Homeworking during the pandemic had its benefits for some of us (warm slippers, no commute) and its pitfalls (never switching off, homeschooling, too close to the biscuit tin).
But at least we were all in the same boat, right? Actually no. Many of our colleagues want or need to work onsite. As restrictions continue to ease, this dynamic will shift again, with some desperate to be in an office and others unable to risk it yet. What happens when the team is split? Do we still work effectively together?
Hybrid or ‘blended’ meetings are becoming increasingly common: where two or more team members are working together at one location and others join remotely. Everyone means well, but these can be a gauntlet of noisy backgrounds, disjointed exchanges and references to conversations you’ve missed.
At MoJ Digital & Technology we realise these meetings are not always great. Those joining remotely can be less visible and involved. This is not just a problem for them but for the team. What expertise is being wasted? What opportunities missed?
We started collecting some examples of good practice. This blog shares our favourites so far.
- Guidance and support from above
This is new to most of us. Senior leaders need to encourage working inclusively, remove barriers and try it out for themselves.
- An equal team
No team member should have lower priority, whether in the tools they can access or how decisions are made.
- Make meetings count
Teams need time working together and seeing each other - for their sanity and to work effectively. Agree together on what your team wants to work on ‘live’.
All for one and one for all
Even if only one of you is remote, meet as if everyone is remote. Ensure you can all share and contribute equally. It may sound obvious, but it does not happen! Some tips from our teams:
- Use the most common tools you all have, even if it is just a phone and a slide deck.
- On video calls, have every onsite team member dial in with their laptops and switch their cameras on. You are all equally seen and heard.
(And yes, you’ll need to use mute a lot if you’re next to a team member onsite; but it’s worth it.)
- No pointing at a screen please, we cannot see your finger.
- Avoid using physical aids like whiteboards or post-its. If everyone can’t see/read it at the same time it is not working.
Before a meeting
- Design your meeting
A presentation? An interactive workshop? Give your setup extra thought beforehand as it may take longer than whacking out a flip chart and post-its.
Also, to state the obvious, test the tech beforehand and have a backup.
- Plan gaps between meetings
Zoom fatigue is real! Aim to finish 5-10 minutes before the hour so that people have time to get ready for the next meeting. Everyone will thank you for this.
- The right location
If you are onsite try to find a quiet space for your call. If that’s not an option (hello trendy open-plan hotdesking) use headphones with a microphone. It also gives you better quality sound. Spare a thought for your colleagues nearby too and keep your volume in check.
- Pre-work / pre-reading
Ask yourself if any part of the session can be done asynchronously in advance. Then everyone is on the same page and you don’t miss anyone’s input while they try to catch up.
During a meeting
Some of this is basic online meeting etiquette but it is essential to hybrid meetings. When some people are onsite together it is natural to slip into old habits.
Use the hands up feature on tools like Microsoft Teams to show that you wish to speak, whether you are onsite or remote. Maybe nominate someone to keep an eye on this, and the chat window, to support your meeting chair/facilitator.
- Who’s who
Ensure everyone knows who is in the meeting at the start, and announce to remote participants when someone onsite enters or leaves the room.
- Make sure everyone can hear and be heard
This is the most important factor for making hybrid meetings work well.
If those onsite are sharing a laptop or phone then make sure it is always close to and facing whoever is speaking.
Will you have meetings like this a lot? Consider getting an external microphone or use a laptop each.
- Check-in and speak up
Onsite folks, check-in with remote colleagues from time to time during meetings. Remote participants, flag any issues immediately or if you need something to be repeated. Don’t wait, your colleagues aren’t psychic.
- Clarify and discuss
Work assignments should be very clearly described (more than before) and questions welcomed. This is an agile principle anyway, but remember it can be easier for team members onsite to get attention if there are questions.
These ideas may make your hybrid meetings better. However, they may also have benefits for teams where a colleague, for example:
- struggles with hearing or sight
- finds getting to certain meetings or events challenging for any reason
- prefers to absorb information alone before talking about it
What do YOU think?
Making our ways of working better for everyone is a shared responsibility and a great opportunity.We’ve made a start here but please add your comments below. What works, or doesn’t work, for your hybrid teams.
Interested in working with us in Digital & Technology? Take a look at our current open opportunities.