As companies around the world plot their return to on-site work, many find themselves faced with a new challenge — how do we meet now? Due to the presence of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the shift away from a fully remote workforce and back to the office will be a gradual one. With preparation and the appropriate safety precautions, the return to work can be embraced with optimism instead of fear.

There are many variations on what face-to-face meetings will look like upon return to the office. Your usual conference room that typically holds 20 members may be capped at eight. Conference room tables might have gloves preset at each seat and a hand sanitizing station by the door. When we view these alterations as both necessary and welcome, we can sooner get back to the office.

The Future of Meeting Spaces

The future of meeting spaces prioritizes the health of employees over anything else. To begin your organization's return to on-site work, approach your new regulations safety first. Once you have read your local and state regulations regarding the return to work, create a safety checklist for yourself.

Pre-Meeting Safety Checklist

1. Determine the necessary meeting participants.

Before rushing back into your full team meetings business-as-usual, take a moment to decide which meeting participants (if any) need to be on-site. The future of meetings isn't a return to what once was, but it remains a teamwork-fueled collaborative process.

If you have team members who prefer to continue working remotely, allow them to join in from their home office. Since you'll already be taking this meeting into the virtual realm to accommodate your remote employees, allow some workers to join the meeting virtually from their desk. The fewer on-site meeting participants you have, the safer your organization will be.

2. Provide everyone with an agenda.

Regardless of the distance at which your meeting participants are joining in from, they all deserve to be equally prepared. Share a meeting agenda the day before you're scheduled to meet so all meeting participants, virtual and in-person, can prepare ahead of time. This agenda should include the expected minutes of the meeting, who will be in attendance, and how they'll be attending. To run a meeting smoothly and efficiently, the appropriate expectations for the meeting should be set so once all participants are spread out around the conference room table or logged in to the virtual meeting you can hit the ground running.

If you find yourself stuck on how to kick off your new-age hybrid meetings, download one of our free, customizable meeting agenda templates for inspiration.

3. Check your tech.

If you've read it here once, you've read it here a thousand times: Check your tech. Your hybrid meeting will only be as productive as your software allows it to be. Before your meeting begins, be sure all participants are on the same page about which video conferencing, project management, and meeting software you'll use.

Technical difficulties have a tendency to sink hybrid meeting ships. Remove this possibility by using the most reliable virtual meeting tools to safely meet with your team members. Plug-and-play video conferencing tools like the Meeting Owl Pro simplify your technology setup. The Meeting Owl is a 360° smart video conferencing camera that fluidly connects your in-office meeting to your remote employees, creating a seamless hybrid meeting environment.

4. Stagger, Sanitize, Repeat

While transitioning from remote work back to the office is a doable task when the correct staggering precautions are observed, meeting rooms will pose the highest risk to employees due to their small, enclosed nature and shared surfaces. Here are our recommendations for safely returning to conference or meeting rooms:

  • If you have the resources available to your company, invest in larger meeting rooms and larger conference tables. Place fewer chairs at the table, and keep them the SHRM recommended 3-feet minimum away from each other to maximize the distance between coworkers while maintaining a productive meeting atmosphere.
  • Encourage employees to partake in the best hygiene practices and provide them with appropriate sanitization tools. For example, place hand sanitizing stations in common areas and at the entrances to meeting rooms, and at the end of meetings provide in-person participants with supplies to disinfect the tools and equipment they've handled.
  • For our complete health-conscious meeting room protocol, here's how we recommend preparing your meeting rooms for the future of work.


5. Follow up online.

After your meeting, create an email thread or Slack channel for the participants to have a follow-up discussion about the meeting. By creating this virtual space, you'll put all meeting participants in one place for them to continue their conversation and air their concerns, regardless of if they joined the meeting in-person or remotely. This post-meeting discussion should revolve around the context of the meeting, but also be a place for you to be open to receiving feedback about the state of your post-Coronavirus meeting.

  • Did all in-person attendees feel safe?
  • Did all remote attendees feel heard and seen?

By creating an environment of trust during this difficult transition, you're communicating to your employees that you prioritize their safety and health above all the rest. Remember, neither you nor your employees have faced an obstacle such as this before. Give yourself time to reflect on what went well and what didn't so you can make your meetings even more effective in the future.

The future of meetings in a post-Coronavirus workplace looks a lot like hybrid meetings in a pre-Coronavirus workplace, just with more hand sanitizer. To ease into this transition back to work, tap into your hybrid team best practices for a refresher course.

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