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Online team meetings

Good communication is crucial for effective homeworking. It is important that managers ensure regular and productive meetings are held.

Online meetings help to ensure that teams remain connected and engaged with each other and have the the following advantages:

  • Ease of access – online meetings don’t require a room, which makes them easier and quicker to arrange
  • Time saving – online meetings don’t require staff to travel across site to attend the meeting, which saves time and enables teams to connect more easily
  • Ease of information sharing – online meeting tools enable documents and/or screens to be easily shared with everyone present in the meeting. They also allow information to be shared in real time
  • Variety of communication methods – online meetings enable communication to be varied within the meeting, through use of the online chat functions and polls. This enables greater variety in communication and can encourage staff who might not normally get involved to contribute

Online meeting challenges and how to overcome them

Background noise

Background noise can make it difficult to hear what people are saying. Make sure staff know to mute their microphones when not talking.

Use of headphones with microphones can also help to provide better sound clarity.

Technology skills

Some staff may not know how to use the technology to join online meetings.

Guidance on how to use the different functions within Vidyo and Microsoft Teams is available on the Trust intranet. Signpost staff to these and be prepared to spend time training staff on how to use the tools. Don't assume everyone knows how to use them.

Talking over each other

Staff talking over each other can make it difficult to understand what is being said. Agree a system to give everyone a voice.

Arrange "hands up" signals to agree who speaks next and use chat functions to allow all staff to contribute.

Disengaged staff

Prior to the meeting, ensure that there are clear objectives and an agenda.

During the meeting, invite staff to comment or ask questions. Ensure that everyone invited to the meeting is required, avoiding the "invite everyone just in case" mentality.

For team meetings, create guidelines on participation, such as no multi-tasking.

Make use of the different communication functions, such as the online chat tool to encourage participation from all staff.

Back-to-back meetings

On-site back-to-back meetings have natural pauses between them, for example walking to the next meeting or the first few moments while waiting for everyone to arrive. Consider arranging meetings for 25 or 50 minutes (instead of the standard 30 or 60) to schedule in time for staff to stretch or get a drink.

Meeting fatigue

Using video can help with engagement and building relationships but not all meetings require everyone to have their video turned on. Offering audio-only options for meetings can help some participants feel more comfortable attending.

The ease of setting up online meetings means that they can start to fill diaries and become overused.

Before setting up a meeting, consider if a meeting is actually needed or whether the conversation could take place over the phone or by email.

Online team meeting guidance

It is important for managers to make team meetings as valuable as possible. Below are some tips for running effective online team meetings.

Prior to the meeting

  • Ensure the meeting is as inclusive as possible, taking into account working days and hours of staff. Be prepared to be flexible with the date and time to support attendance of all staff
  • Give staff clear instructions about joining and ensure that they have the link with plenty of notice
  • Have a clear agenda on what to discuss, and where appropriate ask for contributions to the agenda from those attending. Create time in the agenda for last minute additions or questions
  • Consider rotating who facilitates and leads the meeting or encourage staff to lead different parts of the meeting. This will help encourage sharing of information across the team
    • Provide an audio-only joining option, as not all staff may want to use the video function, especially in big groups

During the meeting

  • Make time for social communication. Online meetings can often become solely task focused and lose the personal interaction of face-to-face meetings. Allow time for staff to share news, catch up and chat about parts of the meeting that spark interest
  • Ensure the meeting starts and ends on time, rolling over any agenda items not covered or look at alternative communication method (i.e. email) to finish any outstanding discussions
  • Ensure all staff have had an opportunity to contribute. Before each agenda item ends check whether any member of staff has anything else to add and that all are clear about agreed actions
  • Where possible make use of a text or comments box to encourage staff members to feel comfortable in contributing
  • Reconfirm any key discussions from the meeting, ensuring that everyone is in agreement and has shared understanding
  • Online meetings move at a slightly slower pace than face-to-face meetings due to short delays caused by networks communicating with each other. Leave a reasonable pause for people to ask questions and unmute their microphones

Ending the meeting

  • Reiterate any agreed actions, confirming key dates for delivery or response
  • Encourage additional feedback by asking staff for any suggestions or comments for ways to improve future meetings
  • Ensure that anyone who was absent from the meeting is updated on key discussions. Those who missed the meeting should have the opportunity to be brought up to speed and to ask questions about the outcome of the meetings
  • Follow up by email any relevant points or actions, if required. If meeting notes were taken, ensure these are shared with the team
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