Hybrid work is here to stay. Current estimates predict that 22% of U.S. employees will still be working remotely in 2025 as emerging technology makes hybrid and remote work an attractive proposition for businesses and employees alike.
However, not every business is ready to embrace this new reality. Some employers are concerned that folks who work from home will be less engaged with workplace culture than their office-bound peers, and others notice that their employees who work on a hybrid schedule are less engaged during hybrid meetings.
In reality, there’s no reason for hybrid workers to be less productive than their in-person colleagues. Instead, managers and business leaders need to learn how to engage hybrid employees during meetings.
- What is a hybrid meeting?
- Challenges of having hybrid meetings
- Six ways to engage remote employees during hybrid meetings
- Four engaging activities to try during your next hybrid meeting
What is a hybrid meeting?
A hybrid meeting occurs when one or more employees choose to join the meeting virtually while others meet in person. This means that the leadership running the meeting needs to account for both in-person and remote participants.
Hosting hybrid meetings has a few benefits compared to solely in-person conferences.
First and foremost, hybrid meetings allow folks to work flexible schedules. This flexibility can help foster a positive working environment and create greater engagement amongst participants who are happy with the adaptable workplace culture. Happy employees make it easier for leadership to encourage interdepartmental communication, which in turn improves trust between teams and allows leaders to plan activities that inspire creativity and collaboration.
Run engaging hybrid meetings
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Challenges of having hybrid meetings
Hybrid meetings are a great way to engage employees and create a positive workplace, but they aren’t without their challenges:
- Tech Equity: for hybrid meetings to work, everyone on a team needs to have adequate access to the tech they need to fully engage with the meeting.
- Isolation: 45% of workers say that opportunities to socialize with coworkers have plummeted in the past few years, and a further 57% say that they engage in fewer work-based activities. This lack of socialization can result in isolation and erode company culture.
- Opportunities for Engagement: some folks find virtual meetings awkward and need to be given direct opportunity to engage in activities and conversation. Without these direct opportunities for engagement, employees may seem disinterested.
- Etiquette and Expectations: just like in-person meetings, it’s easy for hybrid meetings to go off track if people don’t follow the rules. This lack of direction can create a serious drop in engagement, as participants will become distracted and work on other projects when they should be focused.
- Screen Fatigue: hybrid employees spend a lot of time at their desk working with only their mouse for company. Without adequate engagement, these folks are likely to become bored and experience screen fatigue.
Six ways to engage remote employees during hybrid meetings
The challenges involved in hosting hybrid meetings are serious but not insurmountable. It just takes a little planning and preparation to ensure that remote workers are engaged during hybrid meetings.
- Try asynchronous communication
- Set some meeting ground rules
- Plan for a productive meeting
- Set clear expectations
- Leverage meeting tools
- Encourage equal participation
1Try asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication simply refers to any communication that’s completed virtually at different points in time. This communication format can be simple—like emails or text messages—or a little more engaging—like discussion boards and 360-degree feedback.
Asynchronous communication helps engage hybrid employees during meetings by prepping them for meetings and streamlining communications. As a result, employees who attend a hybrid meeting have a good idea of the meeting’s content before they join and are more likely to bring questions and thoughts to the call.
2Set some meeting ground rules
We’ve all been in a meeting that has gone awry because participants didn’t follow the rules. Fortunately, hybrid meetings make it easier to establish and maintain meeting ground rules.
Basic meeting ground rules should include common sense behaviors like showing up on time, being well prepared, and being present during the entire meeting. In addition, leadership should ensure that all hybrid meetings are intentionally inclusive, so everyone’s values and insights are equally appreciated and respected.
3Plan for a productive meeting
Hybrid employees are usually engaged, high-performing folks who appreciate the extra freedom that comes with working from home. However, everyone is human, and it’s easy to become distracted if a meeting is dragging on or becomes tedious.
To prevent boredom and improve engagement, leadership should plan productive meetings by setting a clear meeting agenda.
A good meeting agenda is clearly organized but highly collaborative. Everyone in the meeting should have a chance to engage with their peers. Leadership can even try setting aside time for introverted team members to improve morale and build trust within teams.
