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Time To Return To Work? How Do You Plan On Conducting Meetings?


So it is my understanding that your team is set to return to work after the COVID-19 lockdown. Are they going to require some time to fall back into tune with the rest of the team? Are they ready to leave behind the comforts of work from home? I know these questions are bouncing off in your brain at too high a speed right now. 

But you’re missing the most essential element of being back at the workplace— How are you going to manage the safety concerns that accompany the deadly coronavirus? You must be thinking— no more screens we can finally have meetings face to face— But isn’t that just another risk?

Talking of meetings, why do we need meetings anyway? We’ve been in them, we’ve conducted them, and we’ve slept through them. These time-consuming, easy-to-derail gatherings that are at times boring, are a necessary evil— or are they?

Let’s Do A Breakdown Of Why We Have Meetings

We need a quick team meet-up for:

1. Catching Up 

Catching Up 

When we need the employees to report their progress and what they have been doing for a certain period, we need to gather the team around. We conduct meetings to know what they are over with and determine what their next tasks should be. These meetings are often to determine where the team is as per the timeline of the project.

These are necessary because they are a way for people to be informed about the progress of the project as a whole However, these catch-up sessions are also fairly time-consuming and come with no way to document said progress. 

2. Discussing Strategies

Discussing Strategies

Another big reason to have a meeting at the workplace is to discuss strategies. Want to put a new plan into motion, see how well it can do for your organization? Strategy meetings are your answer. These are the meetings where people get to pitch ideas, and you get to select which plan will work the best for your team and the organization. 

These are necessary for the team to collaborate effectively and consequently focus their energies on great ideas and future ventures. However, this is yet again no way to document these ideas and strategies, and hence, meetings can prove to be unfruitful.

3. Providing Feedback

Providing Feedback

Another great advantage of conducting meetings could be that these are a great way to give feedback to your team in a collective setting. Feedback meetings, generally, are a way to provide the team notes about their ongoing work or future assignments.

Collective feedback meetings are great when it comes to making the team aware of how they should proceed with their respective assignments. However, a list of set guidelines should not be something that is simply announced in a meeting. This information should be documented, updated, and shared within the team. 

4. Collecting Intelligence

Collecting Intelligence

Information gathering also includes having meetings. Be it with two people or more, when you are initiating a project and adding to the knowledge base you want your project to be built upon, intelligence collecting meetings are a must. 

A knowledge base is something you can throw information in. Be it for future reference, for safe-keeping, or anything. The collection of this information is invaluable for a project. However, if we are to throw information which is going to end up in a document, why don’t you look for an effective way where the team can collaborate and pitch information themselves.

Having trouble being on the same page with your team? Try ProofHub!

All in all, meetings are mostly about bringing people in the loop. Whether it means giving information or taking information, it seems that the thing that leads people to be on the same page is a meeting. However, as we mentioned above in all the points, meetings might not be as effective as we once thought

As the CEO of ProofHub, I have always tried to minimize meetings. The time it takes to send a message about the meeting’s agenda, the time it takes to inform everyone about the timing and the venue, and the time it takes for people to gather their things and arrive is quite frankly a waste of the resource of time itself. 

What Will Meetings Look Like When You Return To Work?

Talking about return-to-work meetings, let’s first address the elephant in the room. The coronavirus has taught us a lot of things but getting into people’s personal spaces is not one of those things. 

So when we get back to the office, do we really want to be sitting in a meeting hall? I know we’re not at home anymore so there is no point in having video meetings, but there is no use of being crammed into a conference room either. Imagine what kind of health risks that would bring, all COVID-19 things considered. 

If you have read the above points, you know meetings aren’t very effective and can be easily replaced by some efficient way to document, store, deliver, and share information. 

There are two ways to avoid meetings and also the risk of spreading of the coronavirus. These include:

  1. Establishing social distancing rules in the workplace. 
  2. Finding an alternative to having office meetings. 

Let’s discuss the former first:

#1 Establish Social Distancing Rules In The Workplace

Establish Social Distancing Rules In The Workplace

What measures can we take as managers to ensure safety in the workplace? We can do a lot actually. First, you need to know that social distancing at the office is a must. US employees have their own set of guidelines about this, and, similarly, the UK employees do too. 

Here are some very basic steps that we can take to ensure social distancing at the office:

a) Modifying The Looks Of The Office

This is something very easy to achieve. Here modifying does not mean refurbishing or renovating but rather it means minimizing clutter. For modifying the office space, you need to minimize the obstructions, throw the unwanted stuff, and finally, create space. 

The more space the people have, the more protected they are in the workplace.

