The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed workplace practices. With many workplaces temporarily closed because of the strict lockdown measures in place, people must adapt to alternative ways of doing business. A high proportion of people are now working from home for the first time. The challenge for employers is to make the transition from office to ‘home office’ as smooth as possible. They also need to maintain productivity and protect staff morale.
Part of this new working environment is the recent upsurge in video conferencing. It helps to keep team members connected while ensuring that disruption is kept to a minimum. Virtual meetings can take a little time to get used to, but they can be productive with a bit of planning.
Running an Effective Virtual Meeting
Tempting as it might be to adopt a more relaxed approach when working from home, pre-planning is essential when hosting meetings remotely. Proper preparation will make a successful meeting far more likely and will help all participants to maintain professional standards of conduct. Below you’ll find some practical tips on running a virtual meeting effectively during the lockdown.
First, use a secure video conferencing application so that all participants feel as if they are in the same room. To minimise disruption, it’s important to set up and test the technology beforehand. Make sure that the camera/video link, Wi-Fi and screen sharing facilities are fully functional.
Meeting participants should use laptops or desktop computers rather than handheld devices such as smartphones or tablets. It will make note-taking easier and keep webcam images stable.
Facial expressions and body language are important aspects of communication. To make the meeting more natural, sit close to the webcam, set it to eye level and use a good quality microphone.
While it’s bound to be strange at first, establishing a proper working environment will help you hold an effective virtual meeting. Team members should try to find a quiet space where noise and distractions will be kept to a minimum. While it may seem natural when working remotely to keep mobile phones switched on or have music playing in the background, this should be avoided.
As with any workplace meeting, all participants should be properly introduced and the agenda set. Keep presentations short and concise, and discussions should be well-structured and courteous. To make sure that everyone feels able to take part, set some time aside to ask for individual responses to the topics under discussion.
Remember that people are getting used to remote working and may experience higher stress levels than they usually would. Extend the usual courtesies to meeting participants and try to put everyone at ease.
Every meeting needs a clear set of objectives to be effective. If team members are working from home, then setting out next steps, tasks and due-dates is even more critical. Make sure that everyone has a clear breakdown of their individual remits and remember to set a clear schedule for the week ahead. Structure is all-important when running a virtual workplace, and effective planning for the next meeting will ensure that everyone knows what their responsibilities are.
However well-prepared a virtual meeting is, technical issues are impossible to avoid altogether. The effectiveness of any virtual meeting depends on the cooperation of participants and the quality of technology being used. With businesses now dependent on remote working, having robust IT support in place will help to ensure that things go smoothly. It can also be invaluable if technical problems arise.