A hybrid world is here to stay

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By Maud Lindley

December 17, 2020

Does this mean we have to go back to Boardroom cameras?

In 2020, we have (almost) seamlessly embraced new habits of virtual communication. Whether your preferred platform is Zoom, Teams or Webex your brain has quickly adapted to the constraints of remote collaboration. We have learnt to develop trust, open up in deep personal conversations and make critical decisions…without being triggered by the lack of direct eye contact, the delay in sound reception or the jumpy internet connection.

Inclusion has not suffered. In fact, we have observed that our brains worked quite well with the structured nature of a computer screen that dedicated equal space for each meeting participant. Without our conscious awareness, our brains have integrated new rules and cues that we did not think were possible before.

With the return to the office, are we going to keep the same level of communication and inclusion? How can we effectively make a hybrid world work? Shall we simply zoom in from the main screen camera with our colleagues working from home when we are all meeting around the boardroom table?

Well it is not that simple. If we are not careful, we may fall back into the bad habits of insider/outsider feeling. Do you remember the days where the two Melbourne attendees barely participated in a Sydney-led catch-up? Or when the person working from home did not say a word during a critical decision-making meeting?

How do we avoid this pattern from coming back in 2021? There are 3 critical components that enable inclusive and efficient hybrid meetings:

1.         Equal visual representation

2.        All attendees to be able to see each other’s facial expression

3.       Everyone on the same footing to avoid insider/outsider feeling

How do we achieve this when some members of the team are physically together, and the others are remotely participating? Our recommendation is to ban the use of the Boardroom main camera which captures several meeting attendees on the same camera and does not allow remote participant to see their colleagues’ facial expression.

We have tested for you the following set-up which works beautifully to keep the brain habits formed in 2020 in a 2021 world.  These are simple strategies which can either make or break a positive team dynamic:

1.         Make sure you have 1 camera per participant – everyone is expected to bring their own laptop, connect to the virtual meeting and use their camera in a way that captures their facial expression.

2.        Meeting physical attendees can sit around the same table, with their laptop in front of them. They absolutely don’t have to look at their camera and can look at their colleagues in the room when interacting. However, our brains remember the virtual meeting and we actually include the virtual participants naturally moving our focus in and out of the screen between virtual and physical attendees.

3.       The main issue you will encounter is of course…the echo. To prevent this unpleasant sound feedback to occur, we recommend that all physical attendees except one turn off their speaker and mute their microphone. If you are all sitting in a small room, the sound can be captured by one of the attendees’ laptop microphone. If you are sitting in a large boardroom, you will need to connect the Boardroom sound system as an attendee to the room while everyone else will be muted.

 

These are three simple rules we recommend to maintain the incredible progresses our brains have made to adapt to 2020. Keep it up…don’t revert back to our old ways of virtual exclusion!