Working from home inevitably involves finding new ways to communicate with your colleagues. For most of us, adapting to new ways of working have involved using video conferencing software like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Skype. Whilst video calls are nothing new, our reliance on them is and the sudden change means many have had to get used to a technological shift immediately, on top of all the other lifestyle changes enforced on societies around the world.
The immediate switch to virtual meetings for workforces has led in some cases to lower levels of engagement caused by distractions and the inevitable technical problems that cause interruptions. The phenomenon of ‘Zoom fatigue’ has been widely reported and it is not uncommon for a workday to be filled with back-to-back video calls which are tiring and end up allowing for very little time to work on other things.
Make sure you’re getting the most out of your virtual meetings by following this simple guide and working out how you can take these ideas and mould them to suit your team.
1. Produce guidelines
In the same way companies have codes of conduct for office behaviour, a short set of guidelines for your digital communications will help maintain company culture in the virtual sphere. These may involve reminding people of their individual responsibilities – some of which will be outlined below – or setting out guidance for use of technology and particular features. Several of the following areas can be included in this document and are all designed to help your virtual meetings run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
It should be made clear to teams working remotely that the majority of technical responsibilities are personal and should be dealt with as such. Issues that crop up and cost time in meetings might include problems with connectivity, poor video or audio quality or a distracting backdrop. Most of these things can be dealt with by individuals testing their setups in advance of meetings and preparing a few minutes in advance.
Make the most of the technology to reduce distractions by using features such as zoom virtual backgrounds by hello backgrounds. Getting your team together around the same virtual table can be a fun way to shake things up whilst also reducing background visual distractions and increasing the privacy of your teams.
3. Back to basics
Strict agendas and meeting roles may be less important in physical meetings, especially with teams who know each other well enough to get on with the task at hand. However, in the virtual meeting, the normal social cues we rely on when face-to-face go out the virtual window.
Defining your objectives in a clear agenda and circulating it as a pre-read will help save time in meetings, particularly when people are moving between different teams. These can be saved in the invites for calls and dropped into chat boxes at the start of meetings for people to refer to easily.
Allocating a meeting chair is an easy way to help keep your virtual meetings on track and limit the amount of time spent on topics as appropriate to avoid things running longer than necessary. Having other roles such as ‘chat mediator’ to draw out any important information or questions from the side chat (if in use) might help facilitate conversation and keep everybody engaged.
4. Increase interactions
Keeping everybody involved is tough at the best of times and even harder in the virtual meeting. Checking in with everybody during the meeting as asking for thoughts is an easy way to make sure people are paying attention, but you can also try exploring extra features that aren’t typically available in normal meetings. For example, sharing screens to work on documents or using virtual whiteboards can help prevent people from switching off.
5. Keep it short
Aim to keep your virtual meetings down to 30-45 minutes when possible rather than assuming everything will be at least an hour. Whilst sometimes it is nice to chat with colleagues, a day with six calls of all over an hour can be exhausting and reduce your overall productivity. With clear agendas and good time management, most meetings can be cut in half.
Whatever the length of your virtual meeting, end on a high note by summing up in a positive and productive fashion with clear actions and a smile on your face. That extra effort in motivating your remote team will be well worth it when productivity and morale is boosted as a result.