Categories
virtual events

How to Plan Hybrid Events That Engage Your Attendees and Make Them Come Back for More

A global pandemic doesn’t have many upsides for event planners and marketers. What we do have is a year of lessons learned. When every type of event imaginable was suddenly shifted online, we learned some truths about the “old” way of hosting events. The result is a changed expectation from event-goers as venues reopen their doors for online and in-person events. 

While 2020’s online event transitions were not always smooth, with many far from perfect, what we learned was that having the opportunity to attend virtually made many events accessible in ways that in-person-only events could never be. Ultimately, we have learned that there is no going back. The future of events is the hybrid event — a seamless blend of in-person and virtual experiences to create greater value for both groups. 

You might think that planning a hybrid event simply means planning your event as usual and then bolting on the online component. Alas, the best way is the complete opposite. There are many considerations you need to make when planning.   

What we learned from moving events online

To understand how to build the best hybrid event strategy, we need to look at some of the challenges. The pandemic arrived, and lockdowns went into effect around the world. Events of every type were suddenly either postponed indefinitely or moved online. And it wasn’t just event organizers for large-scale events suddenly having to learn a new approach. 

For companies and business groups, after companies had sent everyone home, the operations team scrambled to work through digital transformation projects they’d expected to have significantly more time to execute against. It was now critical to figure out how to handle company meetings and conferences on top of day-to-day collaboration. Investment in business collaboration tools boomed, but it also exposed their limitations and feature gaps. Workers began suffering video conference burnout. Corporate event planners knew they needed a new strategy to keep their audience engaged in the face of “Zoom fatigue.”

Performers, events staff, and venues all faced unique challenges. Bars, clubs, and concert halls closed. Streamed performances began to pop up across platforms — from solo artists broadcasting via Facebook Live to DJs streaming live sets via Twitch (traditionally seen as a video game streaming service).

At first, all these experiences were jarring as they represented the huge hole that cancellations and closures had left in our lives (and social calendars). Over time, as we all adapted, some silver linings emerged. It was fun to dance in our living rooms. Events we may not have been able to attend physically were easy to tune in to. Workers and family members alike were relieved of expensive travel to attend meetings or celebrations. 

Will it blend? Bringing together your online and in-person event experiences.

We’ve looked deeply now at the challenges and lessons learned from the pandemic. The big takeaway is that while it was hard at first, new technologies have emerged to bridge the gaps. People have adapted to having the choice to attend virtually, and the future of event planning must include this element. 

But, successful hybrid event planning means far more than just creating an in-person event and bolting on a virtual component. You must be “virtual-first” in your planning and then build your in-person experience around that. There are several questions you must consider as you are planning that will guide your approach. 

For meetings, seminars, panels, and the like, think about interactions between the audience and the presenter(s). This is a common pain point, especially for the speakers themselves.

Some questions you must consider are:

  1. How will attendees of each type interact with the presenter(s)?
  2. Will audience members of each type be able to interact with each other?
  3. How will virtual attendees be represented in the physical event space?

More intimate events like weddings and receptions pose additional challenges to ensure that virtual attendees aren’t stuck as observers in the proverbial corner. This requires rethinking not only what technology we use but how we use it. 

Let’s take a high-level walk-through of the hybrid event planning process.

Step 1: Plan your hybrid event’s online approach

First, you need to understand the event’s objectives and fully commit to it as a hybrid experience. This means unifying the online and in-person experiences to create equally great value for both types of participants. Let’s plan an example event: an industry trade show. First, we need to identify all the elements that we wish to include in our event:

  1. Keynote speech
  2. Individual speaker presentations with Q&A
  3. Panel discussions with interactive audience
  4. Trade show floor
  5. Prepared lunch
  6. Networking social hour

To properly build out this hybrid event, we must start by looking at the virtual elements for each piece. How will our virtual attendees experience each one?

