5 ways to improve meeting culture within your remote team
With most collaboration, brainstorming, and decision-making now effectively taking place via asynchronous modes of communication, virtual meetings are shifting to focus more on developing and maintaining team cohesion and culture.
Like company culture, meeting culture is the formal and informal systems, behaviors, and core values that set the context for how your team feels, conducts, and performs during meetings.
Creating an excellent meeting culture in a remote work environment is significant since there’s less opportunity to rely on casual in-person conversations and interactions to connect team members. Without a good meeting culture, remote and distributed teams struggle with teamwork, employee engagement, and retention.
So how do you improve the meeting culture within your remote team? A quick online search will unearth pages of fairly obvious remote meeting practices telling you to:
- Develop company-wide meeting rules and guidelines
- Set meeting agendas with clear goals to avoid going off-topic
- Provide action items
- Have a facilitator
- Check in with your team
- Take meeting notes
- Limit and shorten meetings
- Invite the right people
- Stick to time
While these suggestions may improve efficiency, turning bad meetings into better meetings, they’re unlikely to benefit the team dynamic. Below we share five actionable ways to improve meeting culture that will aid in establishing an impenetrable bond, resulting in high-performing teams and productive meetings.
1. Make small talk intentional
Small talk boosts employees’ positive social emotions, organizational citizenship behavior, and well-being.
Small talk describes all those brief, social conversations that often occur at transition points during the typical working day.
In many remote teams, Zoom ‘etiquette’ calls for meetings to get underway on schedule without any opportunity for initial social connection. Even when meeting participants are present, they may not unmute or turn on their video function until the meeting officially starts. Thus, the chitchat and side conversations crucial to team-building are lost.
Top tip: Begin weekly meetings with a “question of the week.” Team members can take turns to submit a fun and light-hearted question that everyone can take in turns to answer. For example, “what song makes you instantly happy and why?” or “what’s your least favorite chore?”
A weekly ritual like the one above sets a warm and inclusive tone of exchange and feedback, which helps team members get to know each other, builds trust, and supports collegiality and productivity.
2. Pass the mic among the team
Passing “the mic,” like a round-robin approach, encourages a more balanced discussion and helps quieter team members get their voices and ideas heard.
Research shows that on video calls where social cues are harder to see, we take 25 percent fewer speaking turns.
In addition, a delay of five-tenths of a second (500 ms)—whether from laggy audio or fumbling for the unmute button—is more than double what we’re used to in person. These delays mess with the fundamental turn-taking mechanics of our conversations and prevent team members from contributing to virtual meetings.
Top tip: In your next meeting, tell meeting attendees to take advantage of the extra features available on video calls. For example, they can use the chat function to ask follow-up questions and contribute ideas and solutions.
Emoji reactions are another way attendees can provide reactions without worrying about interrupting or having to unmute to give verbal cues. For example, “give me a thumbs up if you’re ready to move on to the next topic.”
3. Welcome unconventional meeting locations
Encouraging attendees to attend meetings from a beach cafe or park bench can be a fun and exciting way to improve the meeting culture within your remote team.
42% of employees want to use their company’s remote working policy to work in different places. However, many workers fear that attending meetings in new or unconventional locations could be deemed unprofessional by senior managers and the rest of the team. As long as locations aren’t too busy or loud, unique work locations are equally as conducive and can inspire creativity and bring joy.
Top tip: If you cannot physically move to a different location, use tools like gather.town, where you can create your own virtual meeting spaces.
4. Make space for group support and problem-solving
Performance, development, and career progression depend on people’s ability to seek out the advice, referrals, and resources they need. Estimates suggest that as much as 75% to 90% of the help coworkers give one another is in response to direct appeals. A common problem is that people don’t like asking for help for the risk of rejection, diminished status, or relinquishing autonomy.
Top tip: Create a shared doc where everyone can jump in and add their weekly prioritize alongside any questions or blockers they may have. Team members can review the doc in advance and see whether they have any answers or helpful insights they can share to support their teammates at the end of the meeting.
5. Celebrate individual and team successes
In a survey, 59% of respondents said being recognized for accomplishments at work was the most significant single contributor to an overall sense of belonging.
Meetings are the opportune time to celebrate small acts of success or thank team members for their efforts. Doing so creates an appreciative corporate culture that motivates remote teams and results in greater employee satisfaction.
Top tip: Encourage collaborative praise. Ask workers to use meetings to acknowledge team members that have contributed to a particular project, achieved a goal, or gone the extra mile.
Make more time for meetings with Roots
Don’t have a lot of time to devote to meetings? We can help with that. Roots is a simple Slack plugin that automates different processes for your team: employee referrals, PTO requests, onboarding, scheduling casual chats among team members, and more. Learn how these tools can help you strengthen your team, increase collaboration among them, and reduce the time your team members spend on manual, repetitive tasks. Discover more at Roots.