The workplace is no longer a building—it’s an entire ecosystem of people working at home, in the office and on the go.
Virtually every meeting going forward will include remote participants, it’s crucial for your workforce to experience natural and authentic interactions, as though they were meeting in person. As you embrace hybrid work and as teams fluctuate between the office and the home, virtual meetings become the connective tissue that drives collaboration and company culture. Microsoft tools can help.
The most obvious advantage of a virtual meeting is that people can host and attend them from anywhere. Workers can get together from the comfort of their homes without worrying about gathering in the same physical place. Having this ability can help resolve problems that can arise from scheduling conflicts, travel issues, office closures, and other possible business disruptions. Research now identifies 98% of all meetings have at least one remote participant. This means that companies can't afford for any employee to feel excluded and not have an equal voice.
It’s worth diving a bit deeper into some of the best practices for meetings that include both remote and in-office participants to ensure productive and engaging virtual meetings.
Share the meeting agenda in advance
Setting an agenda and sending it out ahead of time will go a long way for keeping the meeting on track. Firstly, attendees will know exactly what will be discussed and in what order. And secondly, they can have time to reflect and jot down thoughts ahead of time, making your conversations much more advantageous in the long run. The agenda also gives everyone an idea of how much there is to get through, so they are a little more mindful of the time and how to best use it.
Encourage people to turn on their cameras
There are several reasons why video works better than audio for virtual meetings. It’s more like the real thing and is better in terms of natural conversation and team bonding. It also makes it easier to pick up on non-verbal clues that you would be able to spot in person and to avoid people talking over each other. As your colleagues join the meeting, prompt them to turn on their cameras. Of course, it’s absolutely fine if someone prefers to attend without his or her video turned on, but a remote meeting is made much more personal (and effective) if people can see each other on the screen.
Include energizing activities
Virtual meeting fatigue has become a real and unique challenge we’ve had to combat whilst working remotely. If you know that your upcoming meeting is going to be a long one, be sure to include some social or energizing activities on the agenda. Something as simple as making time for a 2-minute stretch break, can go a long way when it comes to helping everyone stay engaged and focused on the task at hand.
Make all attendees feel comfortable
During group meetings, introverted team members may have trouble speaking up or sharing their ideas.
Do your best to accommodate these team members and give them an opportunity to contribute. If you notice someone has been trying to talk but having trouble getting a word in, call on them directly. If you haven’t heard from a particular team member in a while, you could also ask them if they have anything they’ve noticed or want to chime in.
Make sure there is a notetaking document set up and shared out to the group. This will help everyone remember the key takeaways from the meeting. Be sure to also leave time at the end of the meeting to read out action items again in case anyone missed them. You can also share the document with all meeting attendees so they can refer back when they want to remember what was discussed.
Some of these tips may seem obvious, but when put together they will help to maintain a strong and effective virtual first culture.
One final point that is important to keep in mind, is that being a remote worker has its challenges. Your hybrid workforce won’t always get to engage in those “non-work” conversations as they would when passing colleagues in the office, they don’t get to share chit chat around the water cooler or over a mid-morning coffee.
So be sure to have a little fun with your teams: Not every meeting has to be all business. Consider bringing the team together for some virtual Pictionary, weekly team trivia on Fridays over lunch, celebrate monthly birthdays with the team and don’t forget to schedule time to connect on a 1:1 basis virtually over coffee. Connecting your teams on a social level will help maintain that personal connection, and during these touchpoints leave the looming project deadlines for your next call.
Talk to our team to get more of your team conversations started.