Keynote Speech

The keynote speech doesn’t include a Q&A, so the audience passively observes, although they may be sharing points that resonate on social media. We want to make sure we deliver an engaging experience for our virtual audience to build the same level of energy and excitement the physical audience experiences. 

Individual Speaker Presentations with Q&A

For these presentations, we must make sure that our virtual audience can interact with the speaker for questions, see all presented materials, and of course, see and hear the speaker. We also want our virtual audience not to feel like they are watching from the sidelines — what are some clever ways to increase engagement and interactivity?

Panel Discussions

Like the speaker presentations, we must fully engage the virtual audience and then identify how to integrate the physical attendee experience. Virtual attendees need equal levels of interaction and representation to the panel — how might the overall format of the panel be shifted to accommodate this?

Trade Show Floor

The true highlight of any trade show is the showroom floor. Here vendors have booths full of swag and potential access to important names. Plus, attendees have the chance to meet and interact with each other. Virtual attendees want to have this immersive experience and ability to network — how will we place them inside the showroom floor?

Prepared Luncheon

A catered luncheon with 2-3 meal options. A casual opportunity to talk, network, and make new connections/friendships. What does a virtual luncheon look like? How might virtual and physical attendees connect? How do you keep it from being a sad desk lunch for those not there in person?

Networking Social Hour

A more free-movement opportunity for networking than the luncheon, this is a happy hour style social event. Similar questions as the luncheon apply here. How will virtual attendees “roam the room” and have helpful chance encounters and conversations?

2. Build out your hybrid event

Now that you’ve considered all the event’s online elements and asked all the pertinent questions, it’s time to build out the rest of your event experience. Let’s look again at each portion of our trade show event and think about what features and technologies will create a valuable and interactive experience for your attendees. You will need to determine your Virtual Event Platform. Prepare to build out a custom app that does far more than just provide a map and schedule — it will need to build in connection, communication, and interactive functions (or choose a VEP that has a mobile-friendly interface). 

  • Individual speaker presentations with Q&A: Broadcast via livestream to virtual attendees with camera views of both speaker and in-person audience. Dedicated moderators work with both audiences to gather questions. Virtual attendees can ask questions/provide comments via audio or submission to a moderator. Additional interactivity comes in the form of audience polls and games via the app. 
  • Keynote Speech: Broadcast via live stream to virtual attendees. The trade show app gives both virtual and in-person attendees a commentary feed projected alongside the stage. 
  • Panel Discussions: Questions are collected through the trade show app ahead of time from all attendees. Moderators feed these questions to the panel, which is live-streamed. Live comment feed is broadcast (similar to the keynote). 
  • Trade Show Floor: Mail swag bags to all virtual attendees. Create a 3D rendering of the trade show floor to allow virtual attendees to see displays and setups. Create virtual sponsored booths for remote attendees to visit and interact with. Use a remote platform that makes swapping contact info easy and fun.
  • Prepared Luncheon: Select your lunch menu based on what is easy to ship prepared to attendees’ homes or that can be delivered through a nationwide delivery app partner. Make sure your menus are the same for both. Use a platform that provides accessible breakout rooms or tables for attendees to chat and connect. 
  • Networking Social Hour: Create lounges and fun spaces for virtual networking. Allow virtual and in-person attendees to connect through a networking “wall” and trade info using the app. Set up game or discussion tables that physical and virtual attendees can join.

3. Market and promote your hybrid event

You’ve built out your event and determined what features and functions you need. Now you need to sell tickets and get word to your audience. You need to engage both virtual and in-person attendees with a value statement — meaning you need to demonstrate equal value no matter how they attend. This includes emphasizing what makes each special and exciting, whether it be the immersive experience or flexibility and accessibility.

When marketing to both groups, keep the focus on integration and interactivity. Highlight how both groups can benefit from networking and connecting with each other. Provide online networking platforms pre-event to get attendees connected and build hype and excitement. And think about how the addition of interactive platforms enhances both experiences. 

