As remote work becomes more prevalent, employers will respect and cherish their employees’ time zones, and they will enjoy a more true sense of freedom. Nevertheless, some employees who are really far from their employer may still be required to work from home outside their usual 9 to 5 work hours.

Most of those hours outside the 9-5 schedule are spent in meetings with participants from another continent (more or less). It’s mainly because most of the work we do on a day-to-day basis is procedural and not strategic. Yet in today’s business world, remote work should definitely be strategically oriented.


Why should your meetings take a strategic approach?

Let’s start by looking at why you should make the strategic change in the first place.

Preparation is key for strategic planning meetings. Make the most of your resources and understand the organization’s position in the market so that you can make sound business decisions during all meetings.

It’s easy to get off track or tangle up in these meetings, which are often several hours long. As a result, colleagues become distracted, disengaged, and begin working on other tasks.

It is worse still when ideas are lost, thrown away, or accidentally erased from the whiteboard-and even if they are written down, they are only available to a handful of people. Taking these issues into account can quickly complicate strategic planning. As a result, meeting participants have very little to present and have no actions to take next.

In order to maximize the flexibility of working autonomously, your company needs to find efficient ways to give remote workers the ability to set their own schedules. This is especially important if you see signs that this is needed.

These methods should be defined as part of your company’s strategy for meetings, whether you’re a remote-friendly employer or a remote-first employer. Let’s explore some of the methods and questions you could consider when implementing a strategic approach to remote meetings in this article.


1. Be sure all attendees understand your collaboration software

It’s no secret that most remote workers know how to use most collaboration software. In a previous article, we even discussed how employers seeking remote employees value and prefer remote employees who speak the language of remote collaboration tools.

Even with this, and even though traditional conference ‘dial-ins’ are still available, video conferencing tools are becoming the standard (such as Zoom, MS Teams, GoTo Meeting, Slack or Webex), as they allow people to feel as if they are in the same room together.

There is no guarantee that everyone within your organization will be proficient in all types of software or technologies. To ensure all participants are comfortable with the technology, it is crucial that they try out the technology before the meeting.

There’s nothing worse than a 10-minute delay in a meeting because of a broken connection!


2. Are all the current and recurrent meetings really necessary?

Creative departments/companies should generally hold meetings to brainstorm and come up with some conclusions at the end of each one. It’s true that some meetings have other purposes as well, such as board meetings or meetings with department managers. In these instances, it is important to determine if the topics you are addressing over a few meetings are genuine of immediate concern.

By prioritizing which meetings are important and who should participate in those meetings, you can greatly improve your teams.

There are a lot of situations where team members who participate don’t have to constantly attend meetings. While it is important that they are kept up to date on the situation, an email that condenses the big points of a meeting should suffice.


3. Reconsider the length of your meetings

Considering unconventional meeting lengths would be a good start. As an example, instead of an hour-long meeting, why not go for a 45-minute or 20-minute one instead? If you opt to make meetings shorter, you might want to rethink how you will spend the time as compared to the usual meeting length. You can plan for some personal time from time to time, for instance, bringing in videos of your children, pets, spouse or technical failures.

Nevertheless, you should not forget that since your meetings will be changing and most likely becoming shorter, making the most of those meetings requires a clear agenda regarding the content of those meetings.

In order to encourage communication, you may decide to split team meetings in half, with the team leader speaking for no more than 50 percent of the time, and the other 50 percent available for collaboration, conversation, and discussion.

Changing your approach can help if the team is not used to speaking up. If you want people to use the chat feature or alternate who leads the meeting, then it is a good idea to encourage the use of the chat function. But ensure that at the same time, you don’t force anyone to speak or make anyone feel under pressure, just like you wouldn’t if you were in a meeting.


4. Consider dividing long meetings

The decision-making process can be broken down into shorter meetings: Online strategy discussions are tiresome, of course.

The best way to ensure your decision-making process is successful is to have at least a few more meetings than you would normally do for an in-person planning session, and to keep each meeting to a maximum of 3-4 hours.

