5 Best Practices to Effectively Hold Virtual Meetings

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the way people work across the world, most businesses have adopted work-from-home policies as quickly and effectively as possible to allow for continuity of operations. During this difficult time, the challenge for employers is to help their teams adjust to this new reality while ensuring morale and productivity are affected as little as possible.

In reality, most organizations cannot just simply shift their in-office meeting structure to video conferencing and expect the same exact results. Thankfully, modern technology allows us to hold face-to-face meetings without having to be in the same location, let alone in the same room. Though there may be big differences between office-based and online meetings, becoming accustomed to this new paradigm is paramount to your business. Here are tips to help you put your best foot forward and ensure your virtual meetings run productively.

Choose the Right Meeting Tools

Picking the right tools for your virtual meetings can be daunting, what with the abundance of technology that makes the process faster, easier, and more collaborative. It is important to know the key functionality you will be needing for the meeting to be successful. Do you need to see your teammates’ reactions as you talk about your weekly tasks or achievements? Try a video conferencing software like Skype. Are you going to work on a file that should be accessible to and editable by others? Google Docs would be there perfect choice. Do you need everyone to watch a video or PowerPoint presentation in real time? Then a screen-sharing software like Zoom is a must.

Set an Agenda

If you want your virtual meetings to be successful, you need to plan your agenda prior to the meeting itself. The best remote meetings have an agenda set beforehand so attendees can come in knowing what they will be discussing. Expectations must also be set ahead of time. When leading a meeting, establish basic ground rules—ask attendees to join the call on time, close out email and other browsers during the meeting, as well as to always keep their video on and mute the audio when they are not speaking.

It is worth noting to include the following on your agenda:
  • Key talking points
  • Structure
  • Team members in attendance
  • Any relevant files or documents

Creating a clear agenda and a series of guidelines will help ensure that your team is on the same page before the virtual meeting takes place.

Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

Before starting the meeting, make sure that you have a quiet place so you can focus without any distractions. Check if your workstation is in tip-top shape and everything is organized—from documents you will be needing to how your home office looks in front of the camera. If your boss or teammate asks for a specific file or information that has a physical copy, you should be able to present it right away. You should also let your family members know that you are on a call and would appreciate extremely limited to no interruptions.

Practice Proper Virtual Meeting Etiquette

It can be easy to fall victim to some major meeting faux pas, but this can be avoided to keep your meetings efficient and professional. Online meetings are like a whole new ball game compared to office meetings because of our current situation, and let us assume this could be the new normal for the months or years to come. Keep in mind the following codes of conduct and behavior during the actual virtual meeting with your team:

  • Turn off all notifications and make sure your cell phone is on silent.
  • Make sure all team members are in a quiet area free from unnecessary distractions.
  • Give everyone a chance to speak and contribute.
  • Do not stare at your phone while other people are presenting.
  • Do not interrupt other people when they are speaking.
  • Do not work on other tasks, like checking email or other websites, during the virtual meeting.

Plain and simple, just practice common courtesy. People want to be heard, seen, and respected during an online meeting—just like they do everywhere else.

Keep Your Team Engaged

From setting an agenda to practicing proper etiquette, these important guidelines in getting a virtual meeting up and running would be useless if your team is not engaged. It is important to start the meeting with a casual conversation or an “ice breaker” to lighten up the mood. Catch up with your teammates especially in these trying times. Ask them about their families and how they get by every day. Showing them empathy and compassion makes them feel that they are cared for, which enables them to open up and be comfortable. Moreover, come up with several interactive online activities that are fun and engaging to avoid dull meetings. In virtual settings, you do not have that face-to-face interaction, so you have to work hard to gain their trust and build rapport.

 

Successfully holding a virtual meeting can feel overwhelming especially during this time, but it really does not have to be. When you follow these tips, it will not matter whether you are working with a team of five, or even more than ten, and even if they are miles away from where you are—you will have everything you need to be productive and to run online meetings smoothly as you would do in a regular office one.

7 Ways to Work From Home Efficiently During the COVID-19 Crisis

ARCH Ways to Work From Home Infographic - ARCH Offices - Blog

As the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a global health crisis, businesses across the world have been temporarily closing offices, prohibiting non-essential travel, and adopting work-from-home policies. Many situations such as disease outbreaks and natural disasters can disrupt people’s lives, mobility, and ability to get things done. With a remote access solution on hand for businesses, those working from home will be able to accomplish their tasks and collaborate with their teammates.

