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Organising meetings in a remote working world

For those of us who detest in-house meetings, 2020 briefly looked as if it might just see them off. Instead, Zoom and Teams have become a way of life, and we’ve all had to reconcile ourselves to that brief hope being dashed. My greatest realisation of the year was that I could resize a Zoom or Teams window across the bottom of a large screen and carry on doing some proper work on the rest of the screen while appearing to be looking at the camera and paying attention. An acquaintance with just a relatively small screen laptop told me that she takes online meetings on her phone, artfully positioned next to the laptop, to achieve much the same effect.

Apart from not wanting to be dragged into meetings in the first place, I also dislike the way that so many people think they can just announce them. One of the best things about working remotely is the opportunity to be more flexible with your time; in an office environment, it’s reasonable to demand that everyone is around at some random time like 3.30pm, but for people working from home, that might be highly inconvenient. There are some great tools such as Doodle to quickly and easily find a time that suits as many people as possible. Why not use them?

Another piece of advice to people who take great delight in announcing online meetings: just because these seem a bit less formal than ones in Meeting Room 3 at the office, doesn’t mean they needn’t be planned (and explained) as methodically. I had a Slack message which said something like: “A few things have come up in the last few days which we should talk about. Would a Zoom meeting at 1pm tomorrow be OK for you?” My reaction was: “What things? Where’s the agenda? Why should I drop everything for this?” Inevitably the meeting was rambling. It fitted in with the way of working of the colleague who called it, but not the other three of us.

Mind you, don’t get me started on the regularly scheduled meeting which begins with: “Hi everyone. There doesn’t seem to be much to discuss this week…”