As hybrid and distributed work increasingly shift to being the rule more than the exception for many companies, managers need to embrace new ways of keeping team members engaged and productive. One such practice is to schedule in-person meetings when it’s necessary to bring everyone together.
But planning something IRL is not as simple as sending a calendar invite and waiting for people to accept it. “The value of face-to-face interaction is heightened in this work environment, so it is crucial that this is utilized to its full potential,” says Allison Hill, the CEO of Pragmatic Thinking and co-author of Work From Anywhere.
Follow these tips to help ensure that your in-person meetings are a success.
Before the Meeting
Make sure the purpose of the meeting is clear in advance.
For team members who have been working in a hybrid or distributed style for a while, it’s especially important to discuss ahead of time why an in-person meeting is being scheduled. “You want to do this so … people [don’t] jump to conclusions regarding its meaning,” Hill says. “If the purpose is a performance or project-based conversation that requires some forward planning, a manager should inform their team members so they can come prepared for the discussion.”
Be inclusive when it comes to scheduling.
Since the pandemic began, it’s possible that some team members have adopted more flexible schedules due to personal reasons like lack of childcare. Therefore, before sending a calendar invite, “I would privately ask attendees if there are any days or times that create challenges for them,” says Liane Davey, the co-founder of 3COze and author of The Good Fight. “It’s not going to be the same burden on everyone, so it’s important to think about that.”
Don’t start too early or too late.
This rule especially applies when planning multi-day off-sites. Davey suggests starting the first day late enough that people can arrive in the morning without leaving their homes incredibly early and to end the last day early enough so everyone can get home without needing to spend an extra night.
During the Meeting
Check in on your team members.
Even if the main goal of the in-person meeting is to go over performance or a specific project, don’t forget to ask how employees are doing personally, such as asking if they’re feeling burned out. “Focusing solely on business outcomes and the work may provide direction and clarity in the short-term, but it’s the time and space for quality connection that strengthens the team culture,” Hill says.
Create a level playing field.
If you schedule in-person meetings and only some team members can attend, Davey recommends having all attendees dial in by video or phone. “It’s a bad experience for everyone if you have a group together in a room with some additional people dialing in,” she says. “I recommend having those in the office use their own laptops so everyone’s experience is the same.”