Spend Less Time in Meetings with these Remote Workplace Hacks

Joe Pena on August 3, 2020
Given we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, it's no surprise that management is increasingly focused on maximizing their ability to support their teams remotely. In 2018, long before the stay-at-home orders, 3.6% of the American workforce operated from home at least half of the time. Additionally, 43% of U.S. employees worked remotely on a somewhat regular basis.

Fast forward to today, remote and at-home work has become necessary for the survival of businesses. North America saw 97% of office employees work from home during the Covid-19 lockdown, 67% had never done so before this. 
Working from home has a shot at becoming the new norm.
So what does this mean for remote work, post-pandemic? Well, considering the significant cost-savings remote work can offer employers, "$11,000 per half-time remote worker/ year" according to Global Workplace Analytics) and employees ($2,500 - $4,000), working from home has a shot at becoming the new norm. Global Workplace Analytics predicts that up to 30 million U.S. employees will become accustomed to remote work by 2022, a significant increase from the mere 5 million that regularly work from home today. 

With this in mind, it's essential to acknowledge the challenges that working from home may pose for your business' productivity and meeting efficiency-- so you can identify problem areas and find solutions quickly. Stay tuned as we break down the most common issues associated with virtual meetings, at-home work, and the tips and tricks you can use to stay at the top of your game. By implementing these remote work hacks, you may find productivity to increase beyond what it was back at the office.

How to Make Your Virtual Meetings More Productive

Though having a remote team might encourage you to increase the number and length of meetings scheduled on your calendar, this may not necessarily be the best way to keep employees engaged and productive. Unnecessary meetings take up the valuable time of your employees, and those costs add up. Here are a few tips to improve your virtual meeting efficiency, so you can make the most of your face-to-face time:

Shorter Meetings

A key to holding effective virtual meetings is to focus on short but frequent interactions with your team. Daily team meetings and weekly check-ins can have lasting productivity and employee-manager relationship benefits by ensuring that everyone remains focused and goal-oriented despite being out of the office. 
Without classic, quick 'watercooler' encounters, employees may lose out on tribal knowledge sharing and innovation fueling interactions. 

Keep Socializing

While formal meetings are the basis of operation, there is some value to be drawn from the informal conversations that happen daily in an office setting. Without classic, quick 'watercooler' encounters, employees may lose out on tribal knowledge sharing and innovation fueling interactions. Lee Gimpel of Better Meetings recommends breaking up meetings into smaller groups for a few minutes before starting a session, as a way to encourage the conversations that would otherwise happen in the hallway track. Another idea is to encourage employees to share small insights into their work and associated challenges via chat or as a P.S. on email, which may promote the connectivity and collaboration of coworkers, despite the isolation
If there's an hourly planning meeting every Monday morning, make it 30 minutes from now on.

Limit Unnecessary Meetings

There's a distinction between meeting time devoted to socializing versus meetings that are work-oriented, yet non-essential. Reinforce the culture that teams should prefer asynchronous communication tools like Slack instead of exhausting face-to-face video calls. When meetings are necessary, cut the allotted time to half of what was normal in the office. If there's an hourly planning meeting every Monday morning, make it 30 minutes from now on. Meeting optimization can also be achieved by ensuring each session has a clear agenda and having all supplementary information available to attendees before the call. 

Limit Meeting Size 

Virtual meetings become significantly less functional when more people are in attendance-- so make sure that invitations are sent only to those who need to be there. This will also help eliminate multitasking during meetings by making it easier for everyone to participate. The smaller the group, the better the meeting, so try and keep attendees under 6 whenever possible.

Video Meetings

While some employees may initially be wary of their effectiveness, video conferencing via platforms such as Zoom or Google Meets offer the closest approximation to face-to-face meetings.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

While the tips above will help improve your meetings' productivity, the productivity of your employees depends on their personal well-being. Although working from home means employees make up valuable time typically lost commuting to work, it also means that the distinction between at-home vs. at-work no longer exists. Individuals might feel pressured to be responsive to email and messages all hours of the day. In fact, during COVID-19, remote-work days became an additional 2-3 hours longer.  
Rather than sticking to a typical 9-to-5 workday, offer flexibility. Employees want the freedom to break up their day for exercise, meal preparation, and possibly child-care. Consider moving to a 4 day work week.
There are a few ways as an employer that you can promote this separation amongst your teams. First, remind them to log-off at a designated time each day. This will encourage them to take time for themselves and their family. Alternatively, you can allow employees to work the hours most convenient for them. Rather than sticking to a typical 9-to-5 workday, offer flexibility. Employees want the freedom to break up their day for exercise, meal preparation, and possibly child-care. Consider moving to a 4 day work week. This can help make up for the extra hours they're likely putting in per-day and promote a stronger separation between work and life.

Without a plan, remote work can take a toll on you and your team. Though the distance created by screens and time zones can challenge communication and collaboration, the tips above are essential to bridging the gap. Make it a priority to maximize your meeting time while improving employee well-being. Together, it's possible to keep your team happy, motivated, and productive. 

Sources

  • MIT Sloan Management Review (1) (2)
  • BPS Research Digest (1)
  • Harvard Business Review (1) (2)
  • Reworked (1)
  • Global Workplace Analytics (1) (2)