Work has gone virtual
Oct. 13, 2022 - In March 2020, many hundreds of millions of us all over the world suddenly transitioned from working together in offices to working remotely, mostly from our homes. This has now evolved into a hybrid new normal, where employees split their time between the home, office, and oftentimes a third location. With this transition, most daily activities have moved to virtual platforms. From lead generation and job interviews to webinars and informal chats, work now takes place mostly online. Similarly, video meetings are now the number one way that we connect with our colleagues. In fact, 80% of all meetings worldwide are now either fully virtual or hybrid, with only 20% happening fully in person.
This irreversible digital transformation has ushered in a new era of work, where employees are able to work just as productively and effectively from anywhere. And as with any major change, it's also created a host of new challenges, not least of which are meetings.
From in-person to remote meetings
Prior to the pandemic, most meetings took place in person. We sat around a table and hashed out ideas together in one room. Then came the pandemic, where the rapid transition to remote work moved all of our communications to virtual environments.
With every employee joining a meeting remotely, we had an unwritten "one person, one screen" way of working: each individual had their own individual camera stream and could join the meeting with relative ease. And in large part, this relative ease of meetings has led to a major increase in how many of them we have; Microsoft recently reported a 252% increase in weekly time spent in meetings for the average Teams user since February 2020.
Hybrid meetings bring unique challenges
But now, as the majority of organizations are adopting flexible work models, a new form of meeting is emerging, one which poses a new set of challenges we've never before encountered: hybrid meetings. With some people joining a meeting from a meeting room, while many others join remotely, both in-person and remote employees see the need for a new meeting experience.
An example of an optimized meeting room, configured with a Jabra PanaCast 50. Credit: Microsoft
Specifically, many are feeling left out, unheard, and unseen. In hybrid work, video meetings will continue to be an essential point of contact between colleagues, customers, and clients. However, many organizations have yet to adopt the proper technologies and strategies to adapt to this new style of meeting.
Improving meeting equity
Our ability to hear and be heard, as well as see and be seen in these hybrid environments has a major impact on the efficacy of meetings. Similarly, if teams don't get the right training on hosting this type of meeting, many will simply assume that outdated, fully in-person meeting etiquette will be sufficient.
And if we feel left out and not included, engagement drops, leading to lower levels of productivity and creativity in meetings, as well as higher levels of dissatisfaction for this new way of working.
With new solutions from Microsoft and Jabra, an optimized hybrid meeting room experience that ensures equitable inclusion is at the forefront of the conversation, with devices like the Jabra PanaCast 50 and Microsoft Teams Rooms creating equitable experiences for hybrid workers.
Tech plus culture
Technology continues to be central in creating a hybrid working environment where everyone has equal opportunity to contribute. However, that tech only matters if it's being deployed in an environment where everyone's voice is valued, and everyone feels their opinions are respected. Depending on things like a team's demographic diversity or meeting culture, not everyone may feel equally comfortable speaking up.
But, as we begin to look at meeting rooms from a new angle, we can see new possibilities with technology and meeting rooms that are optimized for hybrid work. From optimized room layouts to re-orienting large displays and new, intelligent multi-camera devices so that in-room participants are looking at those calling in, it's now possible to create consistent and reliable hybrid experiences at scale.
Boosting inclusion and confidence from anywhere
If all employees are to feel comfortable speaking up in hybrid meetings, it's important for managers to reassure all employees that their opinions are equally valued regardless of their work location.
A good first step is for managers to have an explicit discussion about psychological safety, perhaps sharing some of their own challenges of adapting to a hybrid meeting environment. With inclusive practices in place, teams can truly get the most out of new collaboration technologies.
By Aurangzeb Khan