safe and inclusive environment in (remote) meetings, we need to be mindful of what the research into this field concludes. First, in teams with high degrees of psychological safety, people are more likely to raise questions, concerns, and ideas without fear of personal repercussion. Remote meetings make it harder for us to “read the room” and therefore reduce our sense of psychological safety. Second, there are three groups of participants who are at a disadvantage in meetings; introverts, women, and remote colleagues.

Our advice:

  • Put extra effort into preparing remote meetings. This can include sending out preparatory material in advance, writing a detailed agenda with time allocation per item, and considering making individual participants responsible for agenda items.

  • Use the tools at hand in your video conferencing platform to facilitate participation and encourage the expression of opinions. This can include hand raises, polls, and chat functions.

  • When it comes to meetings, one size does not fit all. Adapt your meeting strategy and tactic based on who your participants are and the prerequisites of the meeting.

What if there was a way of driving behavioral change in meetings in a fun and collaborative way? Introducing Allting. Allting lets all participants contribute to the meeting through live feedback, flags, votes, and more. Thereby directly affecting how the meeting is being conducted. In-between meetings, Allting works like an activity tracker for your team. Think of it as your Fitbit for meetings. Users get individual insights and coaching, powered by artificial intelligence and data science. Don’t miss your chance of getting early access to Allting.

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