When you’re running a laboratory, checking in with peers through regular in-person meetings is key to keeping up with how projects are progressing, sharing ideas and bonding with your colleagues.
When the COVID-19 pandemic threw into disarray what was a regular part of the week for laboratory staff, meetings became a lot more makeshift. Now with over a year of remote, or at least, socially distanced work under our belts, many of us will be used to conducting lab meetings in the new normal.
But even after all this time, are your staff benefitting from these remote meetings? Or are they merely something to endure? If you need some help running your lab meetings during the pandemic, then we’ll take a look at what you can do before, during and after them to ensure they’re as effective as possible.
Preparing for your remote lab meetings
Send out meeting reminders
Even if you’ve sent out invites and placed the meeting on a calendar, it doesn’t mean people are going to attend. Whether your team is busy or just plain forgot about them, meeting invites can fall through the cracks.
Be sure to send out a reminder a day or two before to jog everyone’s memories. 24 hours should be enough time for them to prepare for things, and everyone’s collective effort should add up to plenty of discussion throughout the meeting.
Agree on a time that works for everyone
However frequently you meet, a good way of ensuring people prepare for and attend your lab meetings is to hold them at the same time. Since our work schedules and home life have become more intertwined, lab managers need to mindful of everyone’s situation.
People are having to work around partners and children, and certain times of the day might not be so conducive to productivity as when everyone is in the lab. Choosing one day of the week, at a time that suits everyone, helps facilitate greater attendance.
Log on early to avoid tech issues
Once you’ve agreed on the best time to meet, make sure you’re logging onto your chosen meeting platform 5-10 minutes before attendees start joining. Technical difficulties can happen to even the most seasoned presenters, so it’s always best to iron out any issues before you start. After that, you can check emails while you wait for everyone else to join.
What to do during your remote lab meetings
Keep small talk to a minimum
Although many of us will have missed face-to-face interaction, not everyone is a fan of a 10-minute pre-amble when they’ve other tasks to complete or other meetings to attend throughout their day. A quick check-in before getting into the meeting’s agenda should be more than sufficient.
Make sure you’re not the only one speaking
If you’re the sole speaker during your meetings, then chances are that people will soon lose interest. Don’t assume that everyone is listening with the same enthusiasm you have for talking about the topic.
In sharing information with members of a group, you should aim to engage everyone naturally as opposed to singling out people you feel aren’t contributing. Be sure to leave time for questions at the end so that people can raise issues that perhaps weren’t expanded on during the main portion of the meeting.
Host meetings to let people unwind
It’s been a tough 12 months or so for many of us, so it’s always a good idea to schedule a Zoom call for non-work-related reasons. The social side of virtual meetings gives everyone a chance to re-charge, re-engage and put us in a better frame of mind.
At the end of the week, make time to gather virtually for social reasons. It could be a case of celebrating small victories, whether it’s someone’s birthday or a project that’s received funding, or fun quizzes and guessing games that let people unwind.
The team-building aspect of remote working is an important one. Without the usual outlets to keep us entertained, our emotional wellness might have taken its toll. Use these more light-hearted meetings as a way to strengthen relationships among your team.
What to do after your remote lab meetings
Let people know their next steps
Lab staff should leave the meeting with a clear sense of what they need to do next. To ensure this, you might consider creating actionable item lists, and then sending them to each participant after the meeting has concluded. Or you may favour discussing what everyone has been busy with at the beginning of the next meeting you hold.
If you go with the list approach, then don’t let that list simply exist in a vacuum. At the next meeting, give staff a chance to go over why certain points on the list haven’t been completed, so you can discuss things that need to be implemented along with any further changes that would facilitate completion of the list.
Pencil in the next meeting
Either way, follow up the meeting by scheduling in the next one, so that staff have time to collect topics or issues they want to discuss. Setting the date for the next meeting also gives them something else to work towards and is a good way of seeing how the project has progressed since the previous meeting.
You might also want to consider keeping a weekly check-in log where staff write down what they completed the previous week and what they plan on doing next week. Or you may prefer to send each participant a summary that outlines what will be discussed in the next meeting.
Whichever approach you go for, it gives everyone the time to come prepared rather than just showing up without any idea of what’s expected of them.
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