  • Clear out the desks, 
  • Empty the trash cans, 
  • Hire a cleaning/disinfecting crew,
  • Place the workstations at a distance, 
  • Demarcate the seating space for every employee, 
  • Employ a method to disperse the people from points where people gather the most. 

b) Educate People About The Changes

To actually make a difference by having social distancing policies that work, you need to create an environment where it is perceived as a great idea. You must keep talking about the changes to educate your team about all the things that social distancing, proper hygiene, and putting on protective equipment will do for them. 

We must:

  • Have a weekly announcement session where you reinstate the benefits of putting on a mask and keeping your distance. 
  • Send out memos about your concern for the health and safety of the employees.
  • Provide protective equipment to the employees who do not have access to them.
  • As a manager, you must also wear this gear and practice distancing to lead by example. 

c) Work Hard But Work In Shifts 

When you’re inviting your team back to the office, make sure that there isn’t a surge of employees in the workplace. You can ensure less occupancy in the office by promoting staggered office timings. Working shifts is a great solution to make sure that people aren’t all coming through the same door at the same time. 

You must promote:

  • The members of the team coming in at staggered timings. 
  • People coming in shifts i.e., night and day shifts. 
  • You can also call in half of your team to work in the first half of the working day and the other half of your team can come into work in the second half. 
  • You could also break the team in two halves and call them on alternate days. 

Keep the whole team informed with group chats and team discussions! Sign up for ProofHub today!

d) Set Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Guidelines

Under this point, I would just like to state three things:

Use your own,

Bring your own, and

Trust your own.

Protective gear such as masks (N95), rubber gloves, and face shields should be a custom at all workplaces. Although you should set your own guidelines as per the functioning of your own office space. For instance, you could set a couple of ground rules such as:

  • Everyone has to bring their own (washed and sanitized) protective gear from their respective homes. 
  • They have to wear these throughout the length of the workday. 

And, all this, of course, will go hand in hand with:

  • Thermal screening of the team right when they arrive. 
  • Placing hand sanitizing stations throughout the office. 
  • Disinfecting the office space at the end of every workday. 

In addition to that, we must reduce the need for things, files, and folders being passed around by introducing automation technology in the workplace. 

In fact, I have watched automation tools replace meetings in many scenarios. They can indeed be an effective alternative to meetings in the long run. Let’s discuss this further:

#2 What Are Some Amazing Alternatives To Having Meetings?

What Are Some Amazing Alternatives To Having Meetings?

If the remote work era has taught us anything, it is that we don’t need to be in constant physical contact for collaborating or for working productively. 

This is exactly why meetings could very well be redundant in the near future. Automation tools can and are replacing everything. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

a) Taking Over Team Communication

There is no team in the world that didn’t have to go through the process of looking for a communication tool that would help in the easy back and forth during the lockdown period. 

So as managers, we know that there are communication tools that facilitate instant messaging, quick file sharing, and also ones that help you connect through video calls. 

Tools such as Chanty, Slack, Troop Messenger, and many more can keep your team stays on the same page even when you can’t be physically close to the people you work with.

Setting a meeting agenda, discussing strategies in the group chats, doing a quick follow-up with your teammates is all possible with a communication tool.

b) Save Notes For Reference

There are tools out there that can help you document the ideas after brainstorming. Furthermore, every meeting can be recorded by noting down the meeting minutes on one dedicated platform. 

Here at ProofHub, we always promote documenting information, we like to brainstorm and store our ideas for safekeeping. But these notes would not just help you on a rainy day, this is information you can always come back to for reference, making modifications, and important additions, etc. 

Note-taking apps like Google Keep, Evernote, and Dropbox Paper, etc. are both handy and useful as they help you keep tabs on what information you would want to use later.

These tools can be especially helpful as they provide the team a space where they can participate in adding to these notes hence making the distribution of information much easier.

c) Effectively Collaborate With The Team

Sharing information makes collaboration easier. In fact, if you recall, the purpose of productive meetings is to bring people on the same page. So why don’t we dedicate a platform where information can be kept, shared, and distributed in a very seamless way?

One such category of tools that provide all of that is cloud storage platforms. Here you can add, submit, deliver, and organize your files and documents easily without the need of needlessly sharing them to the individual teammates.

And in the way that every meeting has agendas, you can separate your information into different folders and keep them handy for the whole team. 

Share files, add tasks, engage in conversations quickly with ProofHub. Start your FREE trial now.

d) Give Actionable Feedback 

Meetings help provide feedback to the team. But, feedback, most of the time is unclear, uncertain, and most of all, inadequate. 

