There has been much talk about how the world of work has been permanently changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the shift towards more remote working practices and increased use of digital technology looks as if it may well be a sustained and growing trend, the limitations of this approach have also come to the fore.
Virtual Meeting Platforms
Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings have enabled businesses to continue operating. At the beginning of lockdown, there was a degree of novelty about working from home and using remote working technology perhaps for the first time. As the weeks and months have gone on, frustrations have started to emerge.
Possessing the skills of active listening, clarification and reflection are all important aspects of good communication and successful meeting outcomes.
The inability to fully read body language and subtle gestures via video, the reduced amount of eye contact, and the challenge of fully engaging everyone in larger meetings can lead to communication barriers that can distort, confuse and risk misunderstanding, making for less than successful meetings.
This has brought home the drawbacks for video meetings and highlighted how unique face-to-face meetings can be.
Although remote working technology is likely to become a staple of our working lives over the coming months and years, it’s unlikely to ever fully displace the need for in-person meetings.
How might these be conducted in the future?
Ensuring safety in face-to-face meetings
If face-to-face meetings are sometimes essential, and we all must remain vigilant in the face of Covid-19, how can we safely conduct meetings going forward?
- Fewer meetings – only organise meetings where they are strictly necessary. Routine meetings are now a thing of the past, and this brings with it some time-saving advantages. Use digital technology when you can, meet face-to-face when you can’t.
- Shorter meetings – keep meetings as efficient as possible. This will take skilled stewarding but having briefer meetings will benefit employee productivity.
- Smaller meetings – aim to use meeting rooms at 50% of their personal capacity. Ensure that the room in which you’re meeting has plenty of space to enable social distancing.
- Clean your hands – hand sanitiser, or washing facilities, should be provided to enable people to sanitise their hands before entering the meeting room.
- Create a socially distanced seating plan – the meeting room layout should reflect social distancing requirements. Ensure there is at least a metre between seats and introduce a one-way system to move around the room.
- Never use face-to-face seating – ensure that the seating arrangement has participants sitting at staged intervals so that no one is immediately face-to-face.
- Ensure there is good ventilation- good air circulation significantly reduces the risk of virus transmission. Keep doors and windows open in your meeting room wherever possible.
- Allow remote workers to be part of the meeting too – even if some face-to-face meetings are unavoidable, perhaps not everybody needs to be physically present. Use digital technology to ensure remote workers are still able to contribute.
- Use apps to control audiovisual presentations – limit the amount of human contact with shared equipment by using technology to reduce the risk of transmission. ClickShare Apps allow for simple, easy collaboration.
- Take precautions when organising food or drink – ideally, it is best to forgo organising food and drinks for office meetings and ask people to bring their own water bottles. If you need to provide catering for longer meetings, then ensure all options and servings are individually organised. Avoid the sharing of utensils and ensure you have a safe procedure for washing/disposing of items afterwards.
A stripped back and rational approach
Face-to-face meetings may no longer be as numerous or as long as they were prior to the pandemic, but in some cases they’re unavoidable. There are benefits for both employers and employees for being more discerning about the number and need for meetings.
The new normal for meetings is a stripped back and rational approach that should not only minimise the chance of virus transmission but could also lead to greater efficiency if done intelligently.
For more advice about configuring your meeting rooms so that they are Covid-19 compliant, speak to the expert team at Flow today.