In a hybrid working environment, colleagues join meetings in person and virtually at the same time.
But how inclusive are hybrid meetings?
Eric Pliner, CEO of YSC Consulting, asks us to imagine a meeting with 8 people sitting around a table, and one person attending remotely on screen.
The 8 people around the table might feel the meeting is very inclusive. But the one person joining remotely? They’re contending with:
👉 Seeing 8 people all together on one screen
👉 Finding the right time to join in
👉 Trying to hear everyone’s contributions
The one person joining remotely is unlikely to feel included.
Pliner suggests the answer is to change our perspective from the outset. Instead of thinking about what works best for the majority, start by asking how we can include marginalized voices.
In the context of hybrid meetings, this could lead to solutions like:
💭 Everyone joins the meeting via their laptop, even when they’re in the office. 8 people with separate cameras is more inclusive for remote participants.
When you’re planning your next hybrid meeting, think about how you can make your meeting as inclusive as it can be.
Focus your attention on the group with fewer numbers, which is at greater risk of being marginalized.
If you’re the meeting host, always dial in remotely. If you’re in the same office as in-person attendees, move to a separate space so that you’re not in the physical presence of others, just like remote attendees.
This will give you a fair oversight of who is and isn’t being included.
💡 Pro tip: If you happen to get an even 50/50 split, pair up each virtual attendee with an in-person counterpart. Task them both with making sure the person they’re paired with is heard and included.
✔️ Introduce everyone — this will level the playing field and invite everyone to participate.
✔️ Clarify the agenda in advance and share it as a digital document. This will give everyone context and key information for the meeting.
✔️ Choose activities that are accessible to everyone. If one group can take part easily but it’s a technical challenge for the other, it’s not inclusive.
✔️ Check that the activities are fair. For example, if you’re hosting a poll, it may be anonymous for remote participants. If so, make sure it’s anonymous for in-person attendees too.
💡 Pro tip: Productivity expert Dermot Crowley suggests imagining online participants are the CEO of your organization. You’d probably be really attentive if your most senior colleague logged in. Use this reminder to focus on including and engaging with remote attendees.
Work From Home Hello GIF by @BareTreeMedia.
✔️ Check the audio. Make sure everyone in the meeting can hear each other — this may involve adding extra microphones for in-person attendees or providing better equipment for remote workers.
✔️ Check the visuals. Make sure that participants can see everyone else in the meeting clearly, and can see slides, presentations or other materials.
✔️ Even if you’re all in the same room, make sure everyone on the call switches their cameras on and their sound off. It’ll allow people joining remotely to see everyone.
✔️ Check connections. If remote attendees experience poor video links to the office, they’re unlikely to get the most out of the meeting. If you’re struggling with Wi-Fi, try a wired connection with an ethernet cable.
✔️ Check the tech. Test software and equipment before the meeting. Any hiccups that affect remote attendees could make them feel excluded from participating.
💡 Pro Tip: Agree on a cue that shows someone isn’t able to hear, see or engage in the meeting. For example using a thumbs down emoji in a chat function.
Every new experience is an opportunity to learn. After the meeting, ask each participant how it went. Note any problems that arise and think about how you can address them for the next meeting.
💪 Over to you
The key question to ask yourself before each meeting: who is most likely to be marginalized? Then work to make the meeting equitable for everyone.
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