The future of events is hybrid

Event coordinators and conference planners are faced with a new event planning landscape, and their event strategy must adapt. Participants have new expectations, and meeting them means investing in a new way of thinking and new technologies to support it. Remember, there is no going back — hybrid events are here to stay. But with the right tools and strategies, you’ll be able to plan and host interactive and engaging events that wow your attendees, no matter how they attend. 

Learn more about how Socialhour.com can help you create a more engaging hybrid event, or schedule a demo.

Categories
virtual events

How To Create An Exciting Virtual College Reunion Schedule of Events

If you’re planning a virtual college class reunion, it’s common to face a few initial questions: 

  • How can you adapt an in-person class reunion for an online audience? 
  • What does a typical virtual college reunion agenda look like? 
  • What activities take place during an online class reunion?

Drawing from examples from leading universities with the most robust alumni networks in the U.S., we’ve gathered the essential virtual college reunion activities and additional fun ideas to help you create a complete experience that will truly impress your alumni. 

Essential Elements of a Virtual College Reunion Agenda

Your virtual college reunion schedule should include a variety of activities throughout the day and into the night to appeal to the range of alumni reunion goals and expectations. 

Some alumni will want a family-friendly experience and the opportunity to show their children or loved ones their alma mater. Others will want high-energy, adult-oriented activities focused on reliving the excitement of college, and reconnecting with the people who made those years special. 

The best way to understand your alumni expectations and maximize your potential attendee satisfaction is to survey them ahead of the reunion to understand what sort of activities they are or are not interested in. We share a few essential pre-reunion survey questions in this overview of planning a virtual reunion.

Generally, though, there are a few core elements of college reunions that your planning committee should at least consider adding to your reunion agenda during the mornings and afternoons:

  • Welcome Address: Start your virtual class reunion with a welcome address from a member of your planning committee or a notable member of your university leadership. This is an opportunity to greet attendees, explain what they can expect during your reunion, and ultimately set the tone for the rest of the event.
  • Alumni Spotlight Conversations: Feature notable alumni or group alumni based on current role or industry to discuss their work and their views on how their world of work is changing. This can help your attendees connect with other alumni who now work in similar fields, offering invaluable professional networking opportunities. 
  • College Leadership and Faculty Remarks: Host speeches, panel discussions, or informal fireside chats with key leadership members from the university, including the president, vice president, dean, or your student body leaders. These can involve inspirational or thought-provoking discussions (in the style of a TED Talk), an examination of current world events or trends, or a speech that celebrates the class and its accomplishments. 
  • Current Student Remarks: Spotlight current students and their stories to help alumni understand how the university is creating opportunities for its students to thrive, and how they can help those efforts. 
  • Identity and Faith-Based Discussions: Provide open networking spaces or coordinate a discussion of topics related to gender, race, identity, or religion (as appropriate).
  • Remembrance Ceremony: Honor the deceased members of your collegiate community with a special program. Consider including a photo slideshow and offer dedicated rooms for alumni to openly grieve those that they have lost. 

To better understand how you can approach each of these agenda elements, check out these virtual class reunion agendas from Cornell, Smith College, and Amherst College.

8 Virtual College Class Reunion Activity Ideas

The above essential elements of a college reunion are just one piece of your schedule. You will also want to layer in fun activities and networking areas that allow your alumni to freely connect with one another throughout the event.

Include these fun college class reunion activities to keep the energy high during your event and break away from more structured talks:

  • Breakout/Open Networking Rooms: Your alumni are excited to reconnect, and a virtual environment is ideal for enabling guests to hop in and out of rooms at their leisure. Select a virtual event platform that allows you to create small group breakout rooms, ideally with a thought-starter prompt. These can include questions like “What Restaurants Do You Miss” or “Favorite College Memory,” or instead use categories like “Sports Fans,” “Greek Life,” “Now Based In [State or Region],” or “[Dorm or Residence Hall].”
  • Campus Tour: What is new on campus? What little-known facts can you share? Pre-record a campus and community tour, or take attendees on a live tour of select locations. This campus tour video from D’Youville or this from Williston Northampton shows how you can approach your tour.
  • Fun Run: Encourage alumni to complete a fun run and submit their time with the alumni association. You can learn more about how to plan a virtual fun run in this walkthrough
  • Game or Trivia Night: Host a variety of online card or board games, or coordinate a trivia night that focuses on the history of your college or fun facts about your graduating year. 
  • Happy Hour Or Wine and Paint: Offer an open happy hour networking time, or add structure by turning it into a “wine and paint” or similar activity. To elevate the experience further, mail your attendees cocktail mixes to try, or a themed paint kit. 
  • Recipe Sharing: Appeal to the bakers and foodies in your alumni network by hosting a recipe sharing or how-to cooking or baking session. Mail supplies or grocery lists to alumni ahead of time so that they can follow along from home. 
  • Talent Performance: Let your class performers take the stage to sing, perform an instrument, or showcase some other talent that they have. These performances can be recorded ahead of time and streamed so that attendees can all watch and engage with each other. 
  • Yoga or Group Exercise: Allow your attendees to take a moment to unwind and recenter themselves in a yoga or similar group exercise class.

Remember to not pack your agenda too full to allow attendees to take part in one or more of these activities. Your reunion guests need ample time to network with each other and gain the full value that they can from your agenda. If you offer too many exciting activities, or don’t have time in the schedule set aside for these opportunities, your alumni will need to make tough choices on what main events to attend, and that could detract from their experience.

How To Delight Your College Online Reunion Attendees

With the core agenda elements set for your class reunion, your planning committee can now focus on the finishing touches that will turn a perfectly acceptable reunion into a truly outstanding experience.

Pre-reunion Engagement Opportunities

Ahead of the event, create branded hashtags to help alumni keep up with the latest information and join conversations about your reunion. Mail your attendees swag bags and other goodies to get them excited for the reunion. These can include class apparel or useful items like USB drives, as well as any items they’ll need for your reunion activities. And create virtual backgrounds for attendees to use during the event, like these alumni background examples from Stanford University or these from Williston Northampton School

Keep the Momentum Going During the Event

During the event, include a playlist that features popular songs from your college years. Or, live stream a band or similar musician that performs covers of those songs. Further this trip down memory lane with a photo slideshow or video montage in an easy self-service area for alumni to revisit memories at their leisure. 

After the Event

Once your event is over, there are a few final ways to provide value to your attendees. First, share a copy of your virtual photo album, campus tour, or other assets that your alumni may want to revisit. Ensure that they are aware of any social media community groups that they can join to continue engaging with one another after the reunion.

Finally, ensure that you conduct a post-event survey that can help inform future class reunions. Ask about each attendee’s overall satisfaction with the event, their favorite sessions or activities, and any ways that the experience can be improved.

Make Your Online College Reunion an Event to Remember

By hosting a mix of essential in-person college reunion activities and fun, online-friendly activities and networking venues, your alumni are more likely to have a fulfilling reunion experience.

Are you looking for a virtual event platform that can provide your attendees with a number of large and small group activity options? Learn more about how Social hour has hosted alumni events for some of the nation’s top universities.

Categories
virtual events

How To Plan A Virtual College Class Reunion Event Alumni Will Love

Thanks to the rise in virtual events, college reunions can reconnect countless more passionate alumni and faculty from across the globe. 

Understandably, it may sound tricky to adapt a college reunion for a virtual environment. We’re here to help. Whether you’re planning an all-virtual college reunion or a hybrid mix with in-person and online elements, here’s what to include in your event plans and ideas for making the most of hosting it through a virtual platform.

Use Alumni Surveys To Design Your Best Virtual Class Reunion

Lead your event design by addressing alumni needs and hopes for the event. Your reunion setup will, in part, depend on what anniversary you are celebrating. Generally, a 25th reunion marks a significant shift because attendees are ready to re-explore memories and discuss different topics than current work and life successes.