But how can you effectively deliver results if it is your first time to work away from the office? Here are optimal practices you can adopt to stay focused on the job and mentally healthy while working from home:

Establish Your Space

Setting up your personal workspace at home is crucial, especially if you share the house with a spouse, your children, or your siblings. Ideally, it should be in a quiet area with some privacy. A spare room can help reduce noise and avoid distractions from other people if you will be on the phone frequently. You might also need a dedicated space for your design or tech equipment, one that is separate from the rest of your other stuff. Place a filing cabinet beside your desk where you can store confidential files. If you have children or younger siblings, keeping important things within their reach could be a problem. Make sure to also keep your workstation clean and sanitized every now and then, if at all possible, twice a day.

Start Early and Track Everything

Research says that if you get up early, you will be more creative and efficient throughout the day. However, it is important to understand how your body clock works as it will help you find your most productive times, lowest energy dips during the day, and best hours for sleeping. If you are a morning person, you should set aside your morning hours for focused, uninterrupted work time. Furthermore, tracking time will also encourage you to break down your workday effectively, from the most important tasks to those you can accomplish later on. People working remotely are more likely to overwork than those in the office. By tracking time, you will be able to maintain regular work hours. Although you are working from home, there still comes a time when you have to call it a day and spend some time with your loved ones.

Pretend You Are Actually Going into the Office

Structure is important in adjusting to a new work environment. Beyond the essential tools required to accomplish your tasks, experts say that the most effective way to stay productive is to replicate your office environment at home. While it is necessary to create a sense of structure and social stimulation like that of your office environment, it is worth noting that you cannot entirely replicate your work model in the office. What could make you more efficient is preparing for work as if you are coming into the office. Set your alarm, drink your morning coffee, and wear nice clothes, even when you are just at home. That mindset can boost your productivity and help you create a positive outlook when working.

Prepare and Update Your To-Do List

It can be challenging to keep track of what you have to finish throughout your workday especially when you are working from the comfort of your home. It is easy to overlook tasks, priorities, and deadlines. When you create a to-do list, make sure you stick to it. After you complete a certain task, cross it off the list. Not only is this simple technique effective, it is also fulfilling as it helps you build momentum to power through the rest of the day. Get into the habit of using a planner to keep track of deadlines and meetings. In fact, there are different task management tools such as Zoho Projects and Trello that make working from home a cakewalk. By organizing your tasks, you can accomplish them one at a time and with a dedicated focus.

Apply the Pomodoro Technique

How the Pomodoro Technique works is surprisingly simple. Just list down a set of tasks and set a timer for 25 minutes per item. At the end of every 25 minutes, you take a quick break. Five to ten minutes should do. Once you have completed four of these blocks, or “pomodoros,” that is when you take a longer break. Somewhere around 20 minutes to a half hour works well. Repeat these series of 25-minute blocks throughout your workday, with short periods of time to eat or grab a snack. As the timer instills a sense of urgency, you will not feel like you have endless time to get things done, thus avoiding wasting precious hours on distractions. Because you know you only have 25 minutes, you strive to make as much progress on a task as possible.

Set Timeframes for Social Media Use

Unless your line of work highly involves social media, checking your accounts from time to time can be detrimental to the quality of your output. If you are not careful, you can easily get lost in your screen—tapping from app to app and scrolling through social feeds for a good two hours. The most sensible thing to do is to close your social media apps and limit checking to just twice during your entire working schedule. Many mobile apps now reveal to users how much time they spend in each app. The result is eye-opening, especially for casual social media users. Avoid mindless use of social media and you would be surprised how much you can accomplish. It would also be best to have a dedicated spot where you can store your smartphone, tablet, and other gadgets, at least for a while until you reach your targets for the day.

Eat Healthy Food

You do not want to overdo it with snacking, but you also do not want to starve yourself. Once you hit the ground running, it can be difficult to take a break just to grab something to eat. Nevertheless, it is necessary that you know your hunger signs and understand that not eating can affect your productivity and alertness. What you eat will impact your mood and energy level. It is also worth mentioning that balanced, nutritious food keeps us fuller longer and helps us concentrate better. Focus on protein, fiber, healthy fats, fruits, and veggies. Preparing your meals ahead of time, just like you would on days you go to the office, will make it easier to avoid noshing on whatever looks tastiest in the moment.

 

Working from home is full of temptation in the form of countless distractions. You have to fight off the effects of sitting too long in front of your laptop and wake up your brain if you are feeling a bit sluggish. Remote working is a double-edge sword—you get to work on your tasks comfortably, but it can be harder to maintain focus. While no boss or colleague is physically watching your every move while you are working, you have to do your part, perform at your best, and deliver awesome results at the end of the day. After all, not everyone has the luxury of staying home and making a living at the same time.