It is better to move away from longer one (or two) day ‘away-days’ to a series of shorter meetings spaced out over a matter of one or two weeks instead. Meetings will need to have an overall agenda plan prepared, but the work in between is equally important (e.g., detailed analysis/research, more focused thinking or planning, smaller task-group meetings, etc.).

But be flexible, too. Strategic meetings are also part of a highly dynamic decision-making process, so ideas and views may evolve or change as the process unfolds.


5. Measure success by goals achieved, not work schedules

For a company based on a remote model, trusting remote employees is imperative. It makes sense for your company to create productivity-based roles in this situation. In other words, you need to build a system in which trust is inherent, so that roles are based on productivity rather than time.

Your remote staff may even find that, with such a change, they are able to focus more on their deliverables rather than their clocks.

Then what would be the best way to accomplish that?

By putting clear tasks, deliverables, and goals in place, you can begin to build trust among your employees. It makes it easier to measure the added value for both the employee and employer, which will enhance the success of your company.

In other words, if employees see that their input contributes to a successful result, they will be more motivated. From the employer’s  standpoint, you will be able to track the progress of remote employees, and therefore, validate promotions more easily, should that be the case.


6. Discover new ways to collaborate productively

Due to the fact that working models change so frequently, being able to collaborate remotely implies being more creative when implementing new processes and workflows.

Due to the unique nature of some businesses, it’s important to test and figure out what works best for your business and your employees specifically. A good solution might be to give employees a heads-up about what should be the outcome of each meeting so they can prepare for it in advance.

It is even possible for remote workers to create their own meetings boards or workflow, meaning they can individually find creative ways to capture the highlights of each meeting. Boards that are relevant to each individual’s position in the company, but also at a larger scale to ensure a broader perspective to discussion.

Using this method, your team can maximize each meeting and help ensure that everyone is focused on the meeting since everyone present must contribute.


7. Establish meeting roles and assign a coordinator

In order to ensure the success of a remote meeting, you should appoint an appropriately competent co-ordinator – ideally an independent professional who is well-versed in meeting management – especially if the meeting is going to last for a number of hours. For those involved in a virtual meeting who need to both facilitate well and contribute to detailed discussion, it can be much more challenging than an in-person meeting if there is a lot of creative thinking involved.

If at all possible, do not have two or more co-facilitators during any individual segment of a meeting, in order to avoid confusion. If the coordinator is not needed to handle this task, determine who will take care of technology-related tasks, such as monitoring the chat function, splitting groups into breakout sessions, and resolving technical issues that might arise.


8. Engage participants using sessions and applications

Engaging your remote team during busy days can be a challenge, but here are some ways to keep them focused and productive.

Make the most of the interactive tools from most video conferencing platforms to raise interest and engagement. In particular,  grouping people into small, virtual breakout groups could be beneficial – best to divide up the participants beforehand (less disruption on the day) and try to keep them brief.

One of the most helpful tools that can be used is the chat function. Participants can use this to quickly communicate with the coordinator and the whole group at the same time. Tools like whiteboards or voting buttons are also great examples of what your team could use for making these meetings more interactive.

Nonetheless, it would be best not to use too many such tools at once, as more complexity might lead to technical issues, confusion or extra delay. The goal is still to hold a strategic meeting, not just another procedural meeting.


The Verdict

Remember that the foundation of a meeting strategy must be similar to that of an effective in-person meeting, which includes clear objectives, a well-structured agenda, relevant participants, advance preparation from everyone’s part, and a good coordinator.

Some of these steps, no matter how simple they seem, are frequently overlooked or underutilized. Taking this to the next level and implementing it into the strategic approach to your company’s meetings can have a significant impact on the value of your business.

By following these suggestions, you can find that you become a better employer and that your workplace is more productive in the long run. There is no doubt that any company with remote staff can benefit from these strategies in order to become a more effective employer and create a profit-generating enterprise. Business collaboration relies on a trust-based strategy, possibly the most important facto