Remote meetings have become an everyday reality for employees of many industries after switching from stationary to remote or hybrid work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these are not 2020 inventions. First, there were telephones, so professional or private tele-meetings took place for decades. Remote meetings are currently associated with sessions using online conferencing tools and that is the main subject of this article.
Remote meetings – everyday life for many of us
Remote work in basics
When we ask Google to present the concept of ‘remote work’, we will get thousands or even millions of sources, more or less reliable. However, we live in a world where this phrase does not require an internet search because remote work is becoming an everyday reality for many of us or our loved ones. Therefore, the first results, which are “doing duties outside the office”, “using communication technologies”, “flexible work schedule” or “remote access to documents” are not unfamiliar.
From small statistical data, it is worth noting that:
- as of 2023, 12,7% of full-time employees work from home, while 28,2% work a hybrid model;
- before COVID-19, 17% of U.S. employees worked from home 5 days or more per week, a share that increased to 44% during the pandemic;
- 27% of U.S. employees work remotely, as of 2023;
- 32.6 million Americans will work remotely by 2025;
- 16% of U.S. companies are fully remote.
Computers became common less than 30 years ago, and the global job market is already dependent on them. Whether this is good or bad is a topic for a completely different article (or book). Let’s take a closer look at remote meetings, which are an indispensable part of remote work.
Industries with remote work
When it comes to remote work, the pandemic was not the only one that called the shots. Several industries guaranteed flexibility and ‘work from home’ before it became “popular” (or even necessary).
Information technology (IT). Probably a leader in remote work. Anyway – I can confirm it on behalf of myself and my teammates 🙂
Media and communication. For many journalists, reporters or camera operators, the office has never been a place of work, but there are also duties of the media sector employees that can be done remotely.
Design and art. Graphic designers, writers and artists can also work remotely, using not only online communication tools but also dedicated programs and applications.
Finance. We live in a computerized world, so financial issues have moved online, and thus employees in this industry are able to do their duties remotely.
Consulting. Large companies in this industry associate employees from all over the world, which is why the possibility of remote work is an inseparable element.
Education. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the profession of teachers and others in this sector has increasingly been associated with remote work, even as social distancing is no longer required.
The most popular conferencing tools
In Poland we say “demand breeds supply” but it is the most fundamental principle of economics in the world. And, of course, it’s also true in this context: The more people work remotely, the more people attend online meetings. No wonder there are so many video conferencing tools on the market. There are a lot of them, but I will mention only those that are chosen most willingly.
- Zoom – the most popular and widely used video conferencing tool that offers features like video and audio conferencing, screen sharing, chat, recording, and breakout rooms for group discussions.
- Microsoft Teams – a very popular collaboration platform (mostly in the education sector) that includes video and audio calling, chat, screen sharing, file sharing, and integration with other Microsoft tools like Office 365.
- Google Meet – a video conferencing solution integrated with Google Workspace that offers features like screen sharing, chat, real-time captions, and the ability to schedule and join meetings directly from Google Calendar.
- Skype – one of the most popular (and the oldest) communication tool that provides video and audio calling, instant messaging, screen sharing, and file sharing features.
- Cisco Webex – provides video conferencing, webinars, screen sharing, file sharing, and team collaboration features. It offers both free and paid plans with different capabilities.
- BlueJeans – a video conferencing platform that offers high-quality video and audio calls, screen sharing, recording, and integrations with other collaboration tools.
- GoToMeeting – a web conferencing tool that offers features like HD video conferencing, screen sharing, recording, and integrations with popular productivity tools.
- Slack – primarily a team communication and collaboration platform but also supports audio and video calls, screen sharing, and file sharing. It is often used for quick ad-hoc meetings and discussions.
Types of remote meetings
If I wanted to create a definition, I would probably gather a dozen, if not dozens of examples and divide them into categories based on the topic, number and roles of participants, duration, etc. But I don’t want this article to become a boring textbook or a chatGPT response (nothing against textbooks or chatGPT, I guess…). The types of remote meetings that come to my mind are:
- integration meetings – especially during the pandemic, were beneficial, because they distracted a bit from the often difficult situation of living in four walls in a completely new reality;
- meetings with clients – more or less stressful and exalted, but also here you can afford spontaneity and an undirected smile;
- recruitment meetings – often in an elegant shirt with pyjamas shorts out of frame, but still with the same sense of seriousness, often accompanied by fear of an electricity supply or a barking dog in the next room;
- team meetings (daily, weekly, monthly) – shorter or longer, with additional space for spontaneity depending on current events in the team or whole company;
- educational meetings – e.g. courses, webinars, training, distance learning, but you can read more about it in one of the recent articles.
