As the pandemic situation is settling gradually, enterprises are striving to determine the best approach towards work. While some businesses encourage their employees to continue Work from Home (WFH), others have instructed their employees to report at the office twice or thrice every week. This lack of clarity puts additional pressure on the overworked employees, who are already grappling with increased workload and countless online team meetings.
Online team meeting! This term is slowly becoming a reason for worry for most remote working professionals. Why? Well, managers or team leaders can set up a meeting any time of the working week, sometimes even on weekends, for matters that can otherwise easily be discussed over emails. As a result, professionals spend hours attending these online meetings without anything productive coming out of them.
This demand for synchronous communication is taking a serious toll on most remote workers’ mental and physical well-being. Therefore, it has become important for managers and team leaders to thoroughly ascertain the necessity of an online meeting before setting one up. Some of the most important questions that you, as a manager or team leader, must ask before setting up the next Zoom meeting (or Google Meet) are: –
- Is it absolutely necessary to organize a meeting right now?
- Are there any other ways of sharing the information other than a meeting?
- How urgent is the agenda of the meeting?
- Are the objectives complex enough to warrant a meeting?
- Do you have all the resources you need for a hybrid meeting?
- Is it possible to simply send an email to convey the message?
Now that we have laid out the roadmap for making a decision regarding calling your next video call (or meeting) with your team, let’s discuss these questions in further detail.
Important things to check before setting up an online meeting
As a manager or team leader, you need to take care of the well-being of your employees. Managing workload is an important part of this process. In the times of WFH, unnecessary online meetings can adversely affect the health of your team members. You should, therefore, check the following six important aspects before setting up an online meeting.
Is the meeting necessary?
WFH has become an integral part of the work culture since the pandemic set in during 2020. Most professionals have figured out how to work from a remote location and still deliver great results. This is the reason that almost 77% of employees reported an increase in productivity during WFH. So, you must determine if the time spent attending meetings can be better utilized in writing, brainstorming, or working on the project.
According to experts, when it comes to online meetings, less is more. The fewer meetings you will have, the more productive they will be. So, you must ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this meeting?” You must ensure that the answer makes sense to you. This will help you ensure that meetings are for some creative work and not simply share information.
The ideal way to go around is to first invite the inputs from the participants/team members on the preferred instant communication application (like Slack, Teams or Google Chat). If you get a sense from the inputs that the issue requires further discussions, then setting up an online meeting would make sense.
Are there other ways of sharing information?
There are some better ways of conveying a message to your team other than organizing endless meetings. Technology comes to your assistance here through a variety of tools that help with better absorption of information. For example, instead of organizing a weekly update meeting, you can ask your team members to record their presentations in the form of a video and share them with you over email.
This will allow them to prepare an impressive video at their convenience. Moreover, you will be able to watch every video and analyze it thoroughly without being distracted. Likewise, if there is an important announcement that you wish to make, you can easily email a video message to every team member, who can then watch it and understand it as per their comfort. A win-win for all!
You can use a video messaging platform like Loom—one that many teams have started using religiously since they started working from home. If you haven’t used it, the software allows you to record yourself and your screen at the same time, making it the perfect option for employee onboarding and training, solving customer service complaints, or demonstrating an online product or service.
How urgent is the meeting?
As a manager or team leader, you have to understand that varying priorities are assigned to different projects. If your team is already engaged in a crucial project, it would be wise to bother them with multiple “Zoom” links in a day. This could result in them being distracted and unable to focus on the work. You would not want your clients to be dissatisfied with your work. Would you?
Then, it is important to determine how urgent the meeting is. Can the meeting agenda for today rather be discussed in the next meeting after a few days? If you feel that waiting for a couple of days would not jeopardize the enterprise’s prospects, then put the points you wanted to discuss on the agenda for the next meeting. You can determine the urgency of a meeting by creating a customized framework, such as this one –
- Do you need to make a decision or simply distribute some information?
- Do you require the participation of key decision-makers in the meeting?
- Do you think that the agenda of the meeting is time-sensitive?
- Are the issues to be discussed directly affecting the productivity of the team members or can jeopardize the viability of the company?
Having such a checklist in place can help you ascertain the urgency of the matter and then you can make a decision regarding whether to organize a meeting or not.
How complex are the objectives?
If you are looking to discuss some complex problems that require every team member’s input, go ahead and schedule a meeting right away. Or, if you wish to discuss some important team dynamics affecting the relationship between team members, then a face-to-face video meeting will yield better results. But suppose the topics to discuss are routine task-based subjects, such as intimating the management regarding the progress of a project or sharing some updates regarding project deadlines. In that case, a simple email or message will suffice.
How do we determine the extent of the complexity of the objectives for the meeting? Well, there is a simple solution to this problem. If the meeting agenda explores the relationship aspects of team members, immediately schedule a face-to-face meeting.
Otherwise, think on these lines – Can your daily scrum meeting be a Slack thread? Do you need that project check-in meeting, or can you source updates through your workflow management tool?
Frequent meetings strip remote work of one of its greatest advantages: flexibility. Instead, take a deep look at how you can do more work asynchronously.
Is a hybrid meeting a good option?
Hybrid meetings have gained traction in the last few months as businesses are gradually returning to normalcy. This allows team members to join the meeting at their convenience, i.e., those who want can come to the office for in-person interaction; others can join virtually while they are working from home. But conducting hybrid meetings necessitates certain special skills as an incorrect move can lead to certain members feeling alienated.
So, you must ensure that the facilitator has the necessary skills for a hybrid meeting. This includes preparing for the meeting keeping in mind that even virtual attendees are fully involved in the discussion. People don’t spend enough time planning meetings. It has become almost second nature to throw an invite into Google Calendar without any context. But remote colleagues can’t walk over to your desk to ask what the meeting is about.
For hybrid meetings to work, more time needs to be spent on planning:
- Outline the purpose and intended outcome of the meetings
- Create a clear and detailed meeting agenda
- Include any materials that participants, remote or otherwise, might need to have during the meeting
- Make sure that the event invite includes the dial-in or video call information.
- Pick rooms with strong wifi connections and all of the technology (screens, speakers) you’ll need to enable hybrid meetings. If you don’t have that equipment yet, the time to buy is now.
Remote employees struggle with being constantly interrupted or talked over in meetings more than others. Structure interactions in such a way that everybody gets to participate. Go around the virtual room giving everyone a chance to speak.
Can I send an email or a Slack message instead?
You might be surprised to know that most online meetings are being organized to discuss trivial matters or share some information. This results in wasting precious time and resources which could be better utilized on other productive avenues. Hence, you must ascertain if the information you wish to share with your team members can be disseminated via email.
This will offer you multiple benefits over organizing team meetings now and then. You can interestingly design the email by including some infographics for a better understanding of the readers. Different team members can read the email at their convenience and better understand the contents. There are fewer chances of miscommunication when the message has been communicated via email, and it can be referred to easily for future instances.
Herein, you can take two approaches: –
- You can simply write the entire information as plain text and send the message to the relevant team members. But this leaves scope for miscommunication wherein the message is not understood properly by the recipient; or
- You can share a video message through an email with screen sharing. This approach will reduce the chances of miscommunication and would also capture the attention of the recipient.
In a nutshell...
The way workplaces have evolved over the last 18 months; it would be a shame if you do not leverage the benefits offered by WFH. So harness your new perspectives on technology, time, and togetherness to determine how your meetings will look like in the future.