Because I live my work life in remote meetings, it’s easy for me to fail to understand what it’s like for office-based colleagues. And the reverse is also true.
A large team I worked with recently were half head-office-based, half remote-based (mainly working from home). In our workshop, they learned a lot about each other’s concerns and preferred ways of working.
By default, the home-based people were alone, able to crack on with their work. For them, online meetings provided valued social contact alongside their official purposes. But for the office-based people the default was different – their working lives were a constant hubbub of interruption and distraction. There was absolutely no shortage of social contact! They wanted meetings to get straight to the point.
Controversially, I suggested they consider holding team meetings in an all-remote format, to escape the many challenges of the “hybrid” format.
If you’re not familiar with those hybrid challenges, you’re probably office-based!
Try this. For a regular all-in-the-room meeting with your team, set up a room divider in the corner. Participants take it in turns to step behind the divider, so that they can hear the discussion, but not see the other people, or be seen. The fun challenge is to participate in the meeting from behind the divider. Notice what happens (and feel free to share your experiences in the “comments” area below.)
Typically, the out-of-the-group person will find it hard to stay focussed, hard to follow the flow of the conversation, and super-hard to speak without speaking over somebody else.
And, there are reasons that hybrid meetings persist, rather than being converted to fully-remote – even once the office-based people understand the issues.
For example, offices may not have enough quiet spaces for everyone to call into a fully-remote meeting. Office-based colleagues may not be able to call in from home for all kinds of practical reasons.
This team’s hybrid format stayed in place, at least for now. So I shared the following tips:
- Remote attendees are invited to speak first, not last
- Use both asynchronous AND synchronous communication
- Use chat or another backchannel
- Appoint a buddy in the room for each remote participant (connecting using chat)
- Facilitators track who participates, in a way that’s visible to all in-the-room participants.
Those come on top of the “obvious” ones: using the best-available technology, and designing your hybrid meetings for full engagement. More tips are here.
What else would you suggest? Please comment below.