Eight tips for making hybrid work meetings effective
Author: Stephen Simpson
Hybrid meetings, where some participants are present and others join remotely, are now a fact of life in many workplaces. What can you do to ensure that hybrid meetings are effective?
1. Think about whether hybrid meeting is appropriate
You should bear in mind that not every meeting will be suitable for a hybrid approach. While there are no hard-and-fast rules and much depends on your organisation's culture, it is fair to say that hybrid meetings are suited to:
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- short team catch-ups;
- solving individual problems;
- one-off decision-making; and
- presentations from one or two individuals with a follow-up Q&A session.
Hybrid meetings may be less effective for:
- lengthy meetings involving detailed input from multiple parties;
- creative meetings such as brainstorming sessions; and
- sensitive conversations or the delivery of bad news, such as redundancy announcements.
Depending on the meeting's nature and urgency, the meeting organiser could consider waiting until a time when all participants are able to meet face to face, switching to an all-virtual meeting, or finding another method (for example via a text chat on Teams).
2. Ask teams about their preferred approach
As an organisation's hybrid working model evolves, taking account of everyone's views on the day-to-day practicalities is essential.
This includes encouraging teams to decide themselves how hybrid meetings are conducted. The more attendees who are happy with the arrangements, the more engaged they will be during a hybrid meeting.
Regular input from teams can help you to:
- decide how often hybrid meetings are held and for what purpose;
- adopt an inclusive format for hybrid meetings; and
- iron out any recurring issues, such as technology problems.
You should also take account of feedback received via other sources, such as an organisation-wide employee survey to assess the effectiveness of hybrid working.
3. Plan and schedule hybrid meetings effectively
Individuals within a team may be working on different days, or on a different timetable. Meeting organisers must be mindful of this when they are arranging hybrid meetings.
We have to start thinking about difference in a hybrid world, difference of digital competency, difference in desire to work from home, difference in anxiety levels about travelling, difference in a desire to be autonomous, difference in a desire to be collaborative. Each person in your shadow you know will have experienced the pandemic differently, and they're likely to experience leadership and decision making in a hybrid workplace culture differently as well.
Victoria Lewis, CEO of byrne-dean, speaking on Webinar: Hybrid working - building an inclusive and collaborative culture
If agreement to hybrid meeting schedules is reached through discussion where there is mutual cooperation and compromise, team members will feel more committed to attending them, whether that is in person or remotely.
Meeting organisers need to ensure that they plan and diarise hybrid meetings that they want everyone to attend well in advance. Given advance notice, team members can more easily plan and, if necessary, change their work schedule so that they can attend the event.
Hybrid meeting invites must include an option for remote dial-in. This ensures that team members are not excluded from attending if they do need to work remotely.
4. Make sure all participants can use meeting platform
You should remember that, while many employees will be used to operating technology such as Zoom and Teams, some will not be.
For example, it could be that a new recruit used a different meeting platform in their previous role or that a person's role means that they are not often called upon to use this type of technology.
The provision of refresher training in remote communication technology and signposting to staff where they can get assistance (for example via IT support) can go a long way to ensuring that all participants are able to use the chosen meeting platform.
5. Clarify how participants can contribute
When holding a hybrid meeting, you can begin by clarifying how individuals can contribute. For example, you could encourage remote attendees to make use of a:
- "hand-raising" function so that it is clear when they wish to contribute; and
- chat function when they wish to share something without disturbing the person speaking.
You have the option to ask everyone to take turns to contribute to the meeting as a way to guarantee that everyone joining remotely feels included. You can also ask remote participants at the end of the hybrid meeting if they have anything further to say.
So long as we're able to strike some sort of balance between our needs and our understanding of others' needs within the context of that hybrid scenario, it lends itself to a much more collaborative way of working together...And I think that collaboration is really, really key in that context so that it doesn't come down to just one person deciding 'okay, this is the impact on everybody and this is how everybody's going to react to this change'.
Doron Davidson-Vidavski, executive trainer and facilitator at Strevas, speaking on Podcast: How to develop line managers' communication skills in a hybrid working model
6. Avoid "presence disparity"
It is essential to avoid hybrid meetings resulting in "presence disparity", whereby remote participants have an inferior experience to in-person attendees. All team members should have the opportunity to contribute equally, wherever they are joining the meeting from.
When holding a hybrid meeting, you must ensure that you avoid:
- people who are physically present discussing matters relevant to the meeting before it begins or after it has finished;
- automatically defaulting to those present and asking individuals who are joining remotely for their opinions last; and
- using equipment in the room that those attending remotely cannot see (such as a whiteboard) - instead load the activity onto a laptop and share the screen.
7. Do not be afraid to delegate
You can delegate elements of the hybrid meeting to others, who can assist with the technology and admin during the meeting.
This approach can be particularly useful when the meeting's contents are complex, for instance where multiple individuals are presenting. Even something as simple as having someone else control slide decks can help the manager to focus on engaging with participants.
Delegation can also be a useful way to encourage participation from people who are reticent to contribute during hybrid meetings. For example, line managers holding regular hybrid meetings with their team could give everyone the opportunity to chair meetings throughout the year.
8. Remember duty to make reasonable adjustments
You need to bear in mind that organisations are required to make reasonable adjustments for staff with a disability.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments extends to all aspects of employment, so that includes the way in which meetings are conducted. It is important to understand that:
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- the definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010 includes non-visible disabilities, such as mental health conditions; and
- the duty is placed firmly on the employer, not the employee, so line managing an employee who has a disability involves actively thinking about how to support them.
Adjustments are not necessarily complex or expensive. For example, the employment tribunal in Hayes v Rendall & Rittner Ltd held that allowing an employee to participate in a disciplinary hearing by telephone, rather than via Teams, would have been a "simple, inexpensive and timely" adjustment that allowed him to put forward his case.