Best Practices for Managing Remote Meetings and Remote Teams

Best Practices for Managing Remote Meetings and Remote Teams

Remote work has become the new normal, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  It’s likely that this forced “remote work experiment” will result in long-term changes in perception about remote work and its effectiveness.

In the meantime, here are some best practices for managing meetings and remote workers for your consideration.

1. General suggestions for all meetings

  • If you have a choice, always choose the richer medium (face-to-face, then video, then audio conferencing in descending order) to build deeper connections.
  • Start on time! Meetings can be 50% less productive when started late. Note that this can be culturally dependent. Frustration begins after 5-10 minutes in the U.S., 8 minutes in Italy, and 4 minutes in China. 
  • In advance of a meeting, provide the agenda, background info, and other relevant documents. Articulate clear expectations for review of the materials sent out in advance.
  • Using an agenda effectively is more important than just having one. To be effective:
    • Publish the agenda in advance so attendees can provide input and status updates
    • Stick to the agenda during the meeting
    • Strive to get status updates ahead of time so the meeting time can be used for discussion
  • Meeting notes:
    • Assign a scribe to take notes (not the person leading the meeting)
    • Include decisions made, and discussions held
    • Outline next steps (short-term and long-term)
    • List action items with responsibility assigned and deadlines
    • Publish notes within 24 hours after the meeting (faster is better)
  • Summarize decisions, action items, and timelines at the end of the meeting
  • Meeting length should take into account people’s physical needs. If long meetings are needed, build in breaks every hour

2. When meetings are a mix of on-site and remote attendees

  • Make sure audio picks up everyone in the room so remote participants can hear everyone
  • When a topic is brought up, let remote attendees respond first, then go to people in the room
  • Include the entire team in meetings where decisions are made; don’t just “fill in the remote worker” after the fact. Do not make last-minute decisions that leave people out.
  • Consider making a rule: If one worker is remote, then everyone is remote to the meeting. Have everyone attend by video at their desk, instead of having a combination of some people gathered in a conference room and other people joining from their computer remotely. This policy helps to avoid the following pain points:
    • If remote meeting members want to raise a point or ask a question, it can be difficult to gracefully interrupt
    • Remote attendees may feel left out of the joke when something funny happens in the conference room and the group gathered there laughs
    • Difficulty in hearing people who talk quietly or those who are far from the microphone.
    • Video delay can create different experiences for those in a conference room and those who are remote

3. When everyone in the meeting is remote

  • You need a communications strategy to make sure that nothing is dropped. This could include things like:
    • Keep normal meetings going (just change them from face-to-face). Keep having regular stand-up and status meetings.
    • Check in with your team regularly (morning or evening check-ins are a great idea)
    • Managers can have “office hours” and leave their video window open for pop-in visits during that time
  • Make sure to include time at the beginning and end of meetings for people to connect and have casual, personal conversations. This will maintain (or create) connections and reduce feelings of isolation.
  • Be sure to recognize accomplishments and make them public
  • Provide updates on what’s going on with your company overall
  • Get input from everyone in the meeting. Call on people by name, or give them an assignment to cover during the meeting. Make sure to call on the person who stays muted the entire time.
  • Offer multiple ways to provide input—chat, talking, etc.
  • Stop at regular intervals to let others provide input (allow longer period of silence than you might ordinarily in person)
  • Recognize that many people don’t have ideal remote working conditions. Encourage them to introduce children or pets to the team, when appropriate. 

Managing a team remotely

  • You need a communications strategy to make sure that nothing is dropped. This could include things like:
    • Keep normal meetings going (just change them from face-to-face). Keep having regular standup and status meetings.
    • Check in with your team regularly. Morning or evening check-ins are a great idea to provide support, answer questions, and facilitate bonding.
    • Consider establishing “office hours” where you leave your video window open for pop-in visits during that time.
    • Provide continual feedback on group and individual progress and shortcomings.
    • Encourage your team to make an effort to provide context for their behavior. For example, let the team know when you are close to a deadline, so they understand why you aren’t engaging with them or only giving brief responses. 
  • Create “rules of engagement” for your team that address communication. For example, use chat for urgent communications, email or a team collaboration tool if it’s not urgent, and use video for complex or difficult topics.
  • Make sure to include time at the beginning and end of meetings for people to connect and have casual, personal conversations. This will maintain (or create) connections and reduce feelings of isolation.

 

  • Be sure to recognize accomplishments and make them public
  • Provide updates on what’s going on with your company overall
  • Get input from everyone in the meeting. Call on people by name, or give them an assignment to cover during the meeting. Make sure to call on the person who stays muted the entire time.
  • Offer multiple ways to provide input, such as chat, talking, etc.
  • Stop at regular intervals to let others provide input, and allow a longer period of silence than you might ordinarily in person for people to respond.
  • Recognize that many people don’t have ideal remote working conditions. Encourage them to introduce children or pets to the team, when appropriate. Make it comfortable for them, regardless of their working environment.

 

  • Remind your team that written communications such as chat and email can be misinterpreted. One person can see a communication as an argument, while someone else sees the same thing as a discussion. Keep this in mind and always assume the other person has positive intent. Don’t jump to conclusions!

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