Virtual Teams

Half of remote workers don’t feel included in meetings, that’s not OK

Running effective and engaging hybrid meetings will be one of the most challenging collaboration topics this year. Some people are returning to the office, many for less than five days a week. Some with location-based jobs are starting to pursue more flexibility and increasing numbers of people are opting to work fully remotely.

In this environment, it will become increasingly unlikely that everyone you need for your meeting is in the same place at the same time. Many of our clients are introducing policies where every meeting will have a virtual joining option.

As we start to get back to running face to face training programs, we are designing our workshops on the basis there will also normally be people joining virtually, and this does require different workshop design and facilitation skills.

The Microsoft work trend index is fast becoming one of the most useful sources of information On what’s really happening out there with vast data sets providing insights for all of us. Here is a link to an article on their latest findings.

On meeting specifically, they found that 43% of remote workers say they do not feel included in meetings, but only 27% of companies have created new hybrid meeting etiquettes to ensure that everyone feels included and engaged.

Our only surprise is that these numbers are so high. When we demonstrate hybrid facilitation techniques in our programs it is extremely rare that people have seen any real attempt being made to engage remote and close participant systematically.

We could go further and say that many entirely face to face meetings fail to create engagement and involvement, but that’s another blog.

In our hybrid meetings training, the key challenge we address is creating an equivalent participant experience for those people in the room and those people joining remotely.

if the majority of our meetings are going to be hybrid meetings, then we can’t accept high levels of disengagement, or that a significant number of our participants don’t feel included.

Some teams choose to have everyone, even those in the room, joining via laptop and use only the participation tools available to virtual meetings. This levels the playing field, but what’s the point then of bringing some people together in the same room.

I would be pretty unhappy if I had to commute to an office to sit in a room with other people but not interact with them except through Microsoft Teams!

Some teams have gone back to using in-room facilitation techniques such as wall charts and post it notes, but these tend to exclude the virtual participants.

The challenge is to develop hybrid facilitation techniques to allow the people in the room to experience the benefits of in person collaboration, the people joining virtually to use virtual tools, and bridging techniques to bring them together so that their contributions can be combined.

Part of the answer will be in technology, for example equipping meeting rooms with electronic whiteboards where people in the room can write on the board, and people joining remotely can add their contributions through the technology and both are displayed live.

Technological change of this scale however will take a long time to roll its way through every meeting room to become familiar to every participant.

In the short term most of us will need to rely on using our existing technological tools and different facilitation techniques. In our hybrid meetings training we help participants work with the tools they already have to develop novel ways to create this equivalent participant experience.

if you’d like to find out more about this please get in touch.

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