The new normal is well underway and part of this means way more remote working. Exactly like Marmite, everyone has an opinion about it. Whether you love it or hate it – or are managing to remain indifferent – remote working is here to stay. Well, for the near future at least.

Now that you have a bit of experience in the field of remote working, you’ll have figured out a little bit more about it. You’ve realised what works and what doesn’t.

Staff members have got to grips with using a VoIP landline and are doing an excellent job using it from home. You also have great written communication with your freelance team. Who are producing top-notch work, too.

There is one main problem when it comes to remote work, however. And that is that your team meetings aren’t what they used to be.

Not only are you missing out on the morning meeting donuts, but your team’s enthusiasm is a little bit, well, lacking.

The writer has given a series of “mmhmm’s” to every point you make. The graphic designer is on their phone and the CRM manager misses five minutes of most meetings.

Of course, it’s only natural that remote working means social meetings are struggling.

Yet, just because everything has turned digital, it doesn’t mean that team meetings have to be robotic. There are plenty of ways to make remote team meetings engaging and interesting. And ultimately, more productive.

Here are five hacks to get the most out of team meetings, and even make your staff want to be there!

Mix it up a little bit

Everyone knows that after a while, routine gets boring. This goes for online meetings, too. If you are setting a meeting for 9.30 every morning and asking staff the same “what did you watch on TV last night?” questions, they will soon get fed up.

So, you need to shake things up a bit. It could be that you decide to move spaces when setting up an online meeting. Then encourage your staff to do the same.

This isn’t always possible and you don’t want to disturb someone’s workflow. However, a change of scenery provides a mental break and a talking point. You could even encourage people to work from a café once a week.

When people are feeling more energised, they can execute stellar projects.

If that isn’t possible, they could always change up the aspect of the meeting itself. Why not play around with fonts or colours. Or how about experimenting with playing some games?

For example, you could ask everyone to find the weirdest object from around the house and talk about it. Maybe the team could do a fun shirt Friday. You could even start each meeting with a fun fact.

It may seem a bit weird. Or even a bit childish. But what’s the harm in having a bit of fun and a laugh? Get people awake and thinking, ready to contribute to the talk.

What’s more, you can even change up the timings a bit. If you feel like you need to do a daily check-in meeting, does it have to be at 9 am? Or can it be at 11 am when people are a little bit more awake?

You could also try setting meetings at odd times like 10.37 am. This will stick in people’s heads. It also means that people won’t be logging in at the last minute, and will have a chance to talk to one another.

Keep meetings short and sweet

Everyone remembers those classes in school where the teacher drones on and on and on and on…

And what was the result? A load of doodles in place of valuable notes.

AI might be able to hold focus for a long time, but people can’t. It doesn’t matter how important the topic is, people just can’t concentrate for that long. The Independent suggests the average concentration span is only 14 minutes! And when you are working remotely, there are so many more distractions around. Which doesn’t help.

So, don’t waste that 14 minutes going on about a dream you had or your exercise routine. Use it to get to the point across.

For example, if you need to host content online, don’t make a 50 slide PowerPoint. Make it more like five slides of focused information. Put a few pictures in, and don’t overload info.

If you are spending an hour talking about irrelevant points, then that’s a needless hour eaten into, which could have been spent working.

A great method to encourage meetings to be short is to make those that can stand up. When people start getting tired then you know it’s time to end the meeting.

If you don’t want to do this throughout the meeting, you can use it as a rule for when things run over. This way, people are more likely to get straight to the point.

You could even pop a big countdown timer in the corner of the screen to help people along a bit.

Keep up with the times

Whether you’re talking VoIP phone systems or new products, timing is everything. This goes for the times and timings of your meetings.

Timing is especially important when it comes to remote working. That’s because it’s easy for people to get distracted or lost in their work. With no teammates around, there may be no sign other than a clock that a meeting is about to start.

Make sure that meetings begin on time and the team isn’t waiting around.

It is unprofessional and disrespectful for team members to turn up late to meetings. Not to mention a waste of time. Try to avoid getting into the habit of starting late. Encourage people to set reminders if they have to.

