Meeting culture is often overlooked as an aspect of an organization’s culture. How do people schedule meetings? Do you need to reserve a room? How often do people meet? Who is invited to the meeting? Do people eat during meetings? Do meetings have an agenda? Is it rude to be late or leave early, or expected? All of these answers contribute to your organization’s overall culture.
We’re looking at what returning to work looks like after Covid-19. In the early days of Covid-19, a new vocabulary took hold in offices. “Unmute yourself,” “Zoomed out” “Zoom bomb,” “Can I share my screen?” all became normal phrases to hear. As we transition to a more hybrid workplace with some people in the office and some people remote, how can we reconcile the needs of those at home and those in the office? What elements of meeting culture do you need to be aware of to protect your organizational culture?
Although it varies depending on organizational culture, most in-person meetings don’t start right on time. It’s generally accepted that people arrive up to five minutes late as they make their way from desk to conference room. With virtual meetings, most people arrive right on time. Virtual meetings tend to be stacked back-to-back, as no one needs to commute from room to room. This means that leaving a meeting before it’s over has also become more acceptable.
As workplaces try to include remote and in-person workers they will need to keep the variety of scheduling needs in mind.
According to some studies, a video meeting attention span is about ten minutes long. This has led to recommendations that organizations try to hold shorter, more frequent meetings. Unfortunately, frequent, short meetings can be very disruptive for people who have to get up from their desk for multiple in-person meetings a day. On the other hand, while an in-person group might enjoy a long brainstorm session (especially if there are snacks) it could quickly become boring and tedious for at-home workers.
As you plan for future meetings, think about who is, and isn’t, in the room and how to best engage them.
Casual vs Office Behavior
Casual dress codes have become the norm for a lot of offices. But there’s casual, and then there’s “working from home casual.” Suffice it to say, not everyone is fully-dressed at your meeting, and sometimes that becomes obvious. It’s not just clothing, at-home behavior is more casual, too. No one would ever smoke during an in-office meeting, but people often smoke on Zoom calls. When everyone first went virtual, people accepted pets, small children, and general household noises in meetings. They barely noticed offices that doubled as bedrooms or basements. But when some people are in the office and some people are at home, will the at-home people be expected to meet in-office norms? If they don’t, will they be judged as unprofessional?
These kinds of norms and judgements are often unwritten. It’s important for both employees and managers to think about how they present at a meeting, what’s truly important and what defines “professional” for your organization.
Even before Covid-19, teleconferences were already frustrating. Zoom calls were actually an improvement over some systems. But, if people are back in the office, will it make financial sense to continue supporting these same systems? Will smaller organizations be able to afford both in-person space, and the necessary technology to conduct the now-expected virtual meetings? As you plan for 2021, 2022, and beyond, think about how where people work impacts your budget.
Can You Hear Me?
With chat boxes, hand-raising emojis and actually raising your hand, virtual meetings can make it easier for employees to share their thoughts. For some people, it’s much easier to virtually raise their hand, or put a thought in chat than it is to interrupt a colleague. But how will this play out with some people talking in person and some people on screen? Will those “in the room where it happens,” take precedence over their virtual colleagues? A culture that supports opinion sharing, and an intentional plan focused on making sure different opinions are heard is more important than ever.
The transition back to an in-person, or hybrid work environment may prove difficult for some organizations. But with forethought and attention, you can create a meeting culture that adds to your overall culture.