Having worked from home for weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be relishing the return to the office and in-person meetings. After all, you may have suffered from Zoom fatigue due to too many online meetings. However, the post-COVID-19 work environment is going to be different. Physical distancing will be the norm. In-person meetings, if held, will be in large rooms with fewer people and lots of space in between.
It is likely that some team members will continue to work from home while others work in the office, perhaps with rotating schedules i.e. not everyone will be in the office at the same time. When everyone was working from home, you adopted de facto best practice for virtual team meetings: everyone on their own computer: one person, one screen, one mic and one speaker.
How do you maintain that for a hybrid situation with some participants In a physically distanced office and other participants working from home? The solution: invest in a headset for each worker. The headset should have a built-in noise cancellation mic. This is to block out background noise such as coworkers talking nearby, loud machines or traffic from outside.
Don’t buy the cheapest headsets because they tend to be uncomfortable for long term use. You want something you don’t mind having over your ears for the entire day. I have been using my headset for more than 5 years now: it’s very comfortable, sounds good and has great noise cancellation capability.
Once you have this for every worker, you no longer need to book a large room and risk physically distanced meetings. The effect of having some people meet in person and others join online is a two-tier meeting. Those in the same room have higher communication bandwidth and those online suffer a lower bandwidth. The worst thing that can happen is the online participants feel left out and proceed to tune out of the meeting.
Years ago, at a PMI conference, a speaker said, “If you have one virtual participant in a meeting, you have a virtual team—and the best thing you can do for a virtual team is to have everyone be virtual i.e. one computer per person.” That levels the playing field, ensures that there is one conversation and everyone feels left in. As in any effective project meeting, I leave you with one decision and follow-up action: to sustain the benefits of online meeting best practice by purchasing a headset for every member of your team who doesn’t have one.
Project Doctor is brought to you by Wan How Consulting Inc.