How to Stay Focused and On Track During Remote Meetings

These days, many companies are operating with remote or hybrid employees. While this allows employers to hire diverse workers, it can create problems. One not-insignificant challenge is keeping employees focused and on task during remote meetings.

Let’s be honest, Zoom fatigue is real. Staring at a screen filled with small faces, instead of interacting with people in person, can be tiring. Fatigue often leads to unproductive meetings with employees either zoning out or just not bringing their most attentive selves to the table.

Fortunately, there’s good news. There are ways to help employees stay on track during virtual meetings. From creating a crisp agenda to keeping meetings short, here are six tips to ensure your employees remain productive during remote meetings.

1. Be intentional with your use of meetings.

One common mistake employers make is scheduling recurring meetings even when they aren’t necessary. As an employer, you want to stay in touch with your employees, especially when many are working from home. However, the solution for that doesn’t need to be recurring Monday morning meetings that become more rote than valuable.

If you want to keep your employees focused, be intentional about scheduling meetings. Make sure there’s a clear purpose for every meeting along with a specific goal.

For instance, maybe you want to use a meeting to make a decision on a new company initiative. Or maybe you just want to schedule some time to brainstorm ideas. The purpose of the meeting must be clear to all. For the meeting to be successful, it will need to provide value to everyone involved.

As a rule of thumb, ask yourself this question: “Does this meeting have a clear purpose?” If the answer is no, or even unclear, don’t schedule anything.

2. Create and share a meeting agenda in advance.

Long before your meeting is scheduled to begin, create and share a clear, concise meeting agenda based on the overall goal. By creating a meeting agenda and distributing it to all parties, you help ensure productivity at meeting time.

For instance, let’s say you want to use this meeting to brainstorm with your employees. What exactly do you want to brainstorm? How much time do you want to allocate to this meeting? Whom do you want to attend the meeting? Whom do you want to lead this meeting?

All of these questions should be answered beforehand and detailed in the meeting agenda. Once the agenda is created, make sure to share it with those attending prior to the meeting.

In fact, it’s a good idea to send the agenda a few days before the meeting so participants have time to ask questions and prepare. By sharing the agenda before your brainstorming meeting, for example, your employees have time to consider new ideas and come to the meeting prepared.

3. Don’t go over meeting time.

Plenty of people view meetings as little more than a huge time suck. When you’re working on a project, stopping to hop onto a remote meeting call can be frustrating.

What’s even more frustrating is when a scheduled 30-minute meeting lasts an hour and a half. You can pretty much guarantee attendees will stop paying attention and start zoning out. Not only does this decrease productivity during the meeting, but it also makes it difficult for employees to return to work once it’s ended.

That’s why it’s important to stay true to the time you’ve allocated for a meeting. If the meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes, make sure it doesn’t go over. End early whenever possible.

With that said, some meetings might need to run longer than planned. For example, you might be onboarding a new hire. That could require a full day of calls going over multiple topics. In that case, schedule regular breaks so attendees can refresh and regroup.

4. Engage with your remote meeting attendees.

Employees are typically more productive when they’re able to participate and engage. According to research published in Forbes, employees who feel like they’re being heard are almost five times more likely to perform at their best. Keeping this in mind, consider making your meetings more collaborative and immersive.

One way to do that is by giving every attendee a chance to participate in meetings. For example, you might allocate time in a meeting for remote workers to provide constructive criticism. You might even ask for feedback on how to make remote meetings more productive.

5. Experiment with different meeting platforms.

When it comes to collaborative platforms, some might be better suited for your team than others. Don’t be afraid to experiment as you figure out what works. Once you find a platform that seems suited to the majority of your participants, do your best to stick with it. Some companies make the mistake of integrating several platforms.

For example, they might have employees communicate via Slack but schedule meetings via Zoom. While this might work for some, it could frustrate some employees who aren’t comfortable jumping from platform to platform throughout the day.

In addition, be sure to send out any necessary video conferencing links 10-15 minutes prior to the meeting time. Even if you sent the identical link out several days earlier, this will eliminate any ambiguity.

6. Don’t forget about proper business etiquette.

There are several benefits to working remotely. One is not having to get dressed for work. While there might be nothing wrong with wearing your pajamas in the comfort of your own home, meetings shouldn’t be that casual. To avoid unnecessary distractions, everyone needs to maintain a reasonable level of business etiquette.

When hosting or attending a meeting, make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Check that your space and background are clean. Put the cat or dog in another room with the door shut. Yes, you’re working from home, but that doesn’t mean professionalism gets thrown out the window.

Virtual meetings should maintain the same standards for decorum as in-person meetings. You shouldn’t ever try to “attend” a meeting while texting, doing the dishes, or watching television. Supervisors need to call violators out on this sort of behavior.

Now that so many employees are working remotely, conducting efficient meetings is more critical than ever. They’re vital as they allow everyone to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the company. However, without guardrails, meetings aren’t always productive and can even sometimes be draining.

According to research, 38% of employees report feeling exhausted after a full week of virtual meetings, and 30% of employees say they feel stressed. By using the tips above, you can avoid those dire fates and help your employees get more out of remote meetings.