4 Ways to Make Hybrid Meetings More Inclusive
Hybrid work is no passing fad. In a recent report from Accenture, 83% of workers said they prefer a hybrid model in which they can work remotely at least 25% of the time. And this preference is quickly becoming a deal-breaker for employees, with 39% of employees saying they’d consider quitting if their employers were not flexible on hybrid work.
While often a win for employees, hybrid setups aren’t automatically successful. It takes intentional effort to overcome the information and experience gaps that can occur with hybrid work, especially when it comes to meetings. Here are a few ways to make sure your hybrid meetings are more inclusive.
Focus on building remote-first culture
The first rule of creating an inclusive hybrid culture is to take a remote-first approach to everything, says Hassan Osman, a Udemy instructor, and a project manager with over 15 years of experience managing virtual teams. In the context of meetings, this means you should use video conferencing software rather than requiring employees to be available in person. You’ll also want to use collaboration tools like virtual whiteboards so any participant can access any information they need from anywhere.
Prioritize creating an equitable experience
If you’ve been in a meeting where most of your coworkers were in the same room, you know how tough it can be to follow side conversations or share your input without being talked over. This is why Hassan recommends having everyone call in from their own computer, even those in the same office. Leaders can also create a more equitable experience by making sure breakout rooms have both onsite and remote participants and assigning an onsite buddy to remote participants so they can get clarification or signal they’d like to contribute without interrupting the entire session.
Consider accessibility issues
“For leaders and meeting facilitators accustomed to the accommodations common to physical spaces, like ramps or in-person interpreters, creating an accessible and inclusive virtual environment requires a different set of best practices,” writes Catherine Tansey on the Lattice blog.
There are several steps you can take to make hybrid meetings more accessible. These include:
- Giving attendees the ability to request accommodations such as ASL interpreting or captions when you send out the meeting invitation
- Ensuring all speakers introduce themselves before they begin and face the camera directly
- Making presentation materials available ahead of time
- Providing live captioning
Building an inclusive work culture
Employees and job seekers are increasingly vocal about their desire to work for companies that prioritize DEI. The ebook, Embedding DEI Across Your Organization, offers a framework for creating a company culture based on DEI best practices.
Check out Harvard University’s Hosting Accessible Remote Meetings and Events page for more on this topic.
Mix up the meeting structure and agenda
Mixing up your meeting structure and agenda creates different ways for team members to participate.
At the start of each meeting, you might experiment with different icebreaker activities to help everyone feel more comfortable and catch up before getting into the business talk.
For example, ask everyone to name their favorite thing about your company or something more general like their favorite breakfast food or a word that describes their plans for the weekend. Miro has several examples of simple remote icebreakers. You can also add variety to meetings by using the chat and polling functions of your video conferencing software, asking everyone to contribute to virtual whiteboards or collaboration tools, and rotating the meeting host or presenter (making sure remote employees have the chance to do this just as often as onsite employees).
Commit to inclusion at every level of your organization
While all employees might benefit from a hybrid work setup, Sheela Subramanian and Ella F. Washington write in Harvard Business Review that groups like women, working parents, and people of color benefit most from opting out of the office. Flexible work is a critical way to build belonging among traditionally underrepresented groups.
Want to ensure your organization is creating an inclusive experience for all employees? Download our ebook, Embedding DEI Across Your Organization.