Most of us have just passed a significant milestone – the year anniversary of working from home. This anniversary is a key moment for businesses, as it’s clear there is a permanent and ever-evolving shift in how we work.
As we pass this milestone and process the huge change that comes with it, it’s business imperative to be intentional about how to approach this new chapter.
If neglected, leaders risk negatively impacting employee engagement, with a direct correlation to performance and results.
Businesses must be considerate in their approach, examine their rituals and habits, and use meetings strategically to deliver positive change.
How we work is not the only thing that’s changed
With the new shift to remote work, employees sit working longer than ever before. An overwhelming 87% of employees are working late – 455 hours every year, compared to 242 hours in 2019. It’s easy to burn out when you consider the lack of boundaries between work and home and these increased hours.
Plus, many are feeling invisible without physical presence and recognition.
Gone are the water cooler chats where employees from different departments and levels could casually engage in a low-stakes environment. High fives in the hallway after a meeting or successful launch have all moved to a virtual space.
Now, interactions must be coordinated and planned, increasing the stakes of these interactions and adding a level of formality to work. If proactive measures aren’t taken to reimagine the employee experience and engagement, businesses risk low morale and a loss of productivity.
How can leaders support their teams?
In this new environment, how can leaders support their teams in getting the most important work done, in less time, with less stress?
It requires leaders to take an intentional approach – clarifying strategic priorities and making the most of virtual meetings.
More than ever before, teams need clarity of business priorities and who is doing what by when. We can no longer put that up on a wall somewhere and expect it to suffice, so virtual gatherings and shared documentation act as a forum for this communication. Leaders must role model this behavior.
Here are a few tactical tips.
Clarify business priorities
Be clear about business priorities from the executive level down, across meetings large and small.
One tactic that can be exceptionally clarifying is also articulating good ideas that the company has explicitly decided NOT to pursue. This demonstrates discipline, clarity, and encourages your team to set and keep boundaries.
At a leadership level, encourage employees to value thoughtful pauses, space, and flexibility. Maybe even consider hours dedicated for meetings vs no meeting zones. Make it easy for everyone to follow suit.
Architect thoughtful meetings
With all interactions transformed into scheduled meeting time, a significant portion of employees’ experience at work is through a virtual meeting portal.
Leads should consider themselves designers of this scheduled, shared time. What is the ideal meeting experience? How can their “customers”- in this case, their teammates – get the most out of this interaction?
Set the agenda
A little bit of pre-planning goes a long way when it comes to a successful meeting. As the facilitator, be clear on the goals, and just as clear about non-goals of the meeting to keep the group focused.
Be transparent on the meeting’s purpose – is it a brainstorm, update, or decision meeting?
Share these goals, intentions, and agenda in advance to give your participants the opportunity to contribute, or even just prepare their thoughts. You should see a more equal distribution of participation.
The first step in participation is ensuring the right attendees. If it’s a decision-making meeting, ensure the decision-maker can be in attendance, and they know they are the decision-maker. I’ve found these meetings are often best with fewer than a dozen attendees.
On the other hand, if it’s a brainstorming meeting, you can include more people and encourage a broad set of diverse ideas.
Interactivity, whether that be upvoting questions, submitting tasks live, or co-editing slides, can all be helpful when it comes to putting attendees on equal footing.
Think about how those in the meeting operate and design the meeting to suit that group – it doesn’t have to be a one size fits all approach.
For update meetings, I’ve seen how virtual all-hands meetings have led to some increased participation. For example, the Q&A has been more robust and diverse.
With tools facilitating the questions, we’re able to not only see them submitted throughout the meeting, but we can also answer the questions relevant to the most people, not simply those who have the most courage to speak up.
We know that employees crave recognition and a sense of belonging, so companies need to find ways like this to make everyone feel seen.
The end of a meeting is just as important as the beginning. In the end, dedicate time to recap what was accomplished in the meeting and what was decided. Ensure next steps and action items are clear, each with owners and ideally, a timeline.
These tips will also help to facilitate in an inclusive manner, a skill that is growing in importance for leaders. Companies will need to invest in training to equip leaders of all levels with the skills to be able to facilitate diverse inputs.
The move to virtual meetings, combined with the extra pressures felt by employees in this world, such as imposter syndrome, means that when it comes to extracting the best ideas, the solutions rely on the facilitator.
In time, it will become obvious which businesses made the decision to consciously address the changing world of work, rather than just expecting employees to muddle through on their own. The ability of businesses to retain and engage talent will be a clear marker of this.
Strategic use of virtual meetings offers a solution to this problem, so think deliberately about how you can use them to your advantage and bring back the magic.
This article has been written by Katie Guzman, Product Management Lead at Asana. Katie is also featured in our upcoming Trend Report ‘The Online Meeting Revolution’.
Katie is also featured in our Trend Report ‘The Online Meeting Revolution’.
In the report, you’ll discover the latest research and trends in online and hybrid meetings and pick up plenty of actionable tips for your next meeting.