The hybrid meeting can be the road to either greater employee satisfaction or greater employee frustration, depending on how well hybrid meetings are managed.
The pandemic has shown us how beneficial hybrid work can be in general. But many companies have yet to truly crack the nut of effective hybrid meetings.
To ensure these meetings stay as productive as possible, facilitators need to ensure they are following certain key best practices and using the right technology.
Meanwhile, participants may also need to reframe how they think about meetings and teamwork.
In this article, we explore hybrid meetings, along with best practices to keep them running smoothly and effectively.
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As the name suggests, a hybrid meeting is one in which some meeting attendees are in-person, while others are remote. The hybrid meeting is a necessary response to the boom in hybrid work we’re currently experiencing.
No matter what hybrid workplace model they might be following, anyone managing any amount of remote workers will bump up against the same issues:
These are new challenges for many organizations, and how well facilitators meet them can make or break the hybrid workplace.
Hybrid meetings typically require a good video conferencing platform, so that remote participants can still ‘see’ everyone on the team.
They also require a committed facilitator who is able to help virtual attendees feel like they’re ‘in the room.’
This ‘new normal’ for meetings doesn’t have to be complicated, especially if companies follow best practices. That said, they will likely need a different approach to hybrid meetings than what they currently have for strictly in-person and/or virtual meetings
Because of the fervent focus on hybrid and remote work we’re seeing post-pandemic, we sometimes forget this practice existed long before COVID. There are any number of companies using any number of work environment types to support any combination of blended workforces.
This includes distributed workforces, which rely on workers in multiple locations, instead of one centralized, all-encompassing office.
For example, at OfficeSpace, we have offices in Atlanta, Costa Rica, and Canada. All of which rely on strictly remote workers, strictly in-office workers, and a hybrid workforce, too.
Companies like ours still need to hold certain key company-wide team meetings with every single employee. No matter the borders and time zones between us.
That’s why both hybrid offices and distributed ones require good meeting technology and an accepted company-wide approach to hybrid meetings. When all team members are on the same page, know the rules and expectations, and have the necessary digital workplace solutions, there’s no reason hybrid meetings can’t offer all the benefits of ‘traditional’ face-to-face meetings.
In other words, hybrid meetings that are managed well can help foster engagement, collaboration, and a shared company culture and purpose. They can also provide opportunities for education, mentorship, and better collaboration in the workplace. This in turn can help everyone have a more positive workplace experience, no matter where they are.
This boost to collaboration from hybrid meetings is equally true for companies with a massive real estate portfolio that requires enterprise facility management, as it is for small startups with just a few employees all working from their kitchens.
“If meetings can maintain the same levels of productivity and intuitiveness regardless of where staff members are, you can have the ultimate flexible workplace.”Rebekah Carter, UC Today
“If meetings can maintain the same levels of productivity and intuitiveness regardless of where staff members are, you can have the ultimate flexible workplace.”
We know from Cushman & Wakefield’s comprehensive Experience per Square Foot™ workplace experience survey, that since the onset of the pandemic, 50% of remote workers say company culture has suffered, 56% feel less connected to their colleagues, and 64% report that learning and mentoring has suffered. Sometimes, asynchronous communication just doesn’t cut it, no matter how great your communication and collaboration apps are.
Thankfully, good hybrid meetings can be the bridge between remote working and company culture. They can help everyone still connect with their team, in real time, and in as close to ‘real life’ as possible.
The best way to run a hybrid meeting is to focus on giving everyone equal access to information, resources, and their fellow participants, and an equal opportunity to share and participate. This in turn requires good collaboration tools and a strategy that maximizes them.
It’s easy for in-office workers to grab a meeting room when inspiration hits. And these types of spontaneous interactions are often where the magic of innovation in the workplace happens.
This is a tough act for workplace leaders and facility managers (FMs) of hybrid teams to follow. To ensure everyone has a high-quality meeting experience, they’ll need to observe the following 6 hybrid meeting best practices.
There are certain basics you need to address in any meeting, hybrid or otherwise.
Note that even before the pandemic, one study found that 67% of employees found themselves being prevented from doing their work due to excessive meetings. And thanks to MIT research, we know the average executive spends 23 hours a week in meetings.
To help cut down on the amount of time wasted needlessly, every meeting should have a clear purpose and function. Additionally, it should have a clear agenda. Although, as we’ll cover below, how that physical agenda is presented might look a little different in a hybrid or online meeting.
Every meeting should also have a clear set start time and end time.
In fact, in a LinkedIn article, Angie Earlywine, Senior Director in the Total Workplace division of Global Occupier Services at Cushman & Wakefield, recommends ending hybrid events 5-10 minutes early, so that employees get a chance to regroup between calls.
She also recommends requiring late arrivals to announce themselves in hybrid meetings, to incentivize on-time behavior.
Finally, you want to ensure that you invite only the right people to each meeting. As well as all the right people.
In other words, make sure everyone who is affected by the meeting is able to attend, no matter where in the world they’re located. This should include ensuring they have the right technology to participate meaningfully, and know how to use it as well.
