- Hybrid meetings could lead to remote workers being overlooked.
- Karin Reed, author of “Suddenly Virtual”, says it’s important to create a virtual presence.
- She shared her tips with Insider.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In March 2020 the way that many companies worked changed forever. With much of the world in lockdown, those that could were thrown into working remotely – some for the first time.
How well a person coped was largely dependent on factors like their age, job role, living situation, and the quality of the manager – but in some ways, the playing field leveled.
The hybrid working plans that many companies are rolling out following the pandemic will change that, according to Karin Reed, co-author of “Suddenly Virtual: How to Make Remote Meetings Work.”
There is a huge difference between being virtual like many were at the start of the pandemic, and the hybrid way of working that many companies are planning for, said Reed.
With people split between the home and the office, companies will go from a situation where there is a single mode of communication to one where people are showing up from different locations, and potentially using different means of communication, said Reed.
This could easily lead to meetings becoming confusing or tip the conversation in favor of those who are physically in the room. That could mean those who work remotely are overlooked.
Early research indicates that it may be primarily women who lose out as a result, with more women (31%) than men (23%) saying they would prefer to work at home all the time, per December data from Pew.
Adapting to hybrid will require employees and managers to rethink how they communicate, Reed, who is a former broadcast journalist and now coaches CEOs on communication, told Insider.
She shared some top tips for remote workers to avoid getting lost in hybrid meetings.
1. Be engaged, even if your manager is leading
Ultimately managers have the overwhelming responsibility to create presence for everyone in the meeting, but attendees also have a responsibility to understand who is in the meeting, said Reed.
Ideally, before launching into any sort of hybrid environment, there should be a team agreement to determine expectations and possibly develop a turn-taking policy.
However, regardless of who your manager is, it is important to create as much presence for yourself as possible, said Reed. Keeping your camera on is an obvious basic essential.
“If you are joining remotely, having your camera off makes it much more likely that you will be overlooked,” said Reed.
2. Buddy up
If they can, remote workers should seek out an “in-room buddy” who can act as an advocate and pull them into conversations, suggested Reed. This could just be a fellow team member or friend who is in physical attendance.
It’s also important to think about how you participate.
This doesn’t always need to be verbal, said Reed. Using features like chat or “raise hand” present in most mainstream video call apps can also help to boost your presence.
“Hopefully the leader will attend to it and weave it into the dialogue, but trying to participate in as many forms as are available to you is a great best practice,” advised Reed.
3. Over-communicate about your emotions
Another significant challenge that virtual attendees will have to overcome is the “stunted” nature of virtual communication, which can make it harder to read body language and other non-verbal cues, explained Reed.
“If you’re remote, let people know how you’re feeling about something. If you were in person with that person, you could probably gather that nuance better, but virtual is a little bit harder to read,” said Reed.
Actively “verbalizing your emotions” can help people to better understand the intent of your message if they can’t easily perceive your non-verbal cues.
4. Make it easier for others to read you with good lighting
Finally, Reed said, remember how you look on screen is important. But it’s not all about vanity, it’s about having respect for your conversation partner.
“It doesn’t matter that much to us if we show up with our face in shadow, but it makes it very difficult for your conversation partner to receive your message in full,” said Reed.
Aside from ensuring that your face is evenly illuminated, other key things to focus on are how you’re framed – showing your full face and a large part of your body to ensure that people can read your body language – and to ensure that your background is not too distracting.