Hybrid meetings are here to stay.
While the concept of hybrid meetings is nothing new, their popularity has grown significantly over the past few years. While the benefits of hybrid meetings may have been obvious before, the rise of the pandemic and the gradual shift towards hybrid working as a whole have pushed these types of meetings to the forefront of workplace communication. It’s no surprise that hybrid meetings have proven to be so popular: they result in collaboration that is more affordable, more global, and more inclusive.
Here we’ve outlined the key characteristics and importance of hybrid meetings, as well as some easy-to-implement changes that can transform your meetings into an efficient, hassle-free experience:
- What are hybrid meetings?
- The importance of hybrid meetings
- What do you need to optimize your hybrid meetings
- The importance of assessing your hybrid meetings
- How to create better hybrid meetings by improving your space
- Why AV equipment is key to better hybrid meetings
- Use hybrid meeting communication to build trust in your team
- Hybrid meetings for your organization
What are hybrid meetings?
Hybrid meetings are meetings where some of the participants are joining from the office, and others are calling in from remote locations. This should not be confused with remote meetings: where every attendee is calling in from a location other than the office. In a hybrid meeting, there is always at least one person or group of people joining from a physical space at the office. When done correctly hybrid meetings foster effective communication, are easy to join, and allow all employees to participate in meetings no matter where they are. By now the popularity of hybrid meetings has grown to such a point that we might as well define them as the future of organizational communication.
Different types of hybrid meetings
Broadly speaking there are three types of hybrid meetings:
- Meetings where the majority of participants are joining from the office
- Meetings where the majority of people are joining from remote locations
- Meetings where the attendees are divided equally between remote locations and the office
Regardless of what type you are joining, the technical and social requirements are the same for all hybrid meetings.
A brief history of hybrid meetings
Meetings with participants based in different locations have existed for decades. Conference calls were a cornerstone of business meetings for decades but always lacked the often-overlooked face-to-face aspect of communication. The arrival of webcams and the internet in the early 2000s marked the integration of video calls into the lexicon of the majority of businesses. However, the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of hybrid meetings, growing out the necessity for technology that could support attendees calling in remotely.
Working from home has benefited many employees’ lives in ways that range from reducing travel time to a better work-life balance. But that doesn’t mean the office has become obsolete. If anything, the office is more important than ever, serving as a source of interaction and inspiration for workers who might find working alone from their own homes draining. However, even as the office transitions into a place more dedicated to in-person collaboration, hybrid meetings will still be vital to connect with remote team members.
Zoom, Google Meets, and Microsoft Team have not only become fixtures of workplace communication but of personal communication as well: how many of us have had family-wide video calls or wine nights over Skype with our friends? At the height of the pandemic, many locations faced lockdown measures and fully closed offices. And so these types of tools were used for remote, rather than hybrid, meetings. But as employees began returning to the workplace, these meeting tools and practices remained, now referred to as hybrid meetings with attendees calling in from both the office and their own homes.
The future of hybrid meetings
Now that hybrid meetings have become an established part of the workplace practice and culture, the question is how will they develop in the future? With the growing popularity of hybrid work as a whole, hybrid meetings will continue to become an even more essential form of workplace communication. As we’ve seen from Facebook's activities creating a VR meeting space, the form which hybrid meetings take may expand beyond a simple camera and screen, into an entirely digital workplace. However, that level of integrated technology is at least several years down the line. For now, the priority is identifying the importance of hybrid meetings and improving them with tools and practices already available.
The importance of hybrid meetings
The importance of hybrid meetings is clear: they allow organizations to fully integrate a hybrid working model, they reduce a variety of workplace and travel costs, and they represent organizational inclusivity.
Embrace hybrid working
Hybrid meetings are a vital part of a hybrid working model. At its best, hybrid working allows employees to work where and how they want, providing more autonomy and leading to a more positive work-life balance. Hybrid working has redefined the office as a place of socialization and collaboration, whereas the home has become the place for more focus-based, ‘solo’ tasks. Hybrid working is associated with higher levels of productivity and higher levels of employer trust [CITE]: and hybrid meetings are an important part of this. With hybrid meetings, anyone can join a meeting regardless of where they are— leading to more effective, trustworthy communication.
