Despite having worked from home for the better part of four years now, I still feel I am learning how to handle team communication over the internet.
If you have a culture of meetings or need to set up meetings to get things done, here are some tips I have learned over the years.
Tip 1: Provide context and an agenda
This is a great meeting habit in general, remote or not. I can’t tell you how many meeting invites I get that are a title followed by a Microsoft Teams call link, and that is it.
At the very least, create an agenda, to provide an idea of what you are going to cover.
This is especially important in the remote space because many times, it is harder to communicate to everyone in a physical office that you are scheduling the meeting.
Tip 2: Show something on your screen
You are not in the same physical space. You might not have cameras on.
In this way, people who are visual people are basically lost in the darkness if you are not showing anything on the screen. Even just the agenda screen shared is helpful to give visual people talking points.
Showing a visual helps meetings go by so much faster and gets people to concentrate.
Tip 3: Publish notes with decisions and next steps somewhere
For posterity and to get feedback from people who do not like to speak during meetings, post your meeting notes.
This can include decisions made and the next steps that the team members have. Documenting is a great way to incite action and get feedback from people.
Try to include these meeting notes in places that are easily accessible for team members to access, like a Wiki (Confluence, etc.).
Tip 4: Focus on the people joining the call and make sure they can attend
This is a generally good meeting tip, but especially in a remote environment where you might send a meeting to a larger team, make it a point to check in on who accepted or declined a meeting.
At the very least, ensure that the people you truly need for the call are able to make it.
Tip 5: Encourage, but don’t enforce, cameras on
I like to have cameras on, but many people don’t.
If you are someone who likes to have cameras on, try putting yours on without requiring anybody else to do so. You will be surprised how many people also turn their cameras on in time.
Bonus tip: When working with new contacts or more senior leaders (or both!), try turning your camera on for the exposure, if nothing else! Cameras on is a good opportunity to put a face with a name, for association in the future.
Tip 6: Think about time zones when scheduling
In the remote workplace, consider the differing time zones of the people in the meeting.
Obviously, this is always true with resources around the world. Early morning calls with those on the other side of the world.
But, for more subtle scheduling, be wary of elements to a working day, such as childcare and lunch. Compare this with the time zone of the established time zone of the company.
Tip 7: Treat other meetings as you would treat your own
You don’t like multitasking during your meetings, right? You don’t like when people don’t accept your meetings.
Ensure that you handle other meetings as you would want handled to your own meetings!
Tip 8: Determine if this REALLY has to be a meeting at all
Is this a quick call with an individual?
Can it be handled in a chat (Teams, Slack, Google Chat, etc)?
Can you send pre-read materials or questions ahead of schedule, so that people may prepare or (better yet) answer your questions ahead of the meeting?
Think through other ways that work can get done, to avoid establishing a culture of TOO MANY meetings.