Remote staff provide employers with a productive labour force, with the added benefit of flexibility. In businesses that require ad-hoc assistance or don’t have on-site facilities to hire new employees, using remote support staff is the ideal way to fulfil business needs.
Similarly, remote workers benefit from operating at the location of their choice and they are able to create an appropriate work/life balance and commit to projects they choose to work on.
Managing a remote team, however, does pose a new set of challenges. If you’re not working with your colleagues in a face-to-face environment, you may need to adopt new communication strategies to ensure work is completed effectively and staff morale remains high.
When conducting a remote team meeting, for example, it’s important to introduce new methodologies so that the remote meeting is as effective as an on-site appointment. Here, we’ve highlighted some of the most important things to consider when it comes to running a successful remote team meeting…
Choose the right technology
Using the right tools is absolutely vital to the success of remote communication. Depending on the topic of the meeting, you may want to use software which facilitates screen sharing or video conferencing.
If it’s important for meeting attendees to have access to visuals, for example, screen sharing is likely to be the easiest way to facilitate this. Fortunately, this software can be installed and used easily by on-site employees and remote workers.
However, no technology is 100% reliable and you may face downtime on occasion. Internet connectivity issues or hardware failures, for example, can be catastrophic when it comes to successful remote meetings.
Asking remote workers to check their equipment and software is working prior to the start of the meeting will help to ensure that you’re not delayed and that things run smoothly.
Allow time for introductions
Although remote workers may have operated within the same team for months or years, they may have never met on a face-to-face basis. Giving participants the opportunity to introduce themselves at the start of the meeting will ensure that everyone is familiar with each other and able to contribute
Following this, it’s often advisable for participants to identify themselves prior to speaking. Whilst the use of video conferencing may negate the need for this, is a remote team meeting is held via a phone conference, it may be difficult for participants to differentiate between speakers.
Encouraging people to identify themselves before speaking ensures that there is no miscommunication during the meeting and that relevant personnel are given the chance to participate effectively.
While remote team meetings may be used to discuss the business needs or operating strategies, they can also be successful in increasing company loyalty. When working remotely, support staff may feel somewhat isolated and distanced from the company or their colleagues. Regular remote team meetings, however, can help to bring the team together and be used to boost staff morale.
Circulate an agenda ahead of time
As in standard face-to-face meetings, a remote team meeting can lose momentum if there isn’t a structured agenda in place. Circulating this to participants prior to the meeting will enable them to conduct research or gather data prior to speaking with colleagues.
In addition to this, team members will be aware of what will be covered during the meeting and can ensure that any relevant documents are to hand. In some cases, they may even want to make them available to other participants prior to speaking with them and circulating an agenda can provide the impetus to ensure that this is done.
Whilst you may want to leave time in the agenda for any additional issues participants want to cover, limiting unscheduled topics or issues will ensure that the meeting doesn’t overrun or lose focus.
Similarly, setting a firm start and end time will enable team members to plan their time accordingly but will also help when setting clear meeting targets and objectives.
Identify a meeting moderator
When people attend a remote meeting, they may be more hesitant to speak than they would in a face-to-face meeting. As they are unable to read visual cues or the body language of other participants, they may be wary of cutting people off or speaking over someone else.
Alternatively, you may find that some participants contribute more than others and you’ll need to find a way to ensure that all attendees are able to voice their opinions during a remote meeting.
Identifying a moderator ensures that someone is able to bring other people into the conversation and move from one topic to another in a timely fashion. Without this authority figure, a remote team meeting could easily devolve into an informal discussion and, as a result, meeting objectives may not be met.
Scrutinise your attendee list
When arranging a face-to-face team meeting, you may be able to include all on-site staff or large teams of people. This can be more difficult when it comes to remote team meetings. While large teams can connect remotely, having more than a few people take part in a remote team meeting can make it more difficult.
Issues such as technology failures, background noise and interruptions are only magnified when the number of attendees is increased and this can cause the meeting to be disrupted. As a result, it’s often best to limit participants to essential personnel when arranging a remote team meeting.
Furthermore, you may wish to invite certain participants to join a remote team meeting at a specific time. In some cases, the topics covered in the meeting will not be relevant to all remote staff. Asking a remote worker to partake in a 2-hour meeting when only 20 to 30 minutes of content is relevant to them reduces productivity and isn’t a good use of time.
As software enables people to join and leave remote meetings easily, you may want to encourage people to partake in the topics which are relevant to their role, rather than the meeting in its entirety.
Encourage participants to be fully present
When taking part in a remote meeting, attendees may be tempted to complete other tasks at the same time. Often referred to as ‘electronic gazing’, participants may be looking at their computer screens or phones while the remote meeting is taking place.
While it’s understandable that staff may be keen to respond to urgent work communications, it’s important that meeting attendees are fully present. If people are distracted, they may miss key issues being raised or fail to input their ideas and opinions.
When this happens, the effects can be significant. If important decisions are being discussed and business processes are likely to change as a result of the meeting, it’s vital that participants are fully engaged. If they aren’t, the meeting will fail to be productive and, in a worst case scenario, business decisions could be made without the full attention or input from important team members.
Summarise content at the end of the meeting
In order for the meeting to be effective, it’s vital that participants are fully engaged and aware of what has been decided. If you’ve covered lots of topics, it may be easy for people to forget what’s been discussed.
Summarising the decisions which have been made at the end of the meeting will help to clarify the targets set and confirm what action needs to be taken as a result, and who is responsible for ensuring future tasks are completed.
In addition to this, you may want to circulate the content of the meeting in writing afterwards. If participants are agreeable, remote team meetings can be recorded and transcribed so that you have something to refer back to, should you need to do so.
Providing summarising content via email also provides remote workers with a firm basis for future action. If key business decisions have been made during a remote team meeting, it’s important that these are noted in writing.
If certain tasks have been designated to one member of staff, for example, written confirmation of the meeting content ensures there is accountability. Furthermore, if workers have additional queries, a written summarisation of the meeting provides a good starting point for resolution.
Using remote team meetings to boost businesses
The increasing availability of mobile devices has revolutionised the way we work and has encouraged businesses to hire remote workers. This has been particularly prevalent in the business support industry, with many entrepreneurs, business owners and managers, relying on virtual PAs and remote assistants.
Although working with remote staff offers various benefits to businesses, it’s important that clients use their virtual staff effectively and learn how to manage a remote team, as well as in-house staff members.
With many businesses using large teams of remote workers, it’s vital that they can correspond effectively. Whilst a remote team meeting may sound like a fairly simple and straightforward event, things can go wrong if they aren’t managed appropriately.
By preparing in advice and recognise the needs of remote workers, clients can successfully manage remote team meetings and businesses can profit from the on-going work of remote assistants and virtual PAs.