With major corporations and small businesses alike embracing the flexibility of remote work, it seems likely we’ll look back on 2020 as a watershed year in which working from home became entrenched as part of accepted regular work practices.
According to independent research commissioned by Redback Connect, 80% of Australians who have been working from home expect most meetings will be held remotely in the future — a figure that rose to 88% among workers from organisations with more than 1000 employees.
But is your workplace taking the necessary steps to accommodate employees and allow you to communicate fully with your colleagues whether they’re in the office or working remotely — regardless of the occasion?
To help you adjust to the new COVID-normal, here’s a list of internal company events that can be held just as easily in a remote or hybrid format as face-to-face.
1. All-Hands Meetings
All Hands meetings are whole-of-company events usually run by the chief executive officer or a senior member of the executive. Unlike results briefings or company announcements, the audience is all staff. The core principle of an online All Hands meeting is to provide employees with a way to participate and share in the company’s broad activities.
Technology: Video conferencing software if all staff are on a stable broadband connection, with the option of teleconferencing for mobile and geographically remote staff. Webinar platforms allow the convenor the ability to moderate questions.
Tips: Vary the format to keep staff motivated and engaged. For large corporations, consider using a provider that offers enterprise streaming to ensure your network is not overwhelmed by large numbers of people streaming video at the same time.
2. Online Internal Meetings – General
From work-in-progress team meetings to inter-team meetings dedicated to a particular topic, internal meetings are most effective when they have clear objectives, a firm agenda, they run to time and the information or subject matter being covered is relevant to all attendees.
Technology: Video or web conferencing software is great for connecting quickly and sharing visual aids. Employees should be muted unless they have an active speaking part or are asked a dedicated question.
Tips: Ask people to come to the meeting prepared to participate or contribute in a particular way in order to boost engagement. Schedule your team meetings at time-zone-friendly hours and make good use of interactive elements such as interactive whiteboards, interactive Q&A or document-sharing. Don’t forget to follow up on any key actions that arise.
3. Online Lunch’n’Learns
Keep your staff informed and educated on the developing expertise in your organisation by holding regular lunch’n’learns. This creates an opportunity for your team to make a social connection with the ability for your employees to learn more about what a particular team or team member has been working on.
Technology: Video conferencing works well for smaller groups, while webinar platforms are great for managing larger audiences. You can ask attendees to raise a hand, either literally or via the platform, to address the group or ask a question.
Tips: Not everyone wants to attend events at lunchtime, so it’s worth making your lunch’n’learns available for people to view both live and at a time of their choosing.
4. CEO Presentations
The CEO in many organisations may from time to time present a particular point of view on a key issue or a perspective on business performance to the staff at large. It’s worth enlisting audio-visual help if the presentation includes live video or a lot of moving parts.
Technology: Webinar platforms offer the CEO control over questions. While these can be presented from the office or conference room, having your CEO present from a professional broadcast studio may help distinguish the event from other meetings and impart a sense of occasion.
Tips: Presenting from a studio will also enable the CEO to use an autocue if desired.
5. Virtual Strategy Workshops
Strategy workshops conducted online are generally held using video conferencing technology and differ from other internal meetings in their emphasis on interactivity and participation from attendees. An external facilitator may help keep the event on-topic and on time.
Technology: Ask all participants to start with their camera on and their microphone muted until it’s their turn to speak — unless it’s a small group workshop. Build in ‘silent time’ to enable people to thoughtfully consider various topics and include virtual brainstorming sessions.
Tips: Online whiteboards and chat rooms are great ways to encourage brainstorming in hybrid teams.
6. Virtual Mentoring Sessions
Virtual mentoring can help maintain your personal and professional relationships and provide emotional support that is so important in a time of widespread remote work. Discuss in advance if video or audio meetings are preferred and have an agreed agenda going into your mentoring sessions so both the mentor and the mentee know what to expect. These principles also work for meetings between team managers and direct reports.
Technology: Video conferencing is the ideal platform for one-on-one if cameras are preferred; otherwise web conferencing can work well to share documents and other visual information.
