Our focus wears off more easily when attending virtual meetings from home. But effective communication plays a significant role in every business and can increase overall productivity by 25%. So it only makes sense then to avoid fatigue during calls and increase employee engagement in virtual meetings as much as possible.
During the pandemic, the world witnessed a massive shift in the job market. We can still feel the effects today as companies continue to discover the benefits of working from home. And according to data scientists at Ladders, this trend shows no signs of stopping, and the number of remote workers will only grow further. But it's not all sunshines and roses. As it turns out, meetings through the screen have their downsides too.
The 5 Challenges of Virtual Meetings
Despite its fair share of benefits, working from home has downsides too. Many HR practitioners are concerned about the declining engagement of workers when they are not in the office. Some researchers even say the number of disengaged employees is up to 40%.
And the conditions of virtual meetings are also not helping. Listening and talking to a computer screen isolates us from the group. The motivation to share ideas and exchange knowledge is much lower than in person. What endangers the meeting engagement of employees the most?
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1. Distraction decreases productivity
How many times did you find your mind drifting away in the middle of a virtual meeting? Especially after a good lunch, or the fourth call of the day. Staying focused throughout the whole meeting is fairly challenging. During the day, employees working from home must face multiple distractions they are already surrounded by.
2. It's hard to grow virtual relationships
Interacting with colleagues is essential to building trust in any team – and as this research report confirms, trust is critical for success. There are many opportunities for interactions when physically located in shared spaces. But the chances to reach out to people are missing when all communication happens online. Creating a virtual networking event may help with growing the virtual relationships between employees working from home.
3. Loss of team spirit
It's also hard to create and maintain an inspiring office culture when your employees are actually not there. Another study found that strong company culture can improve employee engagement by up to 72%. And that is just one of the many reasons why building a strategic office culture is important.
4. Tech issues are always a threat
Even the best technology and digital setup can sometimes fail due to connectivity issues, audio problems, random bugs, or troubles with displays. You just can't control it. It's easy to lose employee engagement in virtual meetings when they turn into a seance with questions like „We can't see you. Can you hear us?“ Using desktop virtualization is a way to solve these tech problems. You are allowed to host your business applications in the cloud and ensure access to them securely and remotely.
5. Goals and priorities can get lost
Needless to say, keeping a meeting organized and structured can be a serious challenge in virtual communication. It's hard to stay in the same boat with everyone and have goals in mind when watching a computer display. Losing track of thoughts and priorities is a threat to the productivity and outcome of any meeting.
Use these ideas to create engagement in virtual meetings
Virtual meetings are a great way to connect people from anywhere in the world, allowing you to expand your team globally. Even though there are a number of good reasons to hire remote workers or to have freelance professionals, no matter where your employees are working from, you must take responsibility for smooth virtual meetings.
It's always a good idea to instruct everyone in the company and let them know what they can do to help. A solid communication strategy will ensure you are getting the best out of your virtual meetings. Try incorporating these specific steps and watch how they change your group calls.
1. Respect everyone's individuality
Virtual meetings (or meetings in general) make some people nervous and uncomfortable. It might be new to them, and they tend to worry about many things. Sometimes too much, so they stay quiet all the time and just wait it out. Keep this in mind when approaching your employees during a virtual meeting.
Start the meeting with a simple question about their day or something specific. Wish them well if someone has a birthday. Another great recommendation from top managers is you should always find something small to celebrate. Start with praise, congratulate for finishing a task, and let them know you appreciate their work.
2. Do your homework and prepare
Before you focus on engaging your employees in virtual meetings, make sure all the agenda points you want to discuss are clear. Inform everyone about the goal of each meeting and let them prepare. Having a properly outlined list of virtual meeting activities will help keep their attention.
Notes will help you stay on track, but it's also important to write down everything that pops out. Making notes during a virtual meeting will help everyone stay focused and engage during a Q&A session at the end of your call.
3. Break the ice
Do you need an icebreaker for your virtual meeting? If it's just a short regular catch-up, you'd best jump to the business straight away. Icebreakers are an important part of your agenda if your meeting is more of a problem-solving event, workshop, or something similar. They bring people together and will provide a great warm-up, especially if linked somehow to the meeting theme.
A simple icebreaker is, for example, asking everyone to share a guilty pleasure when they introduce themselves. You could also switch this group activity to two truths and a lie. Use breakout rooms for random “speed dating” in pairs.
4. Keep asking questions
A group of scientists confirmed in 2015 already that our attention span is decreasing. Meetings don't have to really be boring to lose the attention of attendees. In a way, it's normal for our brains. Help everyone keep their attention by asking questions now and then.
Questions will encourage participants to speak out loud. Consider and respect their individual communication preferences. Ask them for their perspective and listen carefully. Make them feel heard and valued, no matter what they say. All questions should be open-ended, which means you can't reply with a yes or no answer to them.
5. Take advantage of interactive features
Almost every conferencing software offers a fair scale of interactive tools for boosting engagement. According to statistics from 2019, 87% of users report feeling better engaged with colleagues through video. Creating an excellent video conferencing setup is a prerequisite for that.
Using the full potential of your virtual meetings software will help keep their interest. When planning your virtual meeting ahead, you should also think of these features. Depending on your topic and desired outcome, you might want to split your meeting into smaller sessions using breakout rooms. This will allow your team members to cooperate on an assignment, brainstorm, or just have a short break from the meeting.
Setting up an online shared whiteboard is another great way of brainstorming. Prepare it in advance and keep it fun. You could also prepare a vote, which is a playful and engaging way of keeping everyone awake, too. It will help your meetings to stay organized. Asking for feedback regularly is a must, just as collecting data with employee engagement surveys.
6. Re-engage with energizers
Online meetings can be tiring and disengaging if you don't consider the participants’ well-being. It's harder to read their body language and non-verbal cues through a screen. Well-placed quick activities or so-called energizers, designed to re-engage and re-energize participants in your virtual meeting will enhance everyone’s productivity.
Don't hesitate to ask your team to do something different and give them clear instructions. You might want to use energizers after a challenging topic. A short session of desk yoga or an entertaining quiz are great for start.
7. Add discussion time
Built-in time for open discussion is unnecessary in almost every case. Your employees will feel heard and seen, plus your virtual meeting will be well-structured. Announce the structure initially, so everyone will rest assured they will have their moment in the limelight.
Get the ball rolling by asking for thoughts and serve as an example by sharing your idea first. Always thank for every opinion and make sure you appreciate what the employees bring to the table. Be a great listener and encourage the discussion with open-ended questions.
What's the one biggest challenge, and how can overcoming it benefit to higher employee engagement in virtual meetings? A specific goal and structured agenda are important, but always take into account the essential part of every virtual meeting – your workers.
Each person is motivated to engage more in a virtual meeting when they are appreciated and know you acknowledge their effort. Make sure it's a cooperation of talented people with the same goal, and don't make it about your company or numbers only. With the right mindset and useful specific tips from this article, you will improve the employee engagement in virtual meetings significantly.
This article is written by our marketing team at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is dedicated to providing powerful solutions for your HR teams and creating an exceptional employee experience. Our aim is to help your company improve employee engagement, onboarding, and to save you valuable time!