Types of people at remote meetings
Regardless of the role of the participant – boss, PM, client, teacher, student, accountant, consultant, etc. – there are two attitudes that can be adopted during meetings.
- A person who will say as much as necessary, preferably without the camera on, will not engage in integration conversations, and strongly emphasizes work-life balance.
- A person who can talk about any topic, is keenly interested in professional and private issues of the participants of the meeting.
A third attitude is also possible, which will be a mix of the above (not every extrovert will be himself at a meeting when he woke up 5 minutes earlier and all he did was turn on the computer – but shhhh, don’t tell anyone that is how it works sometimes). And you know what? There are no bad choices here. Each of us has rules and certain boundaries that we do not want to cross which should be the driving force in choosing an industry, company and position. Then the preferred lifestyle will be in line with the company’s policy, and participation in meetings will not be tiring.
Recipe for effective remote meetings
On the Internet, you can find a lot of tips and instructions on how to conduct effective remote meetings. Of course, depending on the topic and the people participating in it, different forms will be appropriate. However, there are a few recurring tips, e.g. a specific subject and duration of meetings help to conduct them efficiently. Based on my own experience, I will list a few more methods for remote meetings, maybe that will also work during yours.
There is a strange belief in society that talking about the weather indicates that there are no other topics to discuss and the weather is the only escape from the oppressive silence. First of all, living in the north of England, I quickly had to learn at least a few weather statements, because they are an unspoken duty when you pass strangers while walking your dog. Small talk is primarily based on “You might not go too far because it’s gonna rain again”, “Bit of windy, isn’t it?”, “Such a rainy day”, and in recent years novelty like “Hot days ahead” or “Enjoy the sunny day, darling”.
But let’s back to the main subject. During my meetings, the participants often ask about the weather, because almost everyone lives in a different part of Poland, or even the world. It is a kind of weather report after which you move on to the main topic.
Another way to make the moments in front of the computer more pleasant is anecdotes from real life or commentary on the latest information from the world. Sometimes it’s a single sentence from PM at the beginning of a call, and sometimes it’s the beginning of a common discussion, which becomes a short break at work.
Cyclical coffee or integration meetings are less frequent, but because of that – very interesting. Then you can hear about holiday experiences, kilometers traveled on a bike, gardening successes, or road repairs in Krakow. At From Poland With Dev, we have an online meeting of all employees every three months, including a common part, team member appreciation, announcements, and also themed rooms, such as a parents’ corner, a space for bookworms, physical activity fanatics, or film critics.
Weather reports, anecdotes or online coffee breaks – so little, yet it can make a difference.
Remote meetings - advantages and disadvantages
In the previous article, I promised that an inseparable element of my texts would be a paragraph about the advantages and disadvantages of the discussed topic. So I keep my word. Among the advantages, I would like to include the above-mentioned experiences from my remote meetings, which align with our company policy. However, in my experience, if you ask 10 people, you’ll get 100 perspectives and conclusions. Therefore, below are just a few examples that I see personally or hear during conversations with other remote workers from various industries.
- no need to commute – morning without traffic, just imagine how great convenience it is;
- flexibility – it is easy to discuss the availability and adjust the time of the meeting to the individual needs of the participants; it is not difficult to call even for 5 minutes to clarify various issues;
- the ability to adjust to different time zones without long journeys to the client with jet lag in the background.
- meet with anyone in the world!
- negative effects of a physical nature – spending a lot of time in front of the computer limits body activity, generates postural defects or failing eyesight;
- negative effects of a psychological and social nature – we need real people around us, and for full communication not only words, but even body language or a handshake;
- costs of energy and teleconferencing equipment;
- necessary knowledge of tools for remote meetings (which was a big obstacle at the beginning of the pandemic for many people);
- problems resulting from electricity supply or range disruptions.
Of course, many pros can be turned into cons and vice versa. Time saved on commuting can be used for physical activity right after closing the laptop. Or: no need to get from point A to point B perceived as no possibility of activity. It all depends on your perspective and lifestyle.
And, of course, ShareTheBoard helps you address many of those cons head-on: as it is very intuitive, you don’t have to learn a new program, so you can devote all your strength to using the whiteboard/flipchart during your remote meetings. Thanks to this:
- your speech will be more interesting
- you’ll get off your chair and take a few steps!
- other participants will see almost your entire person, which will add some body language to videoconferencing
- handwriting will provide a good break for your eyes from the screen and your wrist from the mouse/keyboard
In short, ShareTheBoard makes your remote meetings better.
I tried to be as objective as I can 🙂
I have only one appeal to conclude. Let all your meetings, even those online, not be a chore but time spent with real people!