As well as encouraging participation, a good agenda can ensure that meetings remain efficient and on track—even during the most stressful of work weeks.
4Set clear expectations
Some folks who are new to working from home may not understand the expectations that a business has for its remote employees.
Instead of maintaining multiple rules for different teams, managers and business owners should set clear expectations to help everyone remain engaged and focused on the meeting at hand. While many of these rules are common sense (don’t interrupt, take notes, etc.), every business should create rules and expectations that encourage engagement and limit distractions.
Even if a rule seems like common sense, it’s still worth writing it down to avoid faux pas like wearing pajamas to a virtual quarterly review or failing to mute the mic when joining a meeting from a noisy area.
5Leverage meeting tools
Meetings used to be the bane of most professionals’ existence. But, with meeting tools like Fellow that encourage collaboration and engagement, hybrid workers can take advantage of tech that is easy to use, reliable, and works in sync with major conferencing software like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet.
As well as fostering collaboration, digital tools can help improve the quality of meetings and conferences. Hybrid employees don’t have to crane their necks to see the latest data figures and meeting hosts can easily share embedded media like videos, audio files, or documents via screen sharing.
6Encourage equal participation
Equity and equality are hot topics amongst business leaders. Fortunately, hybrid working allows everyone to share their ideas without being intimidated by big personalities or loud voices.
Leaders can encourage equal participation by using team meeting agendas that prompt everyone to get involved in collaboration regardless of their communication style. Businesses that successfully encourage equal engagement will benefit from a stronger corporate culture and greater trust and collaboration between peers.
Try out this team meeting agenda at your next hyrbid team meeting to encourage equal participation:
Four engaging activities to try during your next hybrid meeting
1Lunch and learn
Lunch and learn meetings are open invite, informal meetings that are hosted during hybrid employees’ lunch hours.
It’s important to note that lunch and learn meetings should be entirely voluntary—particularly for remote workers who need time away from their computers to avoid screen fatigue. But a good lunch and learning session can be a brilliant opportunity to meet coworkers and reduce stress.
The best lunch and learn sessions are focused on employee wellbeing and give them the boost they need to get through the rest of the work day. This means a business might host lunch and learn sessions that introduce folks to yoga, meditation, or a popular author who inspires self-care.
If employees don’t have a chance to engage in the first five minutes of a meeting, they may start to feel left out or become easily distracted. To avoid this, meeting hosts should use virtual icebreakers to grab everyone’s attention and start the meeting right.
Virtual icebreakers need to be concise and apply to everyone. If it’s the first time a group has ever met, simple icebreakers like “what did you do this weekend?” or “If you could . . .” may be the best way to relax the room and encourage engagement.
3Health and wellness challenges
Employees’ health and wellness have suffered in the past few years. While hybrid wellness meetings can’t undo the stress and strain of modern life, they can help folks cope and become more resilient.
Health and wellness challenges don’t need to take up much time during a hybrid meeting. Even a short announcement can be adequate to praise employees who have kept up with a workout schedule or nailed the step-count challenge. These wellness shout-outs make a big difference to employee morale and help everyone get in the habit of sharing their achievements.
Book clubs are a great opportunity for coworkers to bond and give folks a chance to talk without having to worry about workplace politics.
A good book club still works to a prearranged agenda and attendees should be given the chance to share their favorite quotes or discuss the major themes of a novel or nonfiction book. Ensure that everyone has a chance to suggest a reading, too, as this will keep attendance levels high.
Try this free book club meeting agenda template at your next book club:
Businesses and employees benefit from the flexibility that hybrid working offers. However, some folks who work from home suffer from screen fatigue and struggle to stay engaged during virtual meetings.
Managers and team leaders can fight off-screen fatigue and encourage engagement by using asynchronous communication when possible and following best meeting practices at all times. In particular, a collaborative agenda and a clear set of rules can go a long way in ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to share their ideas and engage in hybrid meetings.
If you want to learn more about hybrid work, check out our Thinking About The future: A Hybrid Work Model panel, where leaders from Loom, Upwork, Oyster, Because Mondays, and Fellow talk about how to embrace this new way of work.