It’s also usually a good idea to have someone in the company and preferably in each meeting who can help handle any technology snafus as they—almost inevitably—arise.
In hybrid meetings, remote employees need to have the same access and experience as in-person attendees, period.
Remember, the ultimate goal in these meetings should be to equalize the meeting experience. It’s essential that no one feels left out or unable to be an active contributor, just because they’re not sitting around the conference room table. This may seem easier said than done, but it’s the only way to properly handle online meetings.
Following these few strategies can help level the playing field:
It’s important to establish a clear operating procedure for hybrid meetings. To accomplish this, companies can include instructions and guidelines in their onboarding process. These should be available on the cloud or in a wiki, so employees can review them as necessary.
It’s also a good idea to have clear guidelines posted in the physical meeting room itself to remind everyone of them by having them on the agenda. The more everyone in the meeting is on board with all procedures, the better.
By definition, many hybrid meetings will have at least some participants who are in the office.
That means everyone needs access to meeting room booking software that integrates with the existing integrated workplace management system (IWMS). That ways, it’s easy to grab a spot when you need it.
This should include meeting scheduling software that FMs can also use to analyze how meeting space is being used in real time. Armed with this type of reports and analytics, they’ll be in a better position to improve space utilization going forward.
Good hybrid meetings require more than good scheduling software.
They also require easy-to-use technology. This can include proper display screens, screen sharing, smart cameras, and state-of-the-are speaker systems, as the budget allows.
Like we’ve covered, paper presentations are out, best replaced with cloud-based technology like a shared Google Doc.
Companies should invest in collaborative software for planning and conducting video conferences, if they haven’t already. For example, good teleconferencing software like Zoom has a chat function that makes it easy to share screens and ideas. Zoom meeting calendar integration can also make it easier to manage hybrid meetings.
Where possible, look for options that integrate with your IWMS. Again, it’s much easier for employees to engage with these tools when they meet them ‘on the ground,’ on apps and software they’re already using. Hybrid meetings will be a difficult adjustment for some team members. The less new software they need to learn, the better.
For example, tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams have integrations that let employees book meetings in real time.
Ultimately, when it’s easy to plan meetings and book spaces, employees will be much more likely to do so. Even if it’s at the last minute.
Lastly, don’t forget the simple brass tacks when it comes to meeting tech: The better your audio-visual hardware, the better everyone’s experience will be.
For example, at OfficeSpace, we have dedicated physical video conferencing rooms.
Coworkers in different countries simply need to hook up a laptop to a main screen. Suddenly we’re ‘sitting in’ on the same meetings, even though many of us are remote.
And especially when technology is involved, it’s always smart to do a dry run to test how it’s working before your meeting actually starts. This is especially true for large meetings and hybrid events with many participants.
Of course, the best possible technology won’t help if hybrid meetings don’t have good leaders to run them. Having the right leader at the helm can make or break any hybrid session.
Leaders, presenters, and meeting facilitators should set an example with the way they lead. This should include following a schedule where necessary, ensuring everyone has all the information they need ahead of time, and ensuring that the meeting has all the necessary technology to be successful.
Like we’ve covered, attention-seekers will happily take over a hybrid meeting—if you let them.
That means facilitators need to be able to limit this behavior, along with limiting distracting cross-conversation. They need to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be heard, while no one has the ability to dominate.
Don’t assume that because someone has run your in-office meetings, they can pivot to running them in a hybrid environment. Like Earlywine reminds us in a discussion on the hybrid workplace experience, there are nuances to managing a hybrid team, along with training programs that can help facilitators gain the skills they need to do this well.
“Don’t assume managers don’t need training and that employees know how to not just survive, but thrive in this new model,” she says.
Perhaps most importantly, employees will need to show a willingness to meet in the middle when it comes to hybrid meetings.
Technology, facilitation, and good procedures only go so far. If employees aren’t also willing to embrace their hybrid culture, even the best approaches to meetings will suffer.
We know that the feeling of making progress towards meaningful work is what drives a better work experience.
“The holy grail of engagement is feeling inspired in what you’re doing and by the people you work with,” says Earlywine.
Employees on hybrid teams therefore need to be willing to make adjustments. Especially to how they approach things like meetings and collaboration.
This could look like having everyone in a team go virtual for a meeting. Even if some of them are in the office.
Alternatively, perhaps for certain critical meetings, everyone on the team should make an effort to be physically present. Even if that means they’re somewhere off-campus, that accommodates everyone more easily.
The reality is that hybrid meetings are a different animal. One that will best serve the employees that are open to new approaches to teamwork.
Good meetings aren’t about beautiful white boards or breakout rooms or the very latest video conferencing. For a good hybrid meeting, you need strong facilitation. This is, of course, in addition to a shared commitment by all participants to maximize participation and engagement.
In other words, for a hybrid meeting, you need the right software and technology, the right company culture, the right leadership, and the right approach.
Free Guide: 6 tactics to improve the employee experience for a hybrid workforce
Photos: Pixabay, LinkedIn Sales Solutions, Malte Helmhold, Surface