Tips: Consistency is important in a mentoring relationship, so set your meeting at a recurring time to underpin that consistent commitment. Be in the moment during the meeting — no multitasking. Complement your regular meetings with other activities and feedback channels, such as email. Keep a record or transcript of your meetings so you can look back and track progress over time.
7. Employee Training Courses
Employee training courses often provide company-specific information or work-practices, rather than simply focusing on industry education and expertise. They may also be conducted to enable a company to meet industry or regulatory commitments, such as occupational health and safety training.
Technology: Web conferencing is great for information-heavy courses that feature audio and slides, while video conferencing and webinar platforms are great for training courses that feature video. Ensure you can record and offer them on demand for employees to access at their convenience.
Tips: Requiring registration and including an assessment via an online quiz will enable companies to track attendance, course completion and knowledge retention. Creating a leaderboard from your internal scores can be a good way to encourage broad participation by encouraging competition between individuals and teams.
8. Online Job Interviews
When conducting interviews with potential employees online, the interviewer should nominate the online meeting platform to be used, who will be attending and send the meeting invite. The interviewee should run tests at least a day in advance of the meeting to ensure they can connect successfully, as well as setting up a quiet meeting location with a clean background, switching off alerts and having their phone nearby as a backup.
Technology: Video conferencing works best as it best enables Interviewers and interviewees to make a connection and provides additional visual cues via body language and facial expressions. In video calls, it’s important to maintain eye contact by looking at the camera (rather than the video images of yourself), smile and project a positive attitude.
Tips: It may help to minimise video of yourself speaking during the meeting as many people find it distracting.
9. Online Employee Reviews
Annual appraisals are unlikely to be sufficient for remote or hybrid managers and team members. Many organisations now conduct employee reviews or appraisals quarterly or half-yearly.
Technology: Often the review process involves the use of an online tool to track and monitor completion of key results, as well as a video conferencing tool for an appraisal meeting between supervisor and employee. It’s important to retain a face-to-face element to help keep review communications transparent and immediate.
Tips: Reviews are often seen as top-down feedback loops but should also be seen as a way for organisations to glean valuable information about what may be holding the organisation back and preventing employees from being effective.
10. End of Year/Beginning of Year Address
With a focus on the year that was, or the journey ahead, an annual end-of-year wrap or road-ahead address can be crucial to clearly communicating the state of play or future direction for an organisation, particularly after a time of change. In remote and hybrid teams, it’s worth over-communicating rather than under-communicating as team members have fewer ad hoc chances to hear about an organisation’s plans.
Technology: Webinar platforms that offer enterprise streaming to enable organisations to connect to large numbers of employees without disrupting their network are a great option for large enterprises and offer more options to moderate questions.
Tips: Use a variety of formats, such as pre-recorded video, votes and polls, and Q&A sessions to help keep employees engaged with the organisation’s journey and to gather immediate feedback and input. Employ a moderator or facilitator to help run the interactive elements so your executives can focus on the message.
11. Virtual Games and Team-Building Exercises
Remote and hybrid teams need to find ways to build social connection beyond just the process of working together. As a consequence, the number of online games that can be played remotely has exploded, and now includes puzzles, code-breaking, drawing, trivia-based challenges, talent shows, and improv-style comedy competitions, to name just a few.
Technology: Dedicated tools such as Tabletop Simulator let you play digital versions of games you’re already likely to know, while others can easily be managed via video conference with a designated team member running the event and public chat enabled.
Tips: A few weeks before your event, send out a message to the team with some options, and ask them to vote on their favorite virtual group games.
12. Virtual Happy Hours
One of the first virtual team building activities most organisations try are live happy hours, which are typically held from 4pm on Fridays, often accompanied by a team-building activity, such as an online quiz, competition or ‘guess whose desk’-style activity.
Technology: These are best held over private video conference in small groups to facilitate conversation. Employees can either BYO beverage or you can decide to send everyone a bottle of something to try.
Tips: Turn your virtual happy hour into a virtual wine-tasting or cocktail hour using one of the many tasting or mixology kits available.
For more great remote and hybrid business event ideas, download our eBook, 50 Fabulous Virtual Event Ideas.
Or contact a Redback sales consultant if we can help manage your next virtual meeting or event.