Reduce costs with hybrid meetings
You can reduce many of the costs associated with traditional meetings by adopting a hybrid meeting-centric form of communication. With meetings now more focused on technology rather than physical space, meeting room expansions and furniture investments are no longer necessary expenses. For larger meetings, having some virtual attendees will result in lower food, beverage, and other accommodating costs. On an individual level, acceptance of hybrid meetings means less required time and money spent traveling to the office.
Adopt inclusive policies
A significant benefit of hybrid meetings is the way that it signals an organization’s openness to inclusion. Creating an inclusive environment requires conscious and sustained effort to make a company open and available to all its employees. Hybrid meetings are an easy first step towards making your workplace more inclusive: they allow all employees, regardless of disability or workplace preference, to join a meeting and collaborate without exclusion. Inclusion is important to retaining talent, especially young employees who are more willing to speak out against the types of microaggressions that cause them to leave their jobs. Inclusive meetings can also benefit companies in the war for talent: a recent McKinsey study found that 39% of respondents turned down jobs due to a perceived lack of organization inclusion.
Why do you need to optimize your hybrid meetings?
You need to optimize your hybrid meetings because bad meeting conditions can severely harm the communication experience, and the risks are even higher for hybrid meetings. Without optimizing your meetings, both in-office and at-home attendees won’t be able to focus to the best of their abilities. Hybrid meetings are no longer a novelty, but a way of life for many companies and individual employees. Even if your meeting rooms are already equipped with state-of-the-art technology, now is the time to prepare for their permanence in the future of work. An ideal hybrid meeting requires more than just cameras, audio equipment, and a meeting room with good lighting. You need to apply changes with your most valuable resource in mind: your employees.
A central goal should be making sure that your remote employees feel included just as included and heard as those workers present in the office. While it is impossible to fully replicate the spontaneity fostered in in-person meetings, you can do your best to bridge the gap as much as possible. By not taking action to enhance your hybrid meetings, workers may begin to feel left out and unheard.
Now is the perfect time to optimize your hybrid meeting experience. As employees have begun to return to the offices more frequently, the demand for a better-fitting working environment is higher than ever. your workers at the office to experience an enhanced hybrid meeting model as a fresh start within your organization. After months apart, providing your employees with an updated way to collaborate is the perfect ‘welcome back’ gift. And by optimizing your hybrid meetings, you can make your organization more engaged, productive, collaborative, and attractive to potential employees.
How to optimize your hybrid meetings
So, what practical changes can you make to enhance your hybrid meetings? It may seem difficult to ensure that your office prioritizes in-person collaboration, while still having all the physical, cultural, and technical requirements needed for hybrid communication. But with a few practical changes, updating your hybrid meetings is easier than you may think.
The most important adjustments you can make include assessing your current hybrid meetings, improving your physical space, investing in AV equipment, and using communication to build trust within your team.
The importance of assessing your hybrid meetings
Firstly, you should evaluate how your hybrid meetings are used, what issues exist within them, and how these issues can be solved. To do this, reach out to your employees for feedback and take a hyper-critical look at what tools you’re using, examining any data you might have available. The results of this assessment can be used to validate space changes, AV improvements, and consequently encourage increased trust and communication.
Pay attention to employee behavior
The key to optimizing your hybrid meetings is understanding who is using hybrid meetings, and how. A good first step is identifying the rate at which employees come to the office and stay home. Using this information, you can identify whether you should prioritize enhancing your physical or digital spaces.
If you see that the majority of employees prefer coming to the office, then an investment in meeting rooms and physical equipment may be a priority. If the majority of employees prefer to conduct meetings remotely, then you should look into improving the tools they use, as well as identifying what other factors may be stopping them from coming into the office more frequently.
There are many avenues you can take to retrieve this information. This may include sensors that track the use of meeting rooms, feedback surveys, or even an office analytics system that can provide you with a wealth of information on who is in your office, when, and how they are using your space.
