How to Have Better Hybrid Meetings

The mainstays of the pandemic - lockdown, WFH - are fast becoming a thing of the past. In many sectors, hybrid work is becoming the dominant model.

Navigating the world of hybrid work is no easy feat, as both employers and employees are finding out. A 2021 survey by Ibec revealed that 81% of companies were predicting some form of hybrid working arrangement following the pandemic. Google’s commitment to a hybrid policy is evidenced by the continued expansion of its campus in Dublin’s Silicon Docks or its $2.1B purchase of a New York building for a new office.

Given the hollowing out of physical commercial real estate during the pandemic, this move is no doubt prompted by the tech giant’s requirement that its workers be in-office for three days a week. 

It is clear, then, that hybrid is here to stay. Slack’s 2022 Future Forum Pulse survey showed that 58% of respondents are already working in a hybrid manner, up from 46% in May of the previous year. However, hybrid is still a work in progress, with many employees reporting that they find this set up more draining than fully remote or fully in-office models. Business psychologist Elora Voyles from Tinypulse says, “A predictable, consistent routine can help people cope with feelings of stress and uncertainty – especially during a pandemic. Hybrid, however, requires frequent changes to those daily habits: workers have to constantly switch things up, so it’s hard to find a routine when your schedule is always in-and-out the office.” 

One of the places where this lack of consistency shows up the most is in hybrid meetings. Conducting successful meetings in a hybrid environment, where some team members are together in a room, and others are dialling in remotely, can be challenging. So how can we streamline this process so we are running better meetings?

Do a Tech Check

All virtual meetings rely heavily on technology, so the first thing to attend to when running a hybrid meeting is to check your tech. This is particularly relevant for the in-office members, as remote workers are all well versed in jumping onto calls at this point. Do a test run 15 minutes before the meeting to make sure everything is running smoothly (pay particular attention to the audio quality), and ensure that everyone will be using the same platforms during the course of the meeting. 

One Screen per Face

Studies by the Society for Human Resource Management have shown that 70% of managers replied that remote workers are “more easily replaceable than onsite workers”, so naturally remote workers are concerned they will be overlooked in a hybrid setting. Encourage meeting equity by allocating one screen per face for every remote member attending. This can be done by using large monitors, or by projecting onto a bigger background. Giving remote workers a literal seat at the table by having life-sized avatars of each attendees face on an individual screen will reassure remote employees that they are on equal footing with their in-office colleagues.

Have One Person Running The Meeting

Giving oversight of the meeting to one designated person will not only make sure that the meeting runs smoothly and efficiently, but it will also create a controlled and reassuring environment for everyone present, whether remote or in-office. The facilitator should have the necessary training to manage this hybrid setting, and this should enable them to accurately read the “room” and keep all participants engaged. Encourage collaboration by offering opportunities for asking questions, clarifications and contributions. The meeting leader should pay special attention to remote team members who may feel removed or isolated from the team, and specifically ask them if there is anything they wish to contribute, as the nature of hybrid settings can often mean that in-person employees can dominate the discussion. This will ensure your remote employees know you support and trust them.

Invite only Necessary Attendees

Meetings are one of the most costly aspects of an organisation's operations. According to ReadyTalk, the average salary cost of a meeting is $338, while Atlassian reported that 47% of employees said that meetings were the number one source of time wasting. Therefore, for the benefit of your bottom line, meetings should only be attended by those whose valuable time is most wisely spent actually being at that meeting, be that remotely or in person. For anyone else, the meeting is a literal waste of time and money. 

What Meetings are Really Costing You
What Meetings are Really Costing You
Compounded cost of meetings
Compounded cost of meetings

Encourage For Feedback

Engage your staff by asking them if there’s anything about the hybrid meeting set up or running that could be improved. By listening to your staff and involving them in the process of having better meetings, it will foster an environment of collaborative leadership, which is one of the ways a hybrid model can emulate remote-first company cultures to ensure that all employees, regardless of where they are based, can thrive in this new scenario.