Even with video conferencing and messaging apps, fully involving remote employees in team and company meetings remains a challenge. There may be no replacing the experience of being physically in the room, but you can take steps to make these meetings more productive and inclusive.
Start Having Better Meetings
The most important thing to remember when “meeting” with remote employees is that you can’t conduct the meeting in the same way as you normally would if everyone was physically present. You have to find a way to replace the advantages that close proximity has, especially the ease of reading body language and picking up social cues.
These, unfortunately, do not translate well over the screen or phone. So, what can you do? To encourage remote employees to fully participate in meetings, you must provide opportunities to engage them and give them space and time to speak. You can create this type of remote meeting environment in a few ways.
1. Be Picky About Your Meetings
It’s the number one complaint about meetings, whether in-person or online. “This meeting could have been an email.” Especially with a remote workforce that’s harder to keep engaged, we encourage you to be very selective in scheduling meetings.
Top Tip: If the content is informational only, consider formulating an email with your message instead. However, if the subject requires discussion and collaboration, then go ahead and schedule that meeting!
2. Join 5 Minutes Early
Now that you’ve cut down on unnecessary meetings, it’s time to respect everyone’s time by being ready on time. Regardless of whether you’re running the meeting or only attending, don’t waste valuable meeting time troubleshooting or fixing microphone or video issues.
As a best practice, we recommend always logging on 5 minutes early to sort out any technical difficulties prior to the official meeting start time.
3. Put Remote Workers First
Third, if you’re hosting a hybrid meeting with some workers in the office and others tuning in virtually, ask the physically present participants to pause for a second before jumping into the conversation. This gives remote employees time to get a word in, plus it helps counter any time delays caused by the conferencing technology.
Additionally, whoever is leading the meeting should regularly invite remote employees to add anything if they have something to say, preferably before moving on in the agenda.
4. Let Remote Workers Drive
Next, when possible, have a remote employee lead the meeting or a section on the agenda. This works in both one-on-one meetings as well as in a group or even hybrid meeting environments.
This focuses attention on the remote speakers, keeps remote workers engaged (instead of working on other tasks!), and can help remind everyone that the meeting isn’t just happening in the physical room.
5. Encourage Camera Use
Fifth, let employees know that your preference is for them to join virtual meetings with cameras on. (So they should be camera ready!)
As attendees join the meeting, prompt them to turn on their cameras. This encourages a sense of community, limits employees turning their attention elsewhere, and will make the remote meeting much more personal if people can see each other on the screen.
6. Remind People to Mute/Unmute Themselves
With that said, to avoid any background noise, advise attendees to keep their microphones turned off when they’re not talking. This is an absolute must during meetings to limit microphone feedback, children screaming, and dogs barking from interrupting your meeting.
Empower your employees to be the masters of their own mic, making sure they feel free to unmute themselves whenever they feel like contributing to the discussion.
7. Record the Meeting
Finally, don’t forget to record your remote meetings for those employees who were unable to join live or for your attendees to replay if they’ve missed something.
If possible, it can be helpful to use recording software that allows playback at different speeds such as 1.5x or 2x the normal speed. This makes playback and future listening much easier and less time-consuming.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Some preliminary work before the meeting can also help make the meeting itself more efficient. First, test any systems ahead of time so that they’re working for everyone when the meeting starts. (Especially if it’s your first time using them!)
Second, email the agenda out so everyone knows what to expect.
Third, assign someone in the meeting room to be the contact person that remote employees can email or message if they have questions, concerns, or issues.
These three steps for preparation before the meeting may not seem like much, but can go a long way in boosting the productivity of your meetings with remote employees.
Don’t Forget to Debrief
After the meeting, check in with any remote employees and ask them to be candid about their experience. What worked well and what could be improved? See what you can do to improve based on their feedback in the next meeting.
The most important thing to remember when ‘meeting’ with remote employees is that you can’t conduct the meeting in the same way as you normally do when everyone is physically present.
You may not be able to fully replicate the experience of physically being in the room, but taking these steps can enable remote employees to feel more involved and make the meeting itself run more smoothly.
For more resources on how to navigate returning to work post-pandemic, be sure to check out our COVID-19 Resources Hub. And don’t forget to follow us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for even more business tips & tricks!