The most effective way to understand what your alumni want is to directly ask them through a mix of surveys, small group conversations, or 1:1 chats starting as far as seven months before your anticipated reunion date.

Some core questions to ask include:

  • Are you interested in an in-person, hybrid, or all-virtual reunion? [rank your options]
  • What do you hope to gain by attending the reunion?
  • Do you have any specific requests for the event?
  • What is the ideal length of a reunion for you?
    • Half-day
    • Full day
    • Two days
    • Three days
  • Which of the following activity types are you most interested in during a virtual reunion?:
    • Speeches and presentations from staff or faculty
    • Lectures and presentations from alumni
    • Casual open-room networking
    • Coordinated group activities through video
  • Are you interested in helping support the reunion in any of the following ways?
    • I would like to be on the reunion planning committee
    • I would like to speak at the reunion
    • I would like to help during the reunion 
    • I would like to donate items or goods for use during the reunion

Use multiple-choice questions to understand your group’s general needs. Open response options will provide more thorough insight but take longer to review.

What Is the Best Virtual Reunion Platform?

With your survey responses analyzed, it’s time to find a platform that can meet these expectations.

There are a lot of virtual events platforms, but many are built with bare-minimum functions or restrictions that treat you like a child. These platforms will be difficult to tailor for your reunion, and your attendees may skip the event altogether if the interface is too confusing or lackluster. 

At a minimum, consider these five essential areas for your virtual reunion platform:

  • Cost based on attendees and time limit: Ask how much the platform costs based on your anticipated attendee count and the necessary elements—breakout rooms, mainstage speaker, during-event announcements—you need for a complete experience.
  • Networking capabilities: How can attendees connect with each other? What level of customization is available for attendee networking rooms?
  • Support for live-streamed or pre-recorded video: What type of content does the platform support?
  • Live support: Does the vendor provide technical support in case something goes wrong during your event?
  • Security: There is always a risk that an alumnus may attend your event with an ulterior motive, or your reunion could be the target of Zoom bombing. Review any security features of each vendor and assess what level of risk your team is comfortable with. 

These are just the top-level questions to ask. We’ve created this 13-question checklist to help you find an ideal virtual college reunion platform. 

Virtual College Reunion Example Schedule and Activities

With a platform and date set, you can now create your event agenda

Start with the essentials. What are the major, must-have elements during your reunion? Generally, college reunions involve these activities:

  • Speeches or panel discussions from college leadership, including the president, vice president, dean, or class leadership. 
  • Remarks from current students. 
  • Alumni-spotlight conversations. These can be a panel conversation, “fireside chat,” or 1:1 or small group presentations for alumni.
  • Interest-based activities or group discussions. 
  • Remembrance ceremony. 

With your core items in place, blend in these other fun reunion activities that work incredibly well for a virtual college reunion:

  • Fun Run
  • Campus tour
  • Small group breakout rooms
  • Happy hour or wine and paint

It’s a New Age of College Reunions

This blog post provides just a glimpse at what you can accomplish during a virtual college reunion. Survey your alumni and create a schedule that is hyper-focused on their needs. You’re then more likely to host a successful event that rebuilds connections and helps your university continue to prosper.

You will likely find that your event technology is the biggest hurdle in your planning process. It’s critical to find an option that will allow you to build the experience you need, plus the benefits of security and an intuitive interface.

We’ve built Socialhour to help accelerate your event design and allow you to focus on what really matters—rekindling relationships that will last a lifetime. Contact us for a virtual reunion consultation: https://events.socialhour.com/contact 

Categories
remote work

Why Virtual Space is More Important in the New World of Hybrid Work


Remote work is certainly not going anywhere soon. But neither is the office.

