Co-located meetings can be messy, loud and drag out over hours on end. As usual, with remote workers involved, things should be done a little different, but why?
- Your remote employees might join from other timezones, where it's late at night, they want to get some relax time or simply get off work
- They might join between things, e.g. putting something in the oven and planning on having dinner after. They need to know what's going on
- Not a lot of people are up for casual chatter at 10pm in the evening or 5am in the morning
- It's incredibly easy to swift away and simply don't listen anymore
- People in the same room will always have the most influence on each other
There are more of course, but these are some of the most common ones we've heard so far. So let's get started.
Scheduling a Meeting
You should use a tool to bring everyones schedules and timezones together. We created a resource for that. Something upfront: After 4-5 people, it is unlikely that everyone's schedules will match up, you will always miss a person or two in a bigger meeting.
That's why it's important to only schedule meetings for (much needed) face-to-face time, to discuss things, but never to announce major changes or derive action points. While this may call for a meeting too, you should announce this on an all-accessible medium to keep everyone in the loop.
Choose a time and date that works for most people. Many people will be willing to join a meeting at odd hours, but don't make them to do so. If you're looking at scheduling a recurring meeting, be sure to switch up times and dates to include everyone.
You should only schedule meetings if you have the following things ready, if applicable:
- A detailed agenda on what to talk about
- A timeline on when subjects need to be wrapped up
- A estimated duration of the meeting (in the remote world, this is binding)
- A list of needed action points and decisions
- A time buffer for issues and questions
This will allow you to call in a meeting and wrap it up, just as described. If you're not acting according to your schedule, you risk that employees will have to leave the meeting before the end, losing their insights and inputs.
Try to get everyone to join with their camera on. It's a good sign of team-spirit and makes the rare face-to-face time 100x more effective. Make sure that the standard is that people are muted – you don't want to have multiple distracting sounds during your meeting.
Secondly, it's recommended that people join with their own devices, rather than joining all together from a big meeting room (if there is a co-located team). Naturally, people in the same room will talk over people remote and will be able to leverage their added influence to get their point across better. It also leads to unrelated chatter and issues with understanding, that wouldn't be the case when doing a fully remote meeting. Everyone joining from their own device, despite sitting near each other can feel odd, but is going to deliver the best results.
Keep your sentences short, and provide time for interjections or questions between sentences. There is nothing more infuriating than not being able to bring an argument across, especially with a few miliseconds of lag.
Finally, be clear in your words, don't mumble and prioritize directed requests over undirected requests (say: Hey Michael, what's the status on the next release, not: Hey guys, ....).
A meeting in the remote work is never concluded when the call ends. You might have had people drop connections at some point, might have been unclear in your pronounciation and people might not have been able to participate for any or some of the meeting.
After a call has concluded, it's good manner to provide the following:
- A recording of the meeting (especially if there was a lot of information)
- A written summarization of discussion points and outcomes
- A list of decisions and actions to act on
This will help every participant to recall if they have something to contribute to the outcome of that meeting or not, and make your team overall more secure in their decisions.
There's a lot more to be done to make remote meetings (or any meetings for that matter) more productive. We will update this post accordingly, but for now – these are some easy steps you can implement to get towards a better and more efficient remote team.