Recent Gallup data confirms what many employees and employers have already begun to suspect: that the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work, for the foreseeable future.
In a sweeping study of more than 140,000 U.S. employees, the analytics and advisory agency found that roughly 53% of remote-capable employees expect to continue in a hybrid arrangement—based on what their employers have told them—while 24% expect to work exclusively remotely. Notably, employees are happy about this news. Close to 90% of those surveyed prefer to have some degree of remote-work flexibility, while six in 10 “specifically prefer hybrid work.”
Yet no matter how widespread hybrid work arrangements may become, hybrid meetings still risk putting remote colleagues at a disadvantage if teams aren’t careful to make sure their contributions are included. With that in mind, here are six effective meeting tips for hybrid teams to help keep everyone on the same page:
Tip #1: Experiment with Different Camera Setups
Thanks to easy access to new technology, hybrid meetings can be so much more than a collection of tiny, square faces in a video conferencing app.
As an example, consider the following setup, as designed by Bob Frisch and Cary Greene for a two-day hybrid offsite event:
“We attached three webcams to laptops, and used a fourth laptop to share what was on the main screen (usually a PowerPoint). We mounted two of the webcams on tripods, which faced the in-room attendees so remote participants could see who was speaking. We moved the third camera around to show a close-up view of presenters, flip charts, and wall charts throughout the session as needed. The four laptops joined the two used by our two remote executives for a total of six separate Zoom “participants” in the single Zoom meeting.”
Regularly setting up a collection of webcams and laptops for each hybrid meeting you run may not be practical. But let this example from Frisch and Greene encourage you to think outside of the box. How could you change your setup to make everyone feel equally included?
Tip #2: Change Where Pre- or Post-Meeting Collaboration Happens
When you think about traditional, fully in-office meetings, it’s clear that the work of the meeting doesn’t happen entirely within the gathering itself. Maybe one colleague stops another on the way into the conference room to clarify a key point. Or maybe a manager grabs their direct report after the meeting concludes to discuss follow-up activities in more detail. When this type of partial-team, in office collaboration happens, it risks inadvertently excluding the remote workers who may be ‘out of sight, out of mind.’
Instead of leaving colleagues out, bring more of your hybrid team in to continue collaboration. One way to do this is through Otter. Not only does Otter integrate with popular video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, but hybrid teams can also add comments, tag people in action items, and ask questions directly within the Otter notes. And, because all notes are stored in a central location, hybrid team members can return to them as needed for reminders on what was shared.
Tip #3: Explicitly Prohibit Indirect In-Meeting Communications
On a related note, pay close attention to any extra conversations team members engage in during hybrid team meetings. This might include side conversations that happen out of the earshot of the main speaker or cross-talk—even body language and eye contact can communicate meaning that may go unnoticed by remote team members.
Again, the key here is to be direct. Don’t be afraid to explicitly label and prohibit these behaviors—which may have become so second-nature that attendees don’t even know they’re engaging in them.
Tip #4: Put Everyone on an Equal Footing
If eliminating indirect in-meeting communications isn’t working, another option is to put all of your hybrid team members on the same footing by having them all log in to a virtual meeting—even if they’re in the office.
To do this effectively, each attendee will have to have either their own office or a dedicated conference space they can use by themselves. But by separating out individual participants, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of remote workers missing out on the full context of the meeting.
Tip #5: Make an Effort to Highlight Remote Voices
Next, as you run your hybrid team meetings, pay particular attention to the voices that are being elevated in the discussion. Are your in-office workers dominating the conversation? Are your remote workers’ thoughts being heard—and if so, are they being heard evenly?
Keep in mind that some employees—whether in-office, hybrid, or remote—may be less comfortable speaking up in meetings or sharing their thoughts in front of others. But if you notice that some attendees aren’t participating at the same rate as others and you’re sure that their comfort level isn’t the issue, consider directly addressing remote attendees by name to solicit their input.
Tip #6: Invest in a Technology Budget
Finally, if underperforming technology is undercutting the contributions of your remote team members, consider setting aside a technology budget to help all employees bring their systems up to par.
To get started using Otter in combination with your team meeting agendas, give Otter Business a try with a 10-day free trial.