Over the last few years, remote operations have become a prevalent part of the business landscape. Many company leaders have noted that there can be positive outcomes to this approach to working. While some businesses have chosen to either go fully remote or bring all workers back to the office, others have found a good middle-ground with hybrid operations.
However, this also has some challenges. One of these involves making certain meetings that include remote and in-office employees proceed effectively.
We’re going to take a closer look at hybrid meeting etiquette. What can you do to ensure everybody involved has the most positive experiences?
Provide Clarity on the Agenda
Your first point of etiquette is to provide all attending employees with clarity on the agenda for the hybrid meeting. Formalize this well in advance. Wherever possible, reach out to employees first to ask them to provide ideas for subject areas they want to discuss. You can then create a schedule for the meeting that includes sufficient periods for the core activities that help to accomplish the overall aims of the session. Issue this agenda to remote and in-office workers with enough time for them to ask questions before the day of the meeting.
At the beginning of the hybrid meeting, take a moment to go over the agenda once more. Give everybody the opportunity to confirm that they understand and are on-board with the ultimate goals of the session. Importantly, spend a little time going over a few ground rules in terms of when interruptions are appropriate and at what points further questions or opinions can be submitted. Providing this clarity on the direction of the meeting helps all attendees to feel that they are on the same page, no matter where they happen to be.
Proximity bias is a common etiquette problem for hybrid meetings. This refers to the tendency for those facilitating sessions to show preferential treatment to those attendees that are physically present in the office. This isn’t always a conscious action. While it’s certainly possible for there to be some active discrimination against remote workers, in many cases this behavior in an unconscious result of primarily in-office working practices. As such, facilitators aren’t always aware of how their actions or the format of the meeting can be hurdles to remote workers. It is, therefore, a vital matter of hybrid meeting etiquette to ensure inclusivity.
This should start with making time for all attendees to feel comfortable and involved with the meeting from the outset. If the group hasn’t collaborated before, make sure there is time at the beginning of the session for every member to introduce themselves. Where the group is familiar with one another, this time can be spent going around each member for a brief casual catch-up.
Facilitators must also make distinct efforts to ensure remote workers have equal chances to contribute throughout the session. It can often be difficult for virtual attendees’ ideas to be heard above the dynamic discussions of those in the office. This can lead remote workers to feel excluded and leaves the project poorer for the lack of additional input. Facilitators should take the time to monitor the flow of discussions and interject where necessary to ask remote collaborators if they have anything to add. This not only keeps all contributors feeling included and engaged, but it also serves to remind in-office colleagues that they need to consider their remote colleagues.
Mitigate Technological Hurdles
The success of hybrid meetings depends on the right technology being in place and functioning well. Unfortunately, when there are issues here, meetings are likely to be disrupted. This serves to make remote workers feel disconnected or excluded from contributing. It’s also frustrating for in-office attendees to be unable to interact with their virtual colleagues or for progress to be derailed. Not to mention that technical issues are likely to truncate productivity for everyone. As such, hybrid meeting etiquette requires facilitators to mitigate the potential for technological hurdles.
This begins with making certain the appropriate tools are in place. The most basic aspect of this is arranging communication software that provides full mutual visibility between colleagues. Wherever possible, make certain that multiple remote employees are displayed on a large monitor, rather than appearing as barely-distinguishable talking heads on a laptop screen. Your considerations here also need to extend to software tools that are appropriate for the meeting’s core activities. For instance, if it’s an ideation session, investing in virtual whiteboard software empowers all workers to actively participate.
It’s also vital to make contingency plans for potential disruptions. Facilitators should work with the information technology (IT) department to better understand how to troubleshoot and solve common connectivity issues. Before the meeting, it can be wise to provide remote workers with a conference call phone number to use in case their home internet fails. The key is to not just rely on a single technological process to run the meeting. These back-ups help to ensure there are minimal possibilities for disruption.
Follow Up with Everyone
Hybrid meeting etiquette doesn’t begin and end with the session itself. It’s important for facilitators to ensure there are opportunities for discussion in the days following it. After all, there may have been issues that attendees were too polite or busy to bring up at the time. As such, making efforts to follow up with all collaborators can be an invaluable way to round-off the session and identify future improvements.
A couple of days after the session, facilitators should send a message to attendees to check-in on how they felt about the meeting. Ask whether they understood the content of the meeting and if there was anything they are still unclear about. Provide them with written minutes of the meeting for their own records where appropriate.
Facilitators should make it clear that this check-in is not just about whether the session met its goals, but also about anything they felt was positive or negative about the experience. It can also be wise to direct attendees to anonymous feedback channels in case they’d feel more comfortable offering suggestions or concerns through this method. Indeed, it’s well worth making hybrid meeting etiquette the subject of regular pulse surveys as you continue to develop your company’s approach to the process.
Make sure your company acts on any suggestions given or concerns raised. This doesn’t just ensure you and your employees get the most positive hybrid meeting experiences. It also helps to demonstrate that you take employees’ opinions seriously no matter where they are working from.
Hybrid operations helps to ensure your company maintains a diverse and agile workforce. But it’s important to make sure your hybrid meeting etiquette provides positive and practical outcomes for everyone involved. This should include a dedication to providing clarity and bolstering inclusivity. Put measures in place to minimize technological disruptions. It’s also vital to take the time to follow up with employees both on the content of the meeting and to determine how your hybrid meeting etiquette can be improved. This is a new approach to work and you’re bound to make mistakes. But a commitment to change boosts positive outcomes and keeps your workforce engaged.