Today’s business landscape has undoubtedly made a radical shift over the last six months. With the rise of virtual workplaces, so came the rise of virtual meetings. Before people could comfortably settle into their work-from-home routines, the term “Zoom fatigue” was born. Zoom fatigue, otherwise known as the feeling of drain people feel when on a video call, impacts workplace productivity and decreases employee morale.
In addition to moving to virtual meetings internally, Propel recently conducted a meeting effectiveness assessment as part of an overall project review. This assessment involved participating in 28 hours of virtual meetings and workshops to identify opportunities for improvement. As a result, we have four tips to help your teams make the most out of virtual meetings.
1. Publish Agendas in Advance with Clearly-Outlined Objectives
Nobody wants to spend time in a meeting when the task can be handled in an email. To limit the instances of unnecessary meetings, it is important to foster good meeting hygiene; we recommend starting with a robust agenda.
By developing agendas in advance meeting facilitators will be required to plan key meeting elements in advance:
- Meeting objectives – What is your “so what” for hosting this meeting? Make this clear for all participants so they know what is expected of them.
- Time parameters for each topic – To avoid going down rabbit-holes on certain topics, outline the time you’d like to spend covering each element on your agenda. This exercise will prompt several questions, including:
- Do you have the right people in the meeting to make the decisions you need within the outlined time frame? Consider RACI when determining who needs to be involved in your meeting.
- Is the meeting a suitable length of time given the topics that need to be covered? Note that you will lose your participants’ focus and concentration if the meeting is longer than 1 hour, so keep this in mind when scheduling the meeting.
- Do you have enough content to host a meeting, or can this be addressed by a phone call or email?
- Breaks – Build in time for breaks to maximize overall focus. Breaks provide participants with the opportunity to take their eyes off the screen and step away from the meeting without feeling like information is being missed. Knowing there is a break planned into the meeting will relieve any worry from participants about when they will be able to step away.
Based on the rule of thumb, all participants should be sent agendas ahead of each meeting.
2. Turn Videos on to Maximize Focus and Team Connection
The virtual workplace has created a barrier to forming workplace connections. This, paired with the physical-distancing requirements, has compounded the need for relationship-building in the workplace. Relationships and interpersonal connections are critical to every company’s culture. It is important to remove any barriers to keep cultures thriving despite the distance. To maximize meeting engagement, participants are encouraged to turn their videos on; this will help participants feel more connected to the team and have higher engagement levels in the content being discussed in the meeting. In addition, this will eliminate the need for side-conversations that take place after meetings to clarify takeaways and discussion points.
3. Add Buffer Times Between Meetings
With all meetings conveniently hosted on your computer screen, the travel time between meetings has been eliminated. Nevertheless, participants require buffer time to mentally shift from one meeting topic to another. If the meeting is set to end at a certain time, adding 15 minutes of buffer time at the end of the meeting booking will allow participants to avoid getting overbooked. Note that this time is not a “catch all” for your meeting running overtime! Part of this requires meeting hosts to stay disciplined about ending the meeting at the scheduled time and not eating into buffer time.
4. Recap Takeaways and Action Items
One component often overlooked in meetings is recording minutes and action items. Generally, all meeting attendees have good note-taking habits. However, meeting facilitators should designate a minute-taker to recap any key discussion points or required break-out sessions. If your meeting requires input from different stakeholders, action items should be sent to all participants, and any ‘informed’ parties after the meeting has ended. This will make sure everyone on the meeting is aligned and working towards the same objectives. When sending a recap of action items, be sure to include:
- What the action item/takeaway is. Provide a brief description of the item to provide participants with context to jog their memories.
- Who the owner is, and anyone else that may be required to provide input on this deliverable.
- When the action item is due.
- The priority of the item (high, medium, low). This will allow the owner of the task to prioritize the takeaway within their own list of to-do’s, and relieve any stress caused by competing priorities and deadlines.
At Propel, we commit ourselves to ensuring that companies thrive in this new normal. We are always on the lookout for new ways to improve workplace productivity and are curious to know what’s been working for you and your teams!
Let us know what’s been working for you below!