COVID-19 has had the world spinning the other way around. All the rules, regulations, and schedules that we created and abided by for so long have suddenly changed. Especially when it comes to work, leading to overcommunication and lack of productivity in some cases. In this article, we’re sharing tips on productive work from home meetings.
In offices, we had the option to have a stand-in meeting. At co-working spaces, we would book a meeting room for a set amount of time. Either way, we’d stick to a schedule and our meetings would not barge into our daily to-do or impact our productivity levels.
But now that everyone is working from home, over-communicating has become a thing.
While keeping in touch with your team members is important and brainstorming sessions are equally critical, so is running an effecting meeting while working remotely.
Imagine getting up all energized and then being called on Zoom for a meeting.
You think it’s going to take about 30 minutes of your time and then you could use all your energy to wrap up the remaining tasks for the week.
But then, the meeting lasts for 2 hours. By the time you’re done, you are obviously not as energetic as you woke up.
So instead of being able to wrap up all your work, you end up doing a few things here and there, feeling completely unproductive.
We’ve been there, done that and know how that feels. No matter what your role in a company is, having productive work from home meetings is important.
Now you can’t do much about a few things like a bad internet connection at different points of time for different participants, lack of meeting space at home or inadvertent dropouts in the middle of the meetings. But you can make sure you’re foolproofing at least the things that are in your hands for productive work from home meeting.
Tips for hosting productive virtual meetings while working from home
Step 1: Create a defined agenda for the meeting and let the participants know
The best of meetings, even if scheduled and coordinated on time, fail due to the lack of clarity on what needs to be discussed. Before making sure that the time and duration of the meeting is clear to the attendees, and that they can come together on one channel on the designated time without wasting any productive hours, you have to make sure that you have a set agenda for the meeting.
Many times, the meetings start with no specific agenda in mind and with a few generic pointers in hand. As a result, it stretches for hours, wasting a lot of time and not even reaching any coherent conclusion.
This can be avoided if there are clear agendas charted out beforehand and sent to all the calendar invitees on their mail. Once they will have in hand (figuratively) the pointers that need to be discussed, there will be less room for deviation and they can be prepared too.
Meeting agendas are extremely important. Know that you cannot discuss everything in a few limited hours. Not only would a lot of information not get processed, but also its effect can get diluted, thus defeating the purpose of a productive work from home meeting.
It’s better to have periodic meetings with separate agendas and fruitful results, than have one meeting with multiple agendas and utter chaos.
Step 2: Include only the core stakeholders needed for the meeting agenda
Once you have a clear agenda set, the next step is to identify who you absolutely need to be on the call with. Only, and only invite the stakeholders, i.e. the people who can either benefit from or contribute towards the meeting agenda.
There is no point involving the entire chunk of office if the meeting agenda is not relevant to them.
A work from home meeting is not only productive if the agenda is clear, but also if it is attended by the relevant people. Irrelevant people or the ones from the other department who have no say in the agenda will only either add on to the confusion, or have their own time wasted in trying to comprehend what is going on.
For productive work from home meetings, understand both; the people (involved) and the product (the agenda). A perfect combination of both will ensure that your meeting goes on smoothly and has satisfactory results by the end of it.
Clear actionables for those who will put them in action is way more important than trying to get everyone online!
Step 3: Set up a calendar invite and automatic reminders for the meeting
This is perhaps one of the most interesting and useful inventions ever made. Yet also one that often skips the list of planning a meeting.
Calendar invites ensure that you can send notifications to multiple people at once. And depending on the settings of their device (phone, laptop, etc.), they will have the work from home meeting schedule saved. This is similar to an alarm!
Whenever there is a meeting, send out a calendar invite well in advance. This will make sure that you do not have to personally be involved in handing out reminders on your team chat. Everything will be automated.
With timely reminders, you’ll have all the participants joining the meeting on time. This leaves low to no room for wasting time waiting for someone to join in because they ‘forgot’ there was a meeting they had to attend.
Now considering how everyone is working from home right now and having so many distractions around, it’s normal for a meeting to skip someone’s mind.
When the start is clutter-free and clear, the rest will go smoothly too. This applies to all the facets of personal and professional life, including work from home meetings.
Step 4: Setup additional meeting reminders on your team chat
Nearly all the devices have their in-built snooze and reminder mechanisms. But that doesn’t mean the work is done after sending out a calendar invite. Not everyone is technologically savvy. It cannot be assumed that there will be reminders ringing for everyone involved in the meeting, at the set time, for them to come rushing forth for the meeting.
