Meeting equity – the key to post-pandemic workplace success

Employees sat around together discussing business issues.
(Image credit: Pixabay)

There are many aspects of life over the past two years that people probably want to move past. But one development that has had a shared positive impact is hybrid work. Having made the switch initially to accommodate COVID restrictions, it is now a permanent fixture for many businesses, sparking a wider trend of digital innovation across many industries as greater efficiency was gained by collaborating over digital platforms.

About the author

Martin Bodley is Director & Global Head of Bose Work at Bose Professional.

It’s impossible to overlook the overwhelmingly positive response to this switch in work patterns from employees – research shows that 80% professionals prefer hybrid working over being in the office five days a week. Clearly, what was intended to be a temporary switch to see businesses through the pandemic has stuck, whether driven by an appetite for reduced commutes and improved work-life balance.

But for all the benefits of hybrid work, such a fundamental shift in work practices was bound to have teething issues. Primarily, is it right for everyone? For it to feasibly become the de facto standard, employers must ensure it works for all their knowledge workers to create the most effective, collaborative and fair working environment. The same research shows that whilst employees prefer hybrid working, a significant 71% find hybrid meetings stressful due to technological issues and an inability to fully engage and interact.

So, how do businesses meet the wishes of their employees while ensuring they’re providing the right conditions for productivity and doing so fairly? It comes down to meeting equity.

What is meeting equity?

Meeting equity means that each meeting attendee – whether joining in-person or virtually and regardless of location — has the same opportunity to participate in a meaningful way. If this isn’t accounted for, the results can include a disengaged workforce and information missed due to varying technology among employees. The concept used to be about recognizing personality types, keeping minutes, staying on topic and ensuring meeting flow was not dominated or side-tracked. That was when meetings used to consist of everyone in the same physical space, but with the explosion of hybrid work this term has evolved.

In the post-pandemic hybrid workforce, meeting equity has taken on a whole new set of variables, many of which are technology driven. Of course, meeting behavior is still an important factor, but meeting equity is about ensuring everyone can hear and be heard, see and be seen, and give and receive information on a level playing field. It’s as much about enabling technology as it is encouraging and facilitating collaborative behavior. As hybrid working matures, those participating remotely are no longer limited on how much they are able to contribute and learn from meetings. Technology now enables everyone involved to have a far better experience than was previously available.

Technology levels the playing field

One solution businesses consider when addressing meeting equity challenges is to provide the option for meeting participants to join remotely — even if they are in the office. This option to join from their office desks or private cubicles, means there is no discrepancy between those attending in-person versus remotely and everybody works within the same level playing field. This approach can be effective, but may risk losing the benefits of in-person exchanges, which may feel odd, particularly when several participants are already in the same building together.

The key to meeting equity is determining what your business needs to make it a reality. This starts with the IT team and identifying where technology upgrades are needed, then creating a strategy to build the best environment for collaborative, productive work — in and out of the office.

It’s about elevating the remote meeting experience so it is as similar to an in-person meeting as possible and provides all participants an equal opportunity to contribute and share information. In a business world where key decisions, important deals and employee engagement can all swing on the quality of a hybrid meeting experience, the impact of poor audio quality, delayed video or overcomplicated conferencing platforms can be severe.

Hybrid environments are the future of work, so it’s vital to improve the value a videoconferencing meeting can deliver. It’s increasingly a ‘must’ rather than a ‘nice to have’ for the workforce, which will continue to work from anywhere. If businesses are to meet the demands of this new generation of employees, it’s smart business to make meetings equitable for everyone.

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Martin Bodley is Director & Global Head of Bose Work at Bose Professional.