One way to tackle this issue is to make sure that everyone knows their software. Do trial runs if needs be. Technical issues will always occur, but if you call a meeting and then sit fiddling with your webcam for ten minutes, it doesn’t give a good impression.

You can also set the meeting time to five minutes before you want the conference to begin. This will keep any late runners from being tardier than they should be. Keep in mind our earlier point about setting random times for discussions, too.

When it comes to meeting lengths, set an agenda, and stick to it. You could even devise a talking order and give people a length of time to talk in. It’s okay to be flexible with this, you just want to give fair airtime and don’t want one person to ramble on for 45 minutes.

Bigger doesn’t equal better

A million-pound cheque placed in an envelope. A single indulgent cupcake sitting in a box. A ring that has been passed down from generation to generation. All of these are good things. And all come in small packages.

The same goes for meetings. A meeting with a smaller group of people will have much more quality than one with a large number of attendees.

It’s too hard to get every voice heard in large meetings. And getting through everybody’s point of view will take so long.

What starts as a work discussion can quickly end up in a lot of people talking over each other. Then, when someone does make an important point, it gets lost under the wave of chit-chat.

Having smaller groups of people will avoid this.

Consider who you will definitely need for the meeting and only invite those people.

For example, say you are introducing a new order management system. You will want the heads of sales and marketing there. You won’t want the IT intern. Bringing people in who don’t need to be there will annoy them, and waste their time and yours.

In remote meetings, if you have team members who don’t need to be there, chances are, they won’t be focused. The work you are discussing will have nothing to do with them and they will start working on their own thing.

Plus, it’s much easier to keep work safe when it’s only shared amongst a small group of people.

Don’t call it a meeting

This may sound a bit strange when the word ‘meeting’ has been mentioned about 100 times in this piece. But bear with us…

When people think of meetings, they think of a formal discussion on dull topics.

You never get an email saying, “Let’s have a 3.07 pm meeting to talk about hiring an ice cream van”. Yet, you may receive notifications that say, “Meeting at 2 pm on the latest sales figures”.

No doubt you would presume the boss had enjoyed their lunchtime wine a bit too much if you received the first email.

But the point is, the word ‘meeting’ is rarely associated with something fun. And people don’t tend to look forward to things they presume will be dull.

So, why not change the wording a little bit? You could try calling meetings:

  • A marketing mind map
  • Quick morning check-ins
  • Coffee and a catch-up
  • A new tech powwow
  • Customer response seminars
  • Product naming parties

You get the picture.

Be creative and think about what would make you intrigued to join in. Make sure to keep conferences concise and worth the video call.

For example, say you want to build your customer relationships when working from home. You want to have a discussion with your team about the latest contact centre technology.

Calling a meeting titled “Meeting about customer stats” is not inviting. Especially as data can all be sent via email or accessed through call center software. It doesn’t need an hour of the manager talking through irrelevant results over a video call.

Instead, say you titled it: “Survey results and new tech talk”. Staff will know what to expect. Furthermore, that assists them in knowing what to contribute themselves.

When people are in the flow of work, it can be a little disruptive setting an unnecessary meeting. So, make sure you are creating one because it’s actually needed.

Following these hacks will help make meetings a lot smoother. They will also lead to happier employees and a more productive team.

Remember that when working remotely, the office space is also the workspace. So people will be grateful for a bit of shakeup when it comes to meetings. Even if it is just changing the background from a plain white wall to a bustling café.

Also, keeping meetings shorter and to the point will help maintain focus. Whilst ensuring people stick to the right times, shows respect and professionalism. Don’t forget to mix up the times and try using unusual start points that stick in people’s heads.

Keep in mind that having many voices doesn’t always make a more productive team. A smaller group is more likely to get quality ideas across.

And, although it may seem counter-intuitive, try to avoid naming it a ‘meeting’ when you send out the call. It implies over-formality and a sense of dullness.

When working remotely, you don’t get to see as many people face to face. It’s important to get remote meetings right to keep the social aspect of work a positive experience.

Following these rules makes sure that work is getting done when it needs to be. Sticking to them also means staff will be more engaged and more productive.