Integrate a workplace experience tool
With a tool that provides you with workplace analytics, you can assess how your meetings are being run and how your spaces are being used— but that’s just the beginning. You'll learn:
- What days are most popular in the office
- What areas and desk types people prefer to sit out
- What meeting rooms are most popular
- What time of day are meeting rooms most booked
- Which teams or groups of employees use meeting rooms the most
- How does the equipment in meeting rooms affect the rate at which they’re booked
So, once you integrate a data system, you can better understand how to improve your hybrid meeting experience, as well as harness the power of analytics to improve other aspects of your workplace.
Determine the value of your tools
Whether it's a virtual meeting platform or room booking software, making sure you have the necessary software to fit your practical and social needs is crucial. Listen to your employees to ensure that the tools you are using are well-liked and user-friendly. You might find that a certain tool isn’t a good fit for your business or just isn't loved by employees. Leveraging that information will help you optimize your meeting technology in an effective way.
How to create better hybrid meetings by improving your space
You can create better hybrid meetings by modifying your meeting rooms to fully accommodate remote callers, rather than just in-person attendees. The majority of meeting rooms were not originally designed with hybrid meetings in mind, and may often cater to large groups and in-person collaboration.
Because in-person meetings still have so much value, it is important to respect these spaces while understanding the need for change. But in many cases, the need for large meeting rooms has passed as more and more attendees will be calling in from home. Often, you’ll find a single person taking a virtual call in a meeting room that could fit 20 people. Regardless of whether you have a team of 20 hoping to use the room at that time, or if energy is just being wasted maintaining that room for a single person, this situation is not suitable for the modern office. By making improvements to your space you can create areas that accommodate all meetings while reducing costs.
Create new meeting areas designed for hybrid meetings
Based on an assessment, you should have the information necessary to create and modify your meeting rooms to better suit your hybrid meetings. For instance, if a meeting room is designed to hold 20 people, but the average number of people who use that space is only 2-3, then you know that something needs to change. In that case, consider replacing that single large meeting room with several smaller meeting areas built to hold fewer people.
Another consideration should be the use of call booths. Before the pandemic, call booths were often limited in use and number. But now, with a workforce fully engaged in hybrid meetings, call booths have become a scarce resource. Again, ask your employees - they will tell you fist-hand if adding more call booths could be a helpful improvement..
Make cost-reducing decisions
When making improvements to your space it’s important to consider long-term cost reduction. The cost of cleaning and maintaining smaller meeting rooms and areas is often much lower than for larger meeting rooms. This may partially be attributed to the fact that more intimate meeting areas encourage personal responsibility as employees are made to feel accountable for cleaning after themselves. With smaller meeting rooms you can also optimize floor space and reduce unused areas.
From a larger perspective of time equals money, more meeting rooms means more availability, and less time spent trying to find a space to meet. Additionally, by modifying your meeting rooms in ways that suit the needs of your employees, you have a better chance of retaining workers, leading to lower recruitment and replacement costs. Keep in mind that for the best hybrid meetings possible you should not only improve your spaces but think about the technology integrated into those spaces.
Why AV equipment is key to better hybrid meetings
Having suitable AV equipment is the most crucial factor in better hybrid meetings because regardless of whether you’re calling from home or from the office, high-quality technology is necessary for clear verbal and visual communication. Your AV setup can make or break a meeting, so taking an honest evaluation of your video and audio quality can already do a lot towards making your hybrid meetings the best they can be.
Audio and video technology are necessary to increase meeting efficiency, which in turn can reduce costs and ensure strong communication within your organization. A survey of 6,500 people from the USA, UK, and Germany found that among the 19 million meetings that were observed, the ineffective meetings cost up to $399 billion in the US and $58 billion in the UK. Besides technology, you need to make sure that your employees are given the training and resources necessary to troubleshoot and integrate this vital equipment.
Audio equipment solutions for better hybrid meetings
Audio is extremely important because verbal communication is the cornerstone of the majority of meetings, hybrid or not. Regardless of whether your camera is on or off, audio will in most cases remain the main form of communication.
