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13 February 2019

Keeping your Remote Team Engaged in Meetings

Working with Remote Teams:
Tips to Keep Your Remote Team Engaged in Meetings

As remote work becomes more common in today’s technological age, the more ordinary it is for work teams to never meet in person. Talks by the water cooler have been replaced with Skype conferences, Slack exchanges, and email threads. In fact, remote working was noted by Thomas Oppong, Founding Editor of ALLTOPSTARTUPS, as one of the 7 key business trends of 2016, with larger companies like Apple and Amazon also taking part. And while working from home can do amazing things for productivity levels and decrease your employees’ chances of burnout, having a team of remote workers also poses its own challenges. Namely, it can be a struggle to keep everyone prolific, enthused, and engaged. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Keep reading to find out tips on how to keep your remote team engaged in meetings!

Schedule meetings with clear intent

There’s nothing worse when you are a remote worker and your boss calls a general weekly meeting. Without a clear agenda, no one understands the goals of the meeting nor the expectations of each individual employee in the meeting. When remote workers know what to expect in a meeting, they can be more aptly prepared.
Scheduling meetings with clear intent means starts with defining the meetings specific goals and tasks in mind. Skip an ambiguous weekly meeting in which “everything” is discussed. Define the meeting: for example in a marketing meeting, employees know that marketing will be discussed and can prepare to talk about the different aspects of marketing that are crucial to that particular conference.

Stick to a routine

Along with keeping expectations of each individual remote worker clear, expectations of when and where meetings will take place should also be well-defined. The more routine meetings are, the harder it is to forget about them, therefore the easier it is to prepare for them. If the marketing meeting occurs every Tuesday at 4pm, that’s a much clearer expectation and task than if that meeting is constantly changing. A frequently changing meeting is often a disaster for remote workers who may forget, over-book themselves, or getting dates and times confused.
The more routine specific meetings are, the better.
Sticking to a routine within the actual meeting is also an important part of keeping remote workers engaged. A meeting should be like a teacher’s lesson plan. Perhaps you allot to spend the first five minutes on pleasantries, asking about organic human movement such as the weather or travels of your colleagues, before circling back to the reason why the meeting is taking place.
Organization within the rest of the meeting is important. Does one person need to be the primary speaker, assigning tasks, or do all colleagues need to catch the rest of the team up on what has been accomplished. However you do it, the more organized and prepared you are for each 10- or 15-minute interval of the remote conference, the more smoothly things will go. And when remote meetings run smoothly, remote workers are most likely to be engaged.

Make meetings inclusive

Make the expectations of a meeting clear before going into it. The best way to do this is by forwarding an agenda to remote workers. “In this week’s editorial meeting, we will be discussing these three points.” List the points and give employees clear expectations of how they should prepare for the meeting. When writing up the meeting’s agenda beforehand, make sure to make clear to employees what they are responsible for.
Should each employee be prepared to talk on each of the points? Does one specific team member need to lead this particular discussion? You can get these expectations across by explaining it in a Slack channel or by starting a weekly email thread in which you briefly map out the meeting’s agenda in advance. If necessary, tell employees each person is responsible for bringing three to five ideas or points. They should be prepared to discuss each.

The clearer a remote workers expectations are, the more likely they are to achieve them.
By making meetings inclusive, remote workers know in advance that zoning out isn’t going to cut it. If it is clear what is expected of them, there is no getting around those tasks. With inclusive meetings, remote workers have to come prepared, be engaged, and ready to participate.

Use a platform made for remote conferencing

Is there anything worse than employees’ time being wasted because of bad WiFi connections or audio issues? Platforms like Facebook messenger and FaceTime are great for social and leisurely interactions online, but they don’t lend themselves to professional remote work. And they certainly don’t lend themselves to the management of a remote team.
When remote conferencing, use a platform especially made for professionals. Google Hangouts has a function that focuses on the person who’s talking, that way people don’t talk over each other. Whoever has the floor vocally will appear on the screen and if someone interjects, the screen switches to that person. This way it’s always clear who is participating in the meeting and people aren’t talking over one another. Other conferencing software like Zoom, Cisco WebEx Meetings, and Adobe Connect also have similar functionality that make it easier for remote workers to engage.

Always send a follow-up email

Just as writing a lesson plan-esque agenda ahead of time is good for keeping remote workers engaged in a meeting, writing up minutes post-meeting can also be beneficial. You can use the template below as a guide:
“Hey team! Great meeting today. Thanks to everyone who participated their ideas and gave insight. As a reminder, please find the topics we discussed today bullet pointed below.”
After bullet pointing each of the talking points, be sure to include any follow-up tasks that need to be done as a result of the meeting. If an editor said they would follow-up on a specific task, make sure to reiterate it in the follow-up email. If an HR representative needs to check on paperwork, include that task for them.
When minutes are written down, there is no getting around the task or “forgetting” about the task. Meeting minutes also act as an insurance policy for you. If you talk about responsibilities in a meeting, then follow up with a written email, it’s on the remote worker to be engaged and get their task done.

Conclusion

What’s the secret to keeping remote teams engaged during meetings? Well, you have to be engaged yourself. Making expectations of remote workers clear, encouraging participation, and planning out meetings ahead of time are some of the keys to keeping remote teams as engaged as possible, even when you’re not seeing each other vis-à-vis in the same office each day. As long as expectations are well-defined and routines are in place, your remote team shouldn’t fall victim to disengaging from their work.
How do you keep your remote workers engaged in meetings? Let us know below!

Steph O.

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Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer and social media consultant who specializes in health and wellness content. Her words have appeared on Seventeen, Life & Style, Darling Magazine, and more. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton and writing a memoir.