Remote meetings: Open-mindedness and willingness to experiment leads to better results

No, that won't work...

Thanks to the modernization and digitalization of teamwork in enterprises, the organizational and technological obstacles to remote work are lower than ever before.

Distributed project teams have been commonplace for quite some time now. More and more organizations are offering their employees the option to work remotely. So it is no longer a rarity to have colleagues who primarily work from home. At our company, there are several such colleagues, and I am one of them.

Despite the reduction in organizational and technological obstacles, from time to time, I still notice that old habits are hard to break. This is most apparent when it comes to meetings. In teams without "remote workers," I frequently come across concerns and reservations towards video meetings. "This meeting won't work remotely," "We'll be using the flip chart a lot," "No, it's too much extra work."

When I hear such objections, I make a case for a greater spirit of discovery. Be bold and give it a try! In the short and long term, we can only profit from this kind of open-mindedness.

Remote meetings do work

At //SEIBERT/MEDIA, remote work is no longer an exception. Other companies and teams that are affected by this shift have learned to adapt too. It didn't take much practice to get there. Now it's easy to prepare and hold all meetings in a remote-friendly way.

But I can also participate in larger meetings such as our AgileOrg Review from home. Even our Linchpin reviews are now accessible externally, which allows us to share our results with partners and customers directly.

Meetings without experienced remote workers are challenging

On the other hand, this can be entirely different when it comes to overarching meetings with colleagues who have no experience of working remotely. In such cases, I still notice that there are certain doubts and sometimes disfavour towards opening up meetings.

There are multiple reasons for this. On the one hand, not all participants are familiar with the infrastructure and have little experience with adding participants via video. On the other hand, people shy away from the effort and worry that the meeting will blow out of proportion. And yes, some formats aren't well-suited for remote participants (for example, conceptional work with large flip charts).

Nonetheless, I would like to take part! And I am sure that some other remote workers in different companies and teams would like to as well.

Learn and do better next time

I've been working remotely for four years now, and I have experienced many kinds of meetings and many types of meeting participants in that time.  Not all of them went well. Many meetings only began to improve after several attempts – and now most of them are as though I were in the room.

A recent example is our Inspect & Adapt meeting in the Linchpin universe. I could only participate in parts of the first meeting, by the second I could take part the majority of the time (even though the quality left room for improvement). And on the third go, I understood everything and was able to actively participate.

I for one, would rather be part of a lousy meeting (from a technical or organisational perspective), get the gist of things and contribute a little, than not be part of it at all, to only read about it in the notes afterward and not be able to add anything. I presume that many of my fellow remote workers feel the same.

That brings an anecdote to mind. Two of my other remote colleagues had joined one of our overarching Linchpin meetings from their location, and the rest were in the office. The funny thing was that they both thought the video and sound quality was terrible, while I thought it was fine. This showed me that such constellations simply require a little practice and familiarization.

But as a general rule, there are still remote meetings today that even I find awful. However, that itself isn't a problem as long as we learn from them and do things better next time.

New, innovative ideas are always popping up at our company – for example, our "remote retro 2.0" where we have digitized the way we use sticky notes in our retrospectives. Another example, is the Meeting Owl, which we recently ordered and are looking forward to using in our team.

Our Remote Retro 2.0: Digitalizing our sticky notes

Every meeting should be open to remote colleagues

I can only encourage all teams to try out remote meetings. The simplest solution is a short call via Google Meet, which you can launch directly from Google Chat (other group chat tools offer this kind of solution too). The next step towards professionalizing your remote meeting is to use the kind of set-up we use in our team, which isn't too difficult to recreate. I described this in more detail in an earlier post.

I would like to see every meeting offered as a remote option. No matter how many participants. No matter which format. And if it doesn't work out the first time – so what? Then it'll work out next time. Of course, this also requires remote workers to think about how to integrate this option effectively and organize the necessary resources in advance.

So I think it's great that some of my colleagues are working to open the upcoming Open Space meeting to remote workers too. After all, one thing is for sure, without people in the office, such meetings wouldn't work at all. You need to have people who will think about arranging the necessary infrastructure, adjusting things that aren't working during the meeting, keeping an eye on the chat, taking notes, or making signals to the display when necessary. It's great that so many colleagues are already doing this!

I am not writing this post simply for my own benefit, but on behalf of all remote workers in all teams. I am convinced that every company with several locations would benefit from a more relaxed approach to distributed meetings, even when it comes to local appointments and events.

Further information

Agile remote transition I: why?
Does a distributed workplace work? Well, it depends
How G Suite speeds up collaboration in distributed teams
8 advantages of an enterprise group chat for distributed teams

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