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4 ways to improve unproductive hybrid meetings

Hybrid meetings


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Ever dial into a team meeting when nearly everyone else is there in person? It’s hard to get a word in edgewise and even harder to present ideas. Until recently, we didn’t have the word “hybrid” to characterize these meetings, we just knew they were often a problem for those working remotely.

Work-from-anywhere often means meet-from-everywhere, and now hybrid meetings, with many off-site participants, can quickly become counterproductive if not managed properly. Communications and collaboration platforms can help level the playing field for everyone, but other tactics must change as well.

Optimizing hybrid meetings

Here are four ways to make an immediate impact on the quality and productivity of your high-tech team’s hybrid meetings.

1. Mobility matters

Mobile communication apps need to be just as good, if not better than, the web or desktop versions. This grants equal access to mobile participants, helping improve their engagement.

2. Cut video fatigue

When collaborating or even chatting, use video strategically rather than automatically. If camera time doesn’t add immediate value, don’t require it, and use team messaging both synchronously (in real-time) and asynchronously as a follow-up and continuation.

3. Build engagement

The meeting leader must actively mediate, engage attendees, and encourage remote participation.

4. Less is more

Consider sharing group or individual updates on a team messaging board rather than reading them aloud during a hybrid meeting. Save the meeting for strategic discussions or briefings that can’t be done any other way.

Meeting mindfully

Research shows that most of us spend about 3x more hours in meetings now than we were prior to the pandemic. Undoubtedly, that makes it harder to get work done during office hours. That’s one reason why many of us are forced to multitask, which of course dilutes our attention and diminishes what we can both give and receive during a meeting.

Elise Keith, author of Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization, contends that multitasking has to stop.

You cannot have a meeting of minds when most of the minds are not in the meeting.1

Sounds logical, but trying to enforce a ground rule of no multitasking during a hybrid meeting is next to impossible. A skillful meeting leader must try to keep participants engaged—and there’s an art to that. Keith, the meeting expert, recommends asking everyone to participate. Group sign-up sheets and shared docs allow everyone to weigh in or volunteer for projects as needed.

For some workers, simply taking a respite from meetings may help them to deal with workplace stress. A Harris poll sponsored by Microsoft in August found that 70% of people believe that meditation could help decrease their work-related stress2.

Working smarter

Another way to improve meeting performance and reduce workplace stress is by working smarter. For instance:

  • Before a meeting, make it easy for your team to switch between their mobile devices and their laptops by selecting a unified communications platform.
  • During a meeting, leverage team messaging to reduce dependence on video. Encourage your team to discuss and annotate shared documents without switching on their cameras or toggling between apps.
  • And finally, after the meeting, promptly share meeting notes and make it clear who is responsible for next steps such as deliverables.

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Bridging the divide

Today’s work-from-anywhere era is as good a time as any to rethink how and why you meet as a team and what you hope to accomplish beyond “checking in.” This matters because too many meetings can cause meeting fatigue, and worse, they may foster decision paralysis.

Your high-tech team exists to get stuff done, and hybrid meetings can, unfortunately, complicate matters if everyone isn’t on the same page. Building team consensus is valuable, but discussing stressful topics using poor communication tools is more likely to generate sparks rather than equanimity.

Solving meeting challenges

Can communications and collaboration platforms help solve high-tech organizational challenges such as meeting fatigue? Yes, because they provide alternatives to experiencing a video chat for hours at a time.

We’ve seen firsthand how the combination of message, video, and phone communications improves meetings and collaboration workflows. Not everything always needs to be decided in a single meeting, and therefore, providing team members with asynchronous team messaging capabilities—including file sharing and threaded discussions—enables them to contribute when their ideas are fully ready.

All-in-one collaborative communications platform

Bridging the meeting divide between those who are on-site and off-site is not solely about tech, though an all-in-one collaborative communications platform can be a difference-maker. Collaboration doesn’t happen just because everyone switches on webcams in the same virtual room. When you meet, give everyone a chance (or a reason) to buy into the plan and participate. Otherwise, you’ll quickly reach a point of low attention spans and diminishing returns.

1 Elise Keith, Business Insider, The First 5 Minutes of a Meeting Matter the Most

2 Microsoft: A pulse on employees’ wellbeing, six months into the pandemic

Originally published Jan 08, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022

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