This is where reviewing and proofing tools come in. These are tools that give you a platform to provide quick and clear feedback and annotate the changes you would like to see in the final version of the document with markup tools.

These tools aren’t industry-specific and every team finds the use for these in one form or the other. 

It is an effective way to share and review all kinds of files. In addition to that, numerous versions of the same file can be stored and organized successfully with these tools.

e) Manage Projects On The Go

In the end, we have something that sums up the purpose of meetings itself i.e. managing projects. After all, that is our main goal, isn’t it?

Managing projects can be made into a doable task with technology that helps you collaborate with the team, assign tasks, share action items, and stick to goals, all on the same platform. Using a project management software stands to reason a lot more when you have a team that has just come back to work after the coronavirus lockdown. 

Being in contact with the team, saving ideas for later, acting on feedback is one thing, but keeping track of the whole project as well as the performance of the team is the job best suited for such a software platform. 

A workplace can function a lot better when there is a central location for all the tasks, files, projects, notes, and discussions. And, yes, all of that comes with the tiny package of a good project management tool. 

ProofHub is one such tool, and with an array of unique features, it kicks Trello, Basecamp, and even ClickUp, right out of the park. 

All The Ways In Which ProofHub Can Help Replace Meetings

ProofHub, like many other project management tools, is one that can be the alternative you needed to replace meetings when you return to work. Let me explain this point better by elaborating how it can help you:

Keep Everything In One Place

Be it discussions, keeping notes, preparing a guide for how to attempt tasks, or reporting progress, ProofHub is a go-to solution for solving every meeting related issue. If you think meetings are necessary, consider this:

  • This tool helps keep your information safe within all your team members. 
  • Exchanging files, information, and updates is also easier with a project management tool such as ProofHub. 
  • It is a way for the team to see their goals and weekly agendas clearly and map progress. 
  • In fact, it is also a way to stay connected with your team and even your clients.

Assign Tasks & Pass Guidelines

ProofHub is a preferred system when you consider a replacement to successful meetings because it helps you assign tasks and convey the expectations in a very thorough way. For example:

  • It helps you assign individuals or groups to various tasks. 
  • Provide information and guidance in the form of notes when you assign tasks. 
  • You can also provide comments and add updates to these tasks. 
  • Notify the assignees instantly when a task is assigned to them with ease. 

Track Progress & Be In The Loop

If meetings for you are a simple follow-up, ProofHub can be a lot of help to you because with a management tool you don’t have to ping anyone to get their progress reports. 

  • You can track what needs to be done and view task deadlines with Kanban boards and the calendar view. 
  • Check the status of the tasks against the timeline of the whole project. 
  • Create and share reports to know what everyone is up to. 
  • Provide feedback easily by keeping a record of this progress. 

Track progress and calculate billable hours, all under one roof! Give ProofHub a try!

Stay Connected With The Team 

Sometimes we run meetings just so people can have an opportunity to talk to each other and present ideas. But some meetings are serious brainstorming sessions. ProofHub combines both and offers you a platform to communicate however you want. Let’s discuss how ProofHub is a successful communication platform:

The Chat Tool

  • It provides a way to communicate with individuals and groups. 
  • You can interact with the other person using emojis and sharing links. 
  • Quickly make groups for reaching out to your team in particular for group chats.

Comments & Feedback

  • ProofHub allows you to proof documents wherein you can use markup tools to give reviews
  • You can also give comments directly on the task card so the assignee can stay updated. 
  • You can also reach the person you want to convey your remarks to by @mentioning them.

Team Discussions

  • Create discussion portals for team discussion where people can express their ideas, thoughts, and opinions. 
  • In discussions, you also get to attach files, and share notes. 
  • You get to create different discussion topics corresponding to different meeting agendas.

Final Words

The noteworthy thing about returning to work after all this while is the uncertainty your people are going to meet with. And, even though people might not be totally in the clear yet, there are steps a leader can take to ensure the safety of the people around them when they return to work

I hope you take away from the article the fact that making the workplace a welcoming as well as a safe place at this time is doable.

Discover all the options that can lead your team to be safe following the social distancing norms and invest in the technology that will help your team be on the same page. Make your return to work a productive experience with automation tools to help you conduct meetings, review work and track progress.

 Sandeep Kashyap
Sandeep Kashyap

Sandeep Kashyap is the Founder and CEO of ProofHub — a leading project management and collaboration software. He’s one person always on a lookout for innovative ideas about filling the communication gap between groups, teams, and organizations. You’ll find him saying, "Let’s go!" instead of "Go!" many times a day. That’s what makes him write about leadership in a way people are inspired to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.

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