If you’re managing a distributed team, you’re probably acquainted with the joys of conference calls.
In this article that is part of our guides on remote work, we’ll share tips for remote managers to make virtual meetings effective and productive.
Here at Timeneye, we have moved the whole team remote during the Covid-19 crisis, so most of these tips come from our recent experience in managing communication as a distributed team.
How do you keep a team on track if you can’t see them in person?
Communication is one of the biggest challenges for remote teams. Without clear communication, it’s hard to hit goals and measure progress. Not to mention, misunderstandings can cause delays and tensions in the team.
When teams are able to communicate effectively, though, the whole process runs like clockwork.
Since they can’t meet in person, remote teams have to rely on technology.
Virtual meetings are part of all remote team’s work life. Managers, like orchestra conductors, have to make sure these meetings fit the schedule and timing perfectly.
The most frequently mentioned problems that arise when remote teams try to set their virtual meetings are:
Meetings, in general, have a bad reputation for being the biggest time-wasters in a company.
But you, as a manager, can make sure that doesn’t happen to you and our team. Things may be a little harder since you’re all remote, but in the end, there are ways you can have productive virtual meetings.
Virtual meetings (with multiple participants, as well as 1-on-1) will be an integral part of your team’s work life.
Obviously, you’ll have to provide your team with the right tools to communicate.
Some of the most famous conference tools for remote teams are:
Once you and your team are all set up, you have to make sure the virtual meeting is effective and productive. After all, the whole team will rely on it to have the information they need to carry on their work.
For as much as you can, you should give your team enough time to prepare for the meeting.
The unexpected can obviously happen, so you may end up needing to schedule last-minute calls and meetings.
That’s perfectly fine, as long as it doesn’t become a habit.
Make sure to give your team and yourself enough notice to adjust their schedule and prepare all that’s necessary for the meeting.
It’ll also show that you respect the team’s time.
Don’t rely on memory alone for people to remember to attend!
Being physically separated makes it difficult to know exactly what the coworker’s schedule will be like.
So to avoid any overlappings, misunderstanding, or failed attendance, you should use a shared calendar (like Google Calendar or similar). Create an event and make sure to invite all your participants.
If you have regular virtual check-ins, you can create recurring events to make sure you won’t forget about future appointments.
(In Timeneye, for example, we have a “Weekly check-in” conference call with the whole team on Monday morning.)
To avoid that the meeting goes overboard, you should prepare a meeting schedule and try to stick to it.
With your virtual meeting, you may end up wasting time because of technical difficulties, people talking over the others, and so on.
Being prepared with a schedule will help you keep the meeting on its course and get back on track if it gets derailed.
Conference calls are physically exhausting.
No, it wasn’t just your impression to feel extremely tired after a Zoom call.
BBC Worklife published an interview with professor Gianpiero Petriglieri and Marissa Shuffler, who study workplace wellbeing and teamwork effectiveness.
Turns out, conference calls require more focus than face-to-face interactions, and that creates anxiety and drains our energy.
So you, as a manager, have to find a way to keep the meeting as short as possible.
Sticking to a schedule (like we explained above) will help with that, as well as starting a timer and tracking time during the meeting.
You and your team members will all have different schedules. And sometimes, there may even be timezones differences between you.
This is why your weekly check-ins, 1-on-1, and project updates should happen on the same day and time of the week.
Of course, the unexpected happens and that means having to schedule last-minute calls. That’s normal and it wouldn’t make a bad manager.
That being said, giving your team fixed appointments throughout the week will help them get organized, put their work on autopilot, and show that you’re respectful of their time.
Since they cannot meet in person easily, virtual meetings are part of a remote team’s routine.
Managers can make sure these meetings are actually useful and productive by giving the team the right tools, preparing in advance, and fit every meeting in the team’s routine.
What more tips like these? Make sure to catch up with our Remote Work Series!