According to a recent PwC report, only 13% of executives are prepared to let go of their physical office for good. However, just because the office will continue to play a role doesn’t mean that role will be the same. In fact, 87% of executives expect to make changes to their real estate strategy over the next 12 months. Many will consolidate and reduce, while others will open small satellite locations.

What does this mean for facilities management? It’s time to optimize for hybrid work. Here are three strategies to consider:

1. Collect Data and Get Smart with Digital Twins

The digital world bypassed physical office space during the pandemic, but now it’s time to transform office buildings with data. Connected devices are making buildings more intelligent and can attract tenants who now expect more from their offices. For instance, they can offer both facilities managers and employees the ability to track and adjust lighting and temperature in real time.

As these sensors become more sophisticated and connect more of your building’s systems, you can literally begin to piece together a digital copy of your office space, often called a digital twin. This twin encompasses all the dynamic data of your operations, digitally visualizing how people interact with your building. This allows you to optimize and fine-tune your operational strategies. How many people visited the kitchen in the old days? How many now? Even if you don’t have pre-shutdown benchmarks, the data going forward can help you, and your managers, optimize usage and layouts.

Smarter floor plans and more dynamic usage data can create a dialogue with real-time communication and collaboration between buildings, facilities management, individual team managers, and the technology that holds the system together.

2. Redesign Hybrid Offices with Remote Work in Mind

Most of your employees will incorporate at least some degree of remote work into their schedules. In that case, your workspace can stand out dramatically by simply optimizing around a few simple physical design elements that can make a hybrid office more remote-friendly.

For example, many facilities managers are considering how to most efficiently use space when hybrid workers are not in the office. Some of the emerging trends include:

  • Implement a desk ‘hoteling’ strategy, where employees can sign up for a flexible desking pool. This frees up significant space that would otherwise sit unused.
  • Optimize your office’s layout with many small 1-on-1 spaces or call booths. These allow in-person employees to sync with remote employees quickly without distracting other office colleagues. 
  • Increase the number of small, bookable conference rooms. These private spaces are now centrally important to hybrid collaboration, and will likely see a dramatic increase in use.

Think about how to merge physical and virtual spaces to make them work for everyone, and watch your building become a frictionless environment that enables the hybrid work of the future.

3. Virtual Space and Remote Collaboration Shouldn’t Be a Workplace Afterthought

Optimizing for hybrid work doesn’t just flow one way. Just as you optimize the physical for the virtual, you need to offer quality virtual spaces as an extension of your workplace. As hybrid work becomes more popular, facilities managers should now request vetted remote collaboration tools as part of their lease agreements. These remote working packages help potential employees stay connected with their remote teams and help facilities managers succeed.

Consider a meeting platform designed to inspire increased engagement in meetings and empower organizations to measure and improve their hybrid culture’s health. 

Furthermore, we all know that while planned meetings are key, teams interact in critical ways outside the meeting room.  Video tools shouldn’t only facilitate meetings. They need to support natural and unplanned interactions and community as well. Remote collaboration tools must also recreate an office environment when structured meetings are not taking place. Virtual offices allow employees to “sit” in virtual rooms where their colleagues can informally bounce around to sync on topics quickly as necessary. 

Virtual networking platforms can also support small rooms organized around fun topics so employees can engage personally after work in a virtual water cooler. These offerings can be a huge value-add for a company that is on the fence about physical office space.

Hybrid Offices Designed for the New World of Hybrid Work

According to PwC’s report, 75% of executives expect at least half of their employees to be back in the office by July 2021. Only 61% of employees feel the same way. It will be up to building managers to convince them of the benefits of in-person work and safety.

While 55% of employees surveyed said they prefer working remotely at least three days a week, 87% still think the office is essential for key team collaboration and building the most productive relationships. Building managers need to focus their efforts there. The office designs of the past simply will not win skeptical tenets back if they are unchanged. The winners will design smarter, more tenant-friendly offices that integrate remote collaboration and communication, creating a seamless working experience that easily transitions from the physical to the virtual and back again.

