There are people who work better when they’re in the structured surroundings of an office space, and there are those who thrive more when they’re alone working from home. There are also those who can juggle the two without a problem. If you’re a manager, a supervisor, a company owner or anyone who leads a team, you have to be comfortable with the situation, whether you’re in the office or at home.
As companies keep adjusting to the new situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve had to protect their employees from exposure by having them set up their own office space, most of which are in the comfort and protection of their home. But while physical contact has been severely limited, collaborations have not completely taken a backseat, thanks to technology. However, it does come with some caveats.
Today, instead of calling your employees to the meeting room or to your office for a face-to-face, you send out an invitation to a video conference. This should be ideal and productive, right? It should be the virtual answer to the physical restrictions that have postponed many company meetings, client conversations, hiring interviews and many more interactions that have become impossible in these times.
It should be, but for many companies and department heads, finding out that it isn’t — that it doesn’t compare to an office space reserved for meetings — is frustrating at best, counterproductive and even destructive at worst.
If you don’t know what this means, think back to the last time you joined a virtual meeting. Was everyone participating, or was one person dominating the meeting and everybody seemed to be pretending they were still part of the conversation while multitasking? Sometimes, two people would be having a debate about something, and the rest are simply heads in front of laptop cameras.
Virtual meetings don’t have to be like this. You can make them better. Here are some tips on how to successfully hold virtual meetings instead of wasting time and becoming increasingly frustrated, pining for the days when you had your office space.
Choose an App
To run a successful virtual meeting, you need an app that offers all the features you need. It’s a good idea to do your research first. You can also use your chat app to brainstorm with a few key members about the apps that you can consider. (Your chat app of choice might have a video conferencing feature that should be enough for your needs.)
There are many apps you can use for virtual meetings, and some of them are better than others depending on your needs, the size of your team, how many are typically involved in meetings, your budget and the software/hardware ecosystem that you’re comfortable with. For example, if you use mostly the G Suite by Google, Google Meet should be a good place to start. There are other popular options too, like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack and Skype. If you’ve had success before with the one you used in your office space, everyone may be more comfortable sticking with that.
Send Invitations Only to Key People
Don’t invite everyone to your virtual meeting. Get only the key people involved. If they have to, they can hold their own small-group virtual meetings to cascade to their own teams what you discussed in the previous meeting. Keeping the virtual meeting within a smaller circle prevents wasting time just trying to get everyone to chime in.
Keep Meetings Short
Meetings are notorious for wasting time that could otherwise be used finishing tasks. For many companies, it’s common for meetings to last for an hour or even longer, with very little productivity to show for it. That’s because in many cases, half the time is spent chatting with officemates, especially when they’re waiting for somebody who, for some reason, is always late. And also because too many people are invited and half of them don’t really have to be there.
Many companies have decided to change the game by limiting meetings to five minutes or even less, and only inviting those who are directly involved in the agenda. They don’t even have to be in a specific office. They can have a meeting while walking from one location to another in their building or floor, helping them achieve more in less time.
The same should be true for your virtual meetings: short and agenda-driven. Dedicate only a few minutes to each topic, and get to the point as quickly as possible. Remember that not everyone is comfortable looking at a camera and a screen instead of being face to face with other people. Keeping your meetings short and sticking to your agenda can help them get over the discomfort.
Break the Ice
Though you have to keep meetings short and agenda-driven, breaking the ice for one or two minutes might also work to put everyone at ease. It’s easy for something like this to turn into a long chit-chat, though, so be careful. It’s probably enough to ask your people how they’re doing. However, if you have a big group, you can skip the icebreaker and go straight to the first topic.
Call on Participants
Around a table, it’s easier to recognize visual cues so that everyone knows when it’s fine to talk. During a virtual meeting, it’s not as easy to spot the visual cues. The trick is to call on every participant to allow them to talk. Participants can also raise a hand near their face if they have something to say. There are even apps that allow participants to raise a virtual hand.
While you may not be able to hold meetings the way you used to, it’s not impossible to make your virtual meetings almost as successful. Over time, you’ll get used to it and get better with every meeting.
If you need office space, get in touch with Connecticut Business Centers. Call us today at (203) 359-5600 or use our Contact Us page. We offer offices in Stamford, CT, and in other locations around Connecticut.