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Keep A Close Eye on Meeting Equity in 2022
Driven by the pandemic-led shift to remote and hybrid work, the last two years have seen unprecedented change in enterprise communications. As we look forward to 2022, the one thing, in my opinion, to watch out for as remote work shifts to hybrid work is meeting equity.
Organizations bringing employees back to the office are grappling with creating an even playing field (or pitch) among remote and in-office employees. Few wish a return to days when a typical meeting consisted of most participants being physically present in a conference room. Meanwhile, remote participants dialed, audio-only, into a conference phone but couldn’t effectively participate in discussions or ideation with those in the room.
Now, business and IT leaders face transitioning from a largely remote workforce that has spent the last two or so years meeting on video apps to one in which meetings consist of a broader mix of in-office and remote participants.
Two key challenges include:
- How to ensure that remote employees can effectively share ideas and collaborate with those in the meeting room
- How to ensure that those in the meeting room can participate in conversations happening among remote employees.
The former isn’t much different from meeting problems of the past.
Today, most companies are expanding their use of videoconferencing. For example, Metrigy’s research shows that around 57% of organizations are increasing their deployments of meeting room video conferencing systems to ensure that high-quality video is ubiquitously available to all.
Our research also shows companies increasing investment in touch screen technologies to enable those in meeting rooms and those working remotely to participate together in ideation sessions using virtual whiteboard applications.
We’re also seeing meeting software vendors, including Cisco, Microsoft, and Zoom, introduce capabilities, often in partnership with videoconferencing endpoint manufacturers, to capture in-room participants and display them within their own on-screen box, providing remote participants with a similar view to the one they would have if all participants were joining a meeting from their desk. Even newer are meeting capabilities that leverage virtual reality or augmented reality to provide new ways for remote and in-person meeting participants to interact.
The latter is a relatively new challenge. Recently I attended numerous meetings that flipped the script. I.e., most participants attended remotely, and a handful attended from the conference room. In this scenario, the remote participants have the advantage of chatting within the meeting app. Meanwhile, those in the room don’t see anyone and can’t contribute to the chat without opening their laptops or taking out their mobile devices. The last thing we need in a meeting is forcing in-room participants to have their heads down on their laptops to view chats—meaning they aren’t making face-to-face contact with remote participants (or even with others in the room). I expect to see video app vendors address this by enabling on-screen chat visibility and potentially allowing in-room participants to open chat-only sessions on their personal devices. That way, they don’t show up as both an in-room and virtual participant within a meeting.
IT and business leaders must take a proactive approach toward achieving meeting equity in 2022. It starts with spending time with your meeting app and hardware vendors to understand how they’re addressing meeting equity, both now and in the future. High in your list of considerations is to evaluate the potential need for investments in video endpoint and touchscreen technologies to ensure that all meeting participants are able to equally collaborate with one another, regardless of location. Beyond hardware, evaluate meeting apps vendor initiatives to provide a common experience for all attendees. Finally, be sure to regularly gather data from your employees to understand their concerns and potential frustrations as hybrid meetings grow in frequency.