How to Run Meetings with Remote Employees
Advancements in technology have made the world a much smaller place, leading firms to create more global offices, remote teams, and therefore, hold more remote meetings.
If you’re a manager, I’m sure you’ve had to schedule and operate some variation of a remote meeting at some point. If you have, I’m even more sure that you’re aware of the challenges this process entails, such as disengaged workers, long run times, unclear communication, and so on.
If done effectively, however, remote meetings can be productive and efficient. Here are a few ways to run smooth and well-organized meetings with remote teams:
1. Don’t include everyone.
The number one reason why workers feel disengaged during remote meetings is simply because their presence is not required at the meeting. Instead of involving every employee at every meeting, it is important to identify which of your employees are essential and which are non-essential for each meeting. Time is the most precious commodity in the business world and by involving workers in a meeting who have no real reason to be there, you’re just wasting your and your workers’ time– time that they could spend getting important things done and being productive.
2. Create a collaborative agenda.
This should go for any meeting, but it is especially important to have an agenda for your remote meetings. Make sure that this agenda is known to your workers and that you get them to contribute to it. An agenda will help keep the discussion on track, while also giving your employees a voice.
3. Have local employees engage remotely in meetings, along with their remote co-workers.
This may seem like a pretty radical idea, but hear me out: if you work in a hybrid (part local and part remote) office, having your non-remote workers engage in the meeting from their desktops can be a great way to level the playing field, so to speak.
Remote workers often feel as though their voices go unheard; however, if everyone (irrespective of location) dials in from their respective devices, you’ll end up having a far more equal meeting where everyone feels important and essential. This will lead them to be more engaged during the meeting. This method works logistically and can prove to be far more time-effective as well.
4. Utilize tools to improve communication.
Using screen-sharing tools and online chat interfaces like Skype, you can replicate a real-life interaction to as close a degree as possible. I’m sure you’re aware of the more popular tools for these jobs, but here are a few lesser-known but equally (if not more) effective software:
- Join.me: fast video chatting with screen-sharing
- Zoom.us: meetings, webinars for over 100 employees at a time
- Appear.in: permanent video chat-room where people can join in/out anytime
5. Make sure that your remote employees are fairly represented in meetings, despite not physically being there.
Elect a representative for your remote teams to voice their opinions and concerns. This helps some of the more reserved workers to open up and voice their feelings without scrutiny. Having just one speaker per team can also help save time in meetings. Additionally, a remote representative can also help bypass issues that may come with remote workers not being fluent in your language. For example, if your remote team operates out of China and a lot of them aren’t fluent in English, it can be more comfortable and easier for them to report their concerns to an English speaking, Chinese representative who can then carry their opinions to you.
Conducting a productive meeting with remote employees may seem like a fool’s errand to some, however, with a few simple steps, you can make remote meetings just as successful as your local ones.