A recent study found that 81% of virtual meeting attendees regard flawless audio as a key meeting requirement. For the most productive hybrid meetings, make sure that your meeting rooms are equipped with microphones that can pick up clear audio while eliminating white noise. Consider installing textured furniture in your meeting rooms that can eliminate echoes and sound leaks. In the case of call booths, make sure they can block out exterior sound for maximum clarity and concentration.
As for employees joining meetings from home, the sound of a loud roommate or barking dog can often interrupt and distract from the conversation. Try to ensure remote employees access to audio equipment such as microphone-equipped headphones or other noise-canceling technology. Also make sure that regardless of whether you’re using Zoom, Teams, or Skype - all employees know how to troubleshoot your hardware and software should problems arise. There’s nothing worse than a meeting where one participant can’t figure out how to unmute themselves.
Video solutions for better hybrid meetings
Of course, the other component to any successful hybrid meeting is the video aspect. So much can be conveyed through a nod of the head or a shrug of the shoulders, but the body language communication factor can get lost in the translation from in-person meeting to hybrid meeting. So for successful hybrid meetings, recapturing that visual connection is a real necessity. When the visuals are clear, and physical communication can be easily conveyed, meetings run smoother, and quicker: meaning less time spent on calls and more productive interactions.
Using a camera that provides clear, crisp, pictures of all meeting attendees can make or break a brainstorming session. Make sure to invest in high-quality cameras for your meeting rooms, and better laptops or webcams that provide employees calling from home with a similar level of quality. Always check that cameras in meeting rooms have a wide enough scope to include all participants—this might also involve thinking about the seating arrangement in the room as well.
Train employees to use hybrid meeting equipment
It’s one thing to have the AV equipment necessary to run a productive hybrid meeting but knowing how to use these tools is just as important. Make sure that all team members are educated on the hybrid meeting equipment they’ll be using, including software tools. You don’t want to spend half a meeting trying to solve a technical problem, so it’s important that workers are skilled in troubleshooting common issues. Time is money, so training your employees now can reduce time spent solving meeting issues in the future.
Use hybrid meeting communication to build trust in your team
While assessing, changing, and adding equipment to your space in preparation for enhanced hybrid meetings, you should always keep your employees informed. The way you communicate these hybrid meeting changes to your team can be a great opportunity to display your organization's communication skills while building trust among your workforce.
Whether the changes are updated meeting rooms or new microphones, informing your employees throughout every step of the process is incredibly beneficial to all parties. Employees can stay up to date on the changes to their surroundings, while leadership can receive evaluations of these changes. Announcing new improvements to your hybrid meeting strategy will elicit feedback that might otherwise have been received, leading to changes that reflect the needs and wishes of your employees. Keeping your employees informed is an easy step towards building trust within your organization.
Share day-to-day meeting changes
The information-sharing process shouldn't just be limited to conveying big, structural changes regarding your meeting room set-up. It is just as important to keep your employees informed on day-to-day meeting updates. Sometimes the location, time, and attendees of a meeting can unexpectedly change. To build trust and save time, these changes need to be communicated effectively. Rather than email every member of the meeting when changes arise, consider investing in a smart hybrid meeting solution that can ensure seamless and automatic meeting updates.
Improve communication with room booking technology
Not only can smart room booking technology help you communicate meeting changes to in-person and at-home attendees, but it enables you to find the best room for your needs. Room booking technology allows employees to always access the meeting room information they need to be successful, such as the number of people that fit in the room, available AV equipment, the location of the room, etc. This kind of information can save time and effort during the booking and meeting preparation process.
Hybrid meetings for your organization
Hybrid meetings are a crucial part of organizational communication, and their importance will only increase in the future. Therefore, optimizing them is vital so that you, your employees, and your budget can benefit from their success. By enhancing your meetings, you show your employees, both in the office and remote, that you care about them and understand that their working and meeting preferences should drive an organization's actions. Hybrid meetings are also important for the broader reason that they make all communication easier and more inclusive.
As we’ve outlined, you can make your meetings better with just a few practical solutions. Assess your space and workforce to understand what changes will be necessary. Use that information to make physical and AV adjustments. And when making these changes, don’t forget to build trust within your workforce by communicating and listening to your employees. With these steps, your organization will be on track to have productive, cost-effective, and responsive hybrid meetings.