Embracing hybrid work culture and choosing to hire remote employees can have a major impact on your company's culture and its bottom line. A Stanford studied calculated that positions filled with remote employees experience up to 50 percent less turnover than their in-office counterparts. Additionally, utilizing smaller offices helps cut down on costs and reduce your company's spend. For example, American Express found that they save $10 to $15 million every year from reduced real estate expenditures alone.
There are challenges, however, to having a remote workforce. According to recent surveys, the main problems remote employees face are loneliness and collaboration issues. That's why you need to take extra steps to ensure that all of your employees -- remote and in-office -- feel included and engaged.
Here are some tips for running productive, inclusive meetings that will make your remote workers feel in sync with the in-office team.
Email or use your favorite scheduling software to disperse important agenda topics before your meeting. Meetings are most productive when they're organized and designed to stay on track. Letting everybody know the main discussion points will have them better prepared to contribute. Try to send out the meeting agenda 24 hours in advance so participants have enough time to prepare.
To ensure each team member has the chance to speak, use a meeting facilitator. This person is responsible for guiding the conversation and making sure the meeting stays on track, according to the agenda. The facilitator creates an environment where all participants, in-person or remote, feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions, even if they differ from the general consensus.
If your remote employees are important enough to be attending your meetings, they are important enough to have their presence not only acknowledged but fully included. Have a check-in round before getting into your agenda to recognize each of your workers, remote and otherwise, and bring up in any initial concerns.
This is a great time for some office socializing before delving into business topics. Your remote employees may be starved for this co-worker interaction since they are normally working by themselves throughout the week.
Some people may have feelings of anxiety about speaking up in a meeting where they aren't physically present. Remote workers are not able to pick up on normal body language and social cues as well as those who are in a traditional meeting.
This could mean that valuable input could be withheld. To avoid this, pause the meeting periodically and solicit opinions from your remote participants. This shows them that their thoughts are valued and keeps them more engaged throughout the meeting.
Controlling the flow of discussion in a meeting is imperative to using time productively and letting everybody have their individual space for conversation. Normally, the most aggressive people will dominate the conversation. This could especially affect remote participants, as they may be less confident about their place in the company than those who are in the office every day, interacting face-to-face with management.
Additionally, many audio technologies automatically mute remote participants, making it hard for them to interject during the conversation. This is why the leader of the meeting needs to direct the flow efficiently. Don't allow interruptions or people talking over each other. Give each participant their individual space to foster real discussion. Additionally, give your remote workers avenues to get your attention, such as sending you a Slack message or "raising their hand" via your video conferencing software of choice.
If you're holding a brainstorming session, asking a question, or looking for feedback, provide enough time for meeting attendees to think. Give them some time to process, write down a few notes, and share their ideas with the group.
This is especially helpful for less vocal participants or those who might feel uncomfortable in speaking in front of groups — everyone gets a chance to share their thoughts and recommendations.
Put your remote participants in the thick of the action by positioning your meeting camera in a central location. Place it an area of your conference room where remote contributors can see the in-person attendees and feel involved at all times.
The most important aspect of remote meetings is consistently having clear audio. Nobody likes to repeat themselves multiple times when the audio cuts out.
Even if something terrible goes wrong and you lose the video output, you'll still be able to sufficiently communicate if the audio is transmitting properly. Use a video conferencing solution that provides the listener with an exceptionally clear audio feed.
Keep in mind that remote employees could be working in a different time zone than you. Take a little time to get to know these people on a more personal level.
Find out where they're located and if they have any scheduling preferences. You don't have to bend over backward to revolve the schedule around a specific person, but being generally accommodating when possible can go a long way to build rapport and loyalty.
Getting your team into a routine where they are attending meetings at specific times during the week can be comforting to those working remotely. The meetings themselves are more productive because each team member can prepare accordingly and won't be taken by surprise. This isn't to say you can't call impromptu meetings to discuss major, urgent issues, but keeping your regularly scheduled meetings at the same time will give your remote employees something to look forward to each week.
Meetings should encourage collaboration between peers, even if it involves a combination of both in-office and remote employees. For a hassle-free meeting with your team, try out the Meeting Owl Pro, a 360º video conferencing device that provides the audio, video, and speaker for your meetings. It was built specifically with the remote participant's experience in mind, so it's a great solution for anyone looking to encourage better remote-inclusive collaboration in their company.