September 18, 2020
For many businesses, hybrid working (working interchangeably between home and the office) has become a feature of our professional lives, and all the indicators are that it’s here to stay.
At Totem, we’re passionate about building inclusive trust-based work cultures, both for our customers and ourselves. While we eat our dogfood / drink our own champagne and leverage the Totem Digital Culture Platform to keep our workplace culture strong, along the way we’ve found that hybrid team meetings pose one of the most challenging aspects of this new way of working.
Meetings have worked well when either fully remote or fully in person, but having some of your team together while others dial in creates logistical difficulties that affect productivity, communication, and ultimately, whether the meeting goals are met reaching the meeting
We’ve been trying a few different things that we’ve found have helped to create inclusive hybrid meetings, and we thought we’d share our own learnings here.
One of the most critical components of a hybrid meeting, much like an online only meeting, is making sure everyone can both see and hear what is going on. This doesn’t mean you need to invest in high grade audio equipment or complex camera systems (although you are welcome to do this), but with a little forethought, and by understanding the tech you’ve already got, you can deliver a video feed that is engaging and inclusive with ease.
For starters, if you’re in a large room with people maintaining social distancing, one dedicated laptop for the video stream when placed in the right location should be able to do most of the work. A small table (or even something like a music stand) placed in the right location can make a huge impact on what your video and audio quality sounds like.
The audio is the hardest to get right, especially if you get into bigger rooms, so a small USB conference mic could be a big help here (on Amazon they range from about £20 to £60), but simply being mindful and moving the laptop around as different people speak will also make a huge difference. Or, in a pinch, dialing a mobile phone into the conference and using it as a microphone can work pretty well.
One of the easiest traps to fall into is for the group dynamic of people in a room together to take over the meeting. This isn’t inherently bad, but it can leave those dialing in feeling disconnected and disengaged.
We’ve found that the best way to ensure everyone stays visible, heard and included is to default to checking in with those dialing in FIRST. For example, when it comes to questions, ask those dialing in to speak before those in the room. Or if there are questions that come up in the flow of the dialogue, keep a careful eye on the chat function you’ve got on your video conference tech, or direct messaging software, so that any feedback, questions, or additions can be included from everyone.
Ownership of meetings was important before, but now it’s critical to make sure that someone in the room takes charge and ensures that everyone is included. This role doesn’t have to be the person presenting or running through the content; their job is to keep everyone engaged and to make sure that all team members have a voice.
We’ve found that this works best when there’s a clear agenda for the meeting, as it lets the meeting owner have clear objectives for the attendees to go through, and will help those dialing in to contribute accordingly.
This can also be a great way to empower junior team members or new members of the team, as it gives a level of responsibility and visibility beyond them contributing to the content of the meeting.
As you begin to use your spaces in new ways, you and your teams will be learning what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to hybrid meetings. This can take many different forms, and will help you improve the meetings that your business has to ensure they are as meaningful and productive as possible.
Think about sharing your own successes and failures in your internal comms channels. Was there a particular set up that worked well? Take a picture and share it publicly so others can replicate it. Was there an agenda format that really helped? A screenshot and a post about results can do wonders for others who are trying to solve the same problem. This type of open source problem solving is a huge component of successful hybrid working, and aside from it improving your meetings it will help to build familiarity and relationships across different parts of your business.
We’re still learning about hybrid working and the nuances and changes that make it successful. Our latest research paper digs into how people actually feel about hybrid working, and uncovers some surprising findings about familiarity, trust, and what companies can do to ensure they are creating cultures ready for hybrid working.