Meetings: A Four Step Process to Alleviate the Stress of Remote Meetings

Catherine Mulder on

two people working on computers with graphs

We have all been there. The work day meetings that seem to last hours, and content that leaves you more confused than when you started. It is common for employees to have these feelings towards meetings, and they uphold this reputation in a variety of workplaces. Based on a study from The Business Journals, employees reported that 63% of meetings were not useful, and could have been handled through an email. Metadot has created a 4 step process that combats these characteristics and allows employers to evaluate their meeting structure and improve this system. This means eliminating over half the scheduled meetings on average - increasing productivity time for your team significantly. As well as strategic methods to condense meeting time, without condensing the quality of the material. Follow these four easy steps to recreate the structure of your organization, and create a happier work environment for all.

Step 1 - Content of the Meeting

This is simple. Reflect on the topics you want to cover in the meeting, and make sure you properly prepare notes on how to communicate these topics. If a topic is difficult or controversial, consult with your HR team while preparing your presentation. Once you have established this information, create a meeting agenda and send this documentation three days in advance so participants have time to review the information and understand what to expect. When you are in a remote environment, it is best to avoid what is known as a “hybrid” meeting structure. A hybrid meeting is when a portion of your team is in a collocated environment, and the remainder of your team is working remotely. This makes communication challenging because one webcam is being used for multiple people. Not only do they face technical difficulties with unclear audio, but also difficulties in communication when the two groups talk over one another. The remote workers often receive less opportunity to share ideas and have access to the collaborative environment that those in the physical workplace will have. To avoid this, it is suggested to hold meetings where the entire team is remote, or the entire team is physically together. These meetings should be interesting, and concise. For remote meetings, your information should be presented through a shared screen, with clear topics and information. The slides of the presentation should be interesting, but not distracting. The leader of the meeting should reference the slide, while giving a deeper elaboration on the content. Assign an assistant or willing member of the team to take notes and upload these notes to a community page after the meeting, along with the presentation slides. Your employees will feel less stress about receiving the content, and this will create a healthier environment to receive information.

Step 2 - Who should be part of this meeting?

When reflecting on the topic, review who should be receiving this information. Who will benefit most from this presentation? Are there any groups where this information is not relevant? When working towards a large goal, time is precious. If the content of your meeting is not applicable to all departments, consider including only appropriate teams. When requiring your team to participate in a meeting that holds no relevance to their immediate work, the team will have a hard time engaging with the presented information. Not only will this take time away from productivity, but can cause an anxiety within specific members who manage heavy workloads. When trying to lead with transparency, a common misconception is that each member of the team needs to have interactive access to the information through meetings. This is false, as some meetings will have private information that is only appropriate for management and executives to know. Other meetings will not require the attendance of executives, and can be orchestrated by members of the department. It is your responsibility to distinguish who needs these resources directly, and who can receive these resources through other methods.

Step 3 - The Stop Light System

Utilizing the simple method of a stop light can be an effective way to determine not only the urgency of the meeting, but if it can be communicated an alternative way. With a virtual environment, sharing information is not limited to just video communication platforms. This is why it is important to evaluate the urgency of your meeting with three colors: Red, Yellow and Green - just like a stoplight.

At Metadot, we have weekly meetings, but operate in an asynchronous fashion as well. We use Discord as a form of virtual communication for video conferencing and for information that is considered “Red.” This means that we have a variety of categories and topics we refer to as “channels.” Members of the team are able to share information, videos, news and links to these specific channels for others to view. In many ways, it replicates the productivity of meetings without taking a significant amount of time. It also creates an opportunity for clear discussion that is permanent and referenceable even after the conversation ends. Establishing meaning behind the three colors, gives your company insight onto the importance of the content when they receive invitations. This will improve the efficiency of communication without having to interrupt the flow of work throughout the day.

Step 4 - Meeting Structure & Etiquette

When you transition to a remote environment, meeting etiquette may look very different than previous standards. A particular area you will see a major change is in your attire. Your workers may stray away from the professionalism of the business casual look, and wear clothes that are more appropriate for the home environment. Early on, establish a simple dress code expectation for your employees that will allow them to be comfortable - but prepared for the day. This could mean dedicating one day a week to formal attire, and agreeing to appropriate casual garments for other days. When you develop a presentable standard, it breaks down the repetitive home environment and creates anticipation for your meetings, making the remote workplace more fun.

As you lead your team through new material, you want to make sure you are providing everyone with an equal opportunity. This means not only preparing your content, but ensuring you are in the best environment to distribute this content effectively. You should have the full attention of the team with no interruptions. Verify you have a strong connection to the internet and that your audio and microphone are working properly. You should do your presentation in a secure place, with a professional background. Minimize the distractions of barking dogs or loud children, to best avoid breaking the organic flow of the meeting. Your attendees should be muted throughout the meeting, with their cameras on. Make sure that when planning, you include time at the end for your team to unmute themselves and ask questions about your subject matter. Obviously, with the increase of the use of technology and the reality of the remote environment - you will face conflicts. There will be moments where the video or audio quality is poor, or you are interrupted by outside noises. As a leader, address these issues and be transparent. Your team will appreciate your honesty, and feel less pressure towards maintaining perfection due to your genuineness.

Although you are being genuine, don’t be unprofessional with your structure. Be respectful of your employee’s time and needs. Some people may face technical difficulties, or have heavy workloads. Begin your meetings on-time, and make sure that you are ending them on-time. Other employees may be restricted to attending due to working internationally. An effective way to manage this issue with a global team is to record the meetings and upload them for 24/7 accessibility.

Meetings are not meant to cause stress - for you or your company. When you utilize these four steps, you are taking initiative into the productivity of your organization. Successfully reflecting on the specific needs of your team will be an investment that not only improves the efficiency of your communication, but the quality of the content. The balance of healthy communication and the opportunity to work freely, create a dynamic that will lead your team to flourish. Meetings don’t have to be daunting tasks, and when you find your balance - you will find a happier, more rewarding energy in your team.