By Abbi Minessale, Content Strategist
Working from anywhere makes your employees happier and more productive. They have the freedom to customize their work environments and there’s no expensive or time consuming commutes! It can be tricky, however, to get used to, especially if you are leading a remote team. It can be difficult conducting virtual meetings when everyone has unanswered emails calling to them or controversial Facebook posts begging to be commented on.
At SignalWire, we’ve been 100% work from anywhere since our conception. In fact, our founder and CEO, Anthony Minessale, has been leading remote teams for over 15 years. Over the years, we’ve picked up more than a few tricks on how to make remote work smooth and efficient. Below are some foolproof ways to keep your remote meetings engaging.
Start with something fun
In a non-virtual office, employees get the chance to have impromptu “water cooler chat” and there’s no reason your virtual office should be any different. Try starting your meeting with an ice breaker, brain teaser, or a fun non-work discussion. This makes your employees feel like you care about them (which you do) and creates a collaborative, low-pressure environment by adding a bit of fun. This gives people something to look forward to and helps your team bond! When your team feels connected to each other and to you as a manager, work will become dramatically more productive because your team will be accountable to each other. Get creative! Try taking turns sharing a favorite YouTube video or meme at the beginning of meetings. With SignalWire’s virtual office environment, you can stream media with ease.
Plan out an agenda before the meeting
Plan out and share the meeting agenda with all team members before the conference starts. This helps with participation because everyone can plan out their contributions beforehand and nobody is put on the spot. As a manager, this ensures that you’re not just presenting to your team, you’re creating an open dialogue which will increase productivity. This also helps stamp out tangents, which are the enemy of any meeting, IRL or Video. We all love a good anecdote, but without an agenda, topics go off track, meetings run long, and your team gets antsy. Instead of going down rabbit holes, keep things to the point by sharing an agenda with your team.
Invite the right people
Your team is busy. Staying efficient is important. The more people you cram into a conference, the longer the meeting becomes because more voices need to be heard. There’s nothing wrong with hosting longer meetings but make sure that you’re only inviting people who need to be there. People get stressed out if they feel like they’re not doing something useful and there’s other work they could be doing instead. In meetings with superfluous invites, there’s either too much talking or people who don’t need to be there end up staying silent.
Talking over each other is confusing. Even with real-time communications tools, like SignalWire, you can still find yourself talking over people. In real life, you have the help of subtle social cues that can be difficult to pick up on when talking to a two dimensional screen. It can alienate your team if they feel like they have to barge in, in order to be heard. Luckily, if you have the right tools, this just takes a bit of getting used to. With our off the shelf Video Conferencing product, you can easily signal that you have something to say with the touch of a button so that you don’t have to interrupt. As team leader, set the precedent of using the hand raising feature so that interruptions are no longer a problem. This way, everyone on your team feels heard and nobody has to fight to get their word in.
Nothing kills creativity like formality. Too many meetings get stifled by the pressure to say something smart and impressive. Stress the importance of brainstorming and have a dedicated time for it. When it comes to working from anywhere, team building and collaboration is one of the most important things you can do to increase productivity. An environment where brainstorming is celebrated without the pressure of putting out a good idea makes your team more comfortable with each other. A watched pot never boils and a new idea never comes when you try too hard.
Check in with your team
Managing a team isn’t easy, and it can be even harder when everyone is remote. Video chat is a powerful tool, but you can still miss body language and facial expressions that would be more obvious face to face. Take the time to check in with meeting participants one by one to ensure that everyone has had an opportunity to contribute. This is a simple way to make your team feel valued and excited about the projects they’re working on.
Being the manager doesn’t mean that you have to facilitate every meeting. Rotating duties is a tactic that keeps your team engaged in meetings and the work they’re doing. If you host a weekly meeting, try having your team take turns creating the agenda. This is a great way to build confidence by giving them the chance to be in a leadership position and it shows that you value your team’s ideas. This also helps you, as a manager, see things from a different perspective. Sitting back and listening to new ideas is a great way to get inspired and focus on topics you might have overlooked.
Have the right tools
Working from anywhere is easy as long as you have the right tools. Make sure that your video conferencing system is reliable and feature rich. With SignalWire, we know every step that went into building our virtual offices because we built it from the ground up. We use these tools everyday to run our remote company so we know from experience that they will work for you. We are scalable so no matter how big your company gets, we grow with you. Our virtual offices are feature rich so that you have all the tools you need to succeed. You can get started right away with our ‘out of the box’ video conferencing product or add video to an existing application with our cutting edge voice and video APIs. Talk to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.