What do you picture when you hear the term “conference room”? Does it have a long table like the one from the infamous “call me elf one more time” scene in Elf?
Conference rooms have a bad reputation for being stuffy and have the capability to stifle ideas. Most were also designed with in-person meetings for advisory boards or executive meetings in mind. Newer companies have adapted, creating meeting rooms or huddle rooms designed for smaller groups at round tables. Having a discussion or planning meeting with a group of 5-6 meeting at a long conference table is not conducive to creativity or the flow of ideas.
While meeting rooms have come a long way in modern workplaces, there is an additional consideration for hybrid teams, those made up of both in-person and remote members. Meetings with remote team members are usually conference calls or video calls.
Many meetings with remote team members look like these scenarios.
Three or four team members arrive and try to call in to the conference line. One team member texts or instant messages the remote team member to see if they’re on the line. The remote team member claims to be on the line but the in-person team can’t hear them. This goes on for 10-15 minutes and an in-person team member finally submits to calling the remote team member on their cell phone and putting the phone on speaker phone and leaving it on the table.
This scenario isn’t ideal for either side of the team. The in-person folks can’t hear the remote member well, the remote team member can’t see if there is a brainstorm or anything written down, and the time wasted trying to set up the meeting takes up half of the allotted time in the conference room.
In this scenario, two or three in-person team members arrive at the conference room. They call the remote team member for a video call and sit on the same side of the table to try to squeeze into the laptop camera of one team member. The remote team member can’t quite see the team and they often forget about the person on the video call. Eventually, they are writing on the whiteboard and the camera is facing another wall while the remote team member stares at nothing, straining to hear what is going on.
This is not ideal for the remote team member. They aren’t able to fully participate and aren’t considered to be an integral member of the meeting. They can’t see what is happening, read the whiteboard, or contribute ideas with the team.
In order to have effective hybrid meetings (those with both in-person and remote members), you’ll need to adapt your conference rooms, meeting rooms, or huddle rooms, to fit this purpose. If you have the resources, add round tables and use a 360° video conferencing camera with smart technology to automatically focus on the speaker. You can hang a monitor on the wall so everyone can easily see remote teammates as well. Use smaller conference rooms so your remote teammates can hear and see everyone involved. If you use white boards, make sure they are in view of whatever camera you use and check in with remote employees to make sure they can see it clearly.
Make sure your company’s conference rooms are equipped with working WiFi and test it out before any major video calls. If your company WiFi is spotty, encourage them to explore Eero beacons or MiFi devices for unstable areas. Finally, use a high def video conferencing platform like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype for Business. One of the worst things for remote teammates is choppy video calls where they can’t see or hear properly and are unable to contribute ideas.
To wrap up, here’s a list of ways to make your meeting rooms more remote-inclusive:
Use round tables paired with a 360° video conferencing camera to ensure everyone is in view for remote teammates
Hang a monitor on the wall to see remote team members clearly
Check WiFi connection before big meetings and consider using Eero beacons or MiFi devices in areas with spotty connection
Use a video conferencing platform like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype for Business
Make sure anything being referenced is available to remote teammates - if you have a white board and use it, make sure it’s in view and legible
Being a remote team member shouldn’t mean that you are any less able to participate. If you have never worked remotely before, but your company has a flexible policy, try calling in to a meeting from home sometime. Your eyes may be opened to an unequal experience and encourage you to take action and advocate for your remote teammates.