But the one thing you do know is that the participants will be using the team chat for collaboration. So use that channel to remind them of the meeting that is scheduled. When doing wfh, its a good idea to have redundant notifications in the form of a calendar reminder as well as on your collaboration tool like Slack
For instance, if you’re using Slack, you can set up a reminder for all the participants in a specific channel. All you need to do is let the bot know when. So instead of you dropping messages to remind the participants of the call you’re about to have, you let the bot do the job for you!
Productive work from home meetings are not easy. You have to think about all the possibilities and foolproof every aspect – especially the time.
Not using a team chat yet? Slack vs Microsoft Teams: Choosing the right team chat for collaboration.
Step 5: Make sure you document the minutes of the meeting
Recording of the minutes of the meeting is one important task which many either forget or think is not quite important. Wrong!
When there are humans involved, you have to take into consideration certain human errors. Someone will inevitably fail to understand certain points or sometimes even purposely misconstrue what was said in the meeting. There is also a possibility of forgetting a few points after the meeting is done. Therefore having things in writing helps bring everyone to the same page and also creates an archive of the decisions taken during the meeting.
It is not always possible to go back and reiterate, especially on video calls. When you are trying to have productive work from home meetings, the best way is to have a dedicated resource to record the minutes of the meeting and not the host do this themselves.
This can either be done by way of recording the meeting and jotting the points down later. Or the note-taking can be done simultaneously. Either way, make sure that at the end of the day, the minutes of the meeting are emailed to the attendees.
Minutes of the meeting make sure that the understanding of the agenda is crystal clear, with no room for doubt or confusion; at least it can bring it down to the lowest level. If there is any room for error even after that, it can be cleared up by having one-on-one calls. You can further add actionables for each of the participants clearly in the notes. This way the attendees know what they are supposed to focus on.
But make no mistake, marking the minutes is an essential activity in order to make sure that the work from home meeting you had was a productive one.
Not sure how to structure a minutes of meeting document? Get a template here.
Step 6: Follow up the meeting agenda to track progress
How would you know that the meeting had a fruitful impact? This is the real test of how productive the work from home meeting has been.
You can create questionnaires at the time of creating the agenda for the meeting because the two are related. However, you can take a call on how much time you need to give to the meeting attendees, to see the points discussed coming into effect. After all, meetings are only words until any action is taken on them.
If this step is not happening effectively, then no matter how good all the previous steps have been, your work from home meeting has not been productive. Productivity can only be visible through results, or at least a glimpse of its start. That can only be done if you follow-up.
Decide what is the buffer time for the decisions taken in the meeting. Send out follow-up emails after a certain time to check progress on the same. It also keeps the participants driven to achieve the goals. So that they can show the progress they have made by the next meeting!
Step 7: Switch on your video
Before Zoom became a verb, we used to call it ‘video conferencing’. Webex, Goto Meeting and the other tools were janky and the video would freeze every now and then. Now that Zoom is our new favorite tool with great video capabilities, you would imagine that everyone is doing a “Video” virtual meeting but that would not be entirely correct.
Fewer than a third of “video” calls in US have the videos actually switched on while the world over this number is close to two-thirds. So despite adopting Zoom, most people are still doing teleconferencing and not video conferencing.
We are still not used to switching on the video while doing a wfh meeting but it is really helpful in building rapport. It is easier to disagree when you are just hearing a voice than when you are seeing the other people.
This does not mean that you have to now worry about looking your best or cleaning up your room before doing the meeting. You dont even need to worry about kids dropping into the video or your cat walking across your face. Why? Becuase we are all in this together and by switching on the video you are bringing your true-self to the virtual meeting rather than trying to maintain the facade that we had built infront of our colleagues over the years.
Hopefully, by doing these virtual meetings with videos, we would all come closer together while doing social distancing. We will get to know each other more intimately, building a healthier team chemistry while also getting work done remotely.
As well all sit in lockdowns, it is important to keep your remote team motivated. So ensure you’re doing your bit in keeping them productive and engaged by switching on your video and everyone will follow suit.
A few things that we follow in our team, includes holding meetings only when it is really necessary. If it is something that you can discuss over team chat or on email, do that. Meetings should be strictly reserved for communication that needs more interaction. Or brainstorming sessions to strategize and set goals for the time ahead.
How do you make sure you’re having productive work from home meetings? We’d love to get more tips to improve our own approach and learn from you.
Is this the first time your team is working from home? Read the Complete Guide to Remote Working to learn best practices and the tools you need.
Looking for resources that could help you set up a productive remote working team? Get them here.