Why no one loves remote meetings

Remote meetings - does anyone love them?

Do you love Zoom meetings? Do you enjoy watching a grid of faces on a screen with virtual backgrounds and awkward interruptions for hours every day? For most people, remote meetings are rarely as satisfying or engaging as in-person meetings. This is the unfortunate downside of the remote / hybrid work revolution.

Why remote meetings suck

With the rise of remote work during the pandemic, much research and thinking has gone into the subject of remote meetings. Here are some of the reasons why remote meetings are typically awful: 

1. Low engagement

How often have you found yourself distracted on a Zoom call by an email notification or a Slack alert? Or have you found your attention drifting to other tabs on your browser while someone else is speaking? Meeting engagement is significantly more challenging in a remote setting. Any meeting participant can tune out without the risk of discovery. Low engagement from meeting participants drags down the overall energy of the meeting.

2. Technical challenges

While video conferencing technology has gotten a lot better in recent years (remember Webex?), we still find ourselves regularly in meetings where much time is lost due to little technical glitches such as internet connectivity, issues with screen sharing, broken meeting links and sound quality. In a survey conducted by Fluxon at the peak of the pandemic, more than half the respondents complained about technology issues being a problem with remote work. These little unpredictable technical glitches can be very frustrating to say the least.

3. Accountability

With in-person meetings, the physical presence of your manager and teammates drives accountability which in turn helps get things done. Each participant feels obliged to carry their load and deliver on their commitments when physically in the presence of their teammates. In remote meetings, your team is reduced to a few pixels on your monitor. There is less social pressure in such a situation which in turn leads to lower accountability, weaker outcomes and overall dissatisfaction with the meeting. The reduced levels of accountability in virtual meetings is closely tied to lower engagement - these two behaviours feed off each other in a vicious cycle.

4. Caucus problem

Chelsea Troy wrote this wonderful analysis on why remote meetings suffer from much higher friction when it comes to having a productive discussion. Her thesis is built around the idea of a caucus - a type of meeting with no rules about who talks in what order or for how long. Instead folks jump in whenever they have something to say. These kinds of meetings are very common at the workplace - standups, discussions, 1:1s. Jumping in and speaking up is much trickier in a remote meeting - timing your utterances is hard and even a second of audio lag can lead to multiple participants speaking over each other. The lack of visible body language cues only makes this much harder. 

How you can run more effective remote meetings

The good news is that there are simple things you can do to run more efficient remote team meetings. For a full list of ideas on how to make meetings great again, check out our blog post on this topic. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Build predictability

Avoid hiccups by building predictability into your meetings. Participants should have a clear idea of what to expect from the meeting. The meeting start time should be consistent and the video conferencing setup should be standardized.

2. Prepare ahead of time

Meeting preparation is key. The meeting organizer should compile an agenda and  make it available to all participants in advance of the meeting. Participants should review the agenda beforehand and have the opportunity to contribute to it as well. 

3. Actively moderate the discussion

For remote meetings, a meeting moderator can help minimize the problem of multiple people trying to speak over each other or someone hogging too much of the airtime. The moderator should manage time, prevent discussions that go down the rabbit hole and encourage participants to speak up.

4. Follow through on actions

Meetings inevitably end with decisions and action items. These should be captured and immediately shared with participants. Open action items from the past should be reviewed at the start of every meeting. Teammates should hold each other accountable to complete their tasks.

Clockwork for remote meetings

Clockwork is a Slack app that can help you run efficient remote meetings. With Clockwork, you can connect your calendar and then enable various automations for your recurring meetings. Clockwork creates a dedicated private Slack channel for each of your meetings, automatically invites all meeting participants and then manages your meeting agenda, notes and actions within this channel. 

With Clockwork, you will be able to

  • Build and share meeting agenda with all participants
  • Record key decisions and meeting notes
  • Capture action items and have automatic follow ups before the next meeting

Here is how it works

Connect your recurring meetings:

Clockwork can connect to your calendar and automatically fetch all your upcoming recurring meetings. Select a recurring meeting to get started. Clockwork will then automatically create a private Slack channel for this meeting and invite all participants. This channel will be the place where all meeting related conversations, decisions and actions will be stored.

Before the meeting:

Once you connect a recurring meeting to Clockwork, the app will automatically send out an interactive agenda builder beforehand in the meeting Slack channel. Any meeting participant can contribute topics to the meeting agenda. Agenda topics can be marked as recurring too.

Clockwork meeting agenda builder

Clockwork will also automatically follow up with meeting participants on any outstanding action items that were assigned to them in previous instances of this recurring meeting

During the meeting:

Once the meeting begins, Clockwork will post a summary of all outstanding action items associated with this meeting. You can review incomplete tasks during the meeting and mark them as done.

Actions summary

You can now record meeting notes within Slack. All participants can view and edit meetings notes. This way, you can instantly capture important discussions and key decisions.

Capture meeting notes

You can also record action items from your meeting within Slack. Assign these actions to team members, set due dates and add comments. Clockwork will automatically check in with each assignee on the status of their outstanding action items before the next instance of your recurring meeting. This way, nothing slips through the cracks and things get done!

Create a meeting action

We built Clockwork to help remote teams operate more efficiently. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Try Clockwork for free today!

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