Categories
remote work

Data Roundup: Employee Surveys Show Increased Support for Remote Work

The early months of the COVID-19 pandemic were overwhelmingly uncertain for businesses forced to test remote work arrangements. Now, nearly a year into the pandemic, employers are still making significant changes to their remote work arrangements, suggesting that hybrid working models are here to stay.

But how are employees coping with working from home? Is there still enthusiasm for workplace flexibility, or do employees want to return to the office when this is all over? 

We’ve gathered recent data suggesting that workers are increasingly comfortable with—and in favor of—remote work. 

Categories
remote work

Will Remote Work Usher in the Era of the 4-day Workweek?

Nearly a year since its onset, COVID-19 has upended the traditional way of working for most industries. Despite some early hesitation about how the way of work would shift, many companies now embrace permanent work-from-home policies. Employees increasingly hope to continue this workplace flexibility once the pandemic is over. 

The thought of only 41 percent of the U.S. labor force working in a physical office all the time would have seemed ridiculous at the start of 2020. Now, though, companies realize that the productivity benefits of workplace flexibility make these arrangements a competitive essential, not just a perk based on the employer’s trust in their team and goodwill.

As companies continue to explore ways to optimize their business and increase their team productivity, no matter where they are based, does this mean that we will also see the end of the 8-hour a day, 5-day workweek?

Categories
remote work

Is it Time to Say Goodbye to the Corporate Office?

In 2017, many companies made headlines for doing away with remote working arrangements, including IBM, Aetna, and Best Buy. While working remotely had previously been seen as a driver of employee satisfaction and better business results, these high-profile flexible work program cancellations caused many companies to question their work from home policies. 

Then came 2020. The business world experienced a significant shift toward remote work because of COVID-19. The data we’ve seen a year into the pandemic reinforces what studies have suggested for the past decade: yes, remote work can boost productivity. 

But does this mean that companies will continue to embrace flexible working arrangements even when offices reopen? 

Tech Companies Signal Hybrid Work Futures

Increasingly, leading companies are introducing policies supporting a hybrid work future, where in-person and remote work opportunities are blended at the company. Some roles will need at least some in-office time to complete critical tasks but otherwise enjoy greater degrees of flexibility than before—and employers are making lasting decisions about their office spaces because of it. 

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, brands made significant moves that signal it will become increasingly uncommon for a company’s entire team to work under one roof:

  • Cloud computing trailblazer Salesforce announced in February 2021 that it will offer three ways of working going forward. The company even went as far as to say the 9-to-5 workday is dead, and only a small subset of the Salesforce team will work in the office four to five days per week.
  • Internet staple Google will keep its employees remote until September 2021 and then experiment with a new hybrid work model giving employees the flexibility they desire.
  • Trillion-dollar company Microsoft announced that the majority of its employees can work from home half of their time (or permanently, with manager approval) and that its US offices won’t reopen until early this year at the earliest
  • Tech giant Pinterest paid $89.5 million to terminate its lease with a soon-to-be-built complex near Pinterest’s existing San Francisco HQ
  • Retailer REI announced its plans to sell a newly finished corporate campus in Washington, which was once called “like summer camp for grown-ups.”
  • Nationwide will work out of four main corporate campuses, exiting most of its other buildings and workly entirely remotely in all other areas.
  • Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman expressed uncertainty about the future of work but noted that the bank would need “much less real estate.”
  • Siemens, one of the largest companies in the world, recently announced it would “focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office” in measuring worker performance. 
Categories
productivity

Enhancing Workplace Productivity In The Age of Remote Work

In the past, many companies equated “working from home” with “slacking off from home,” fearing the potential productivity losses their company would face if employees had greater workplace flexibility.

Now, a year into the largest remote work movement the business world has ever seen, these fears have been largely overcome. Productivity in the U.S. rose 4.6% in Q3 of 2020, marking the largest quarterly productivity increase since 2009.

But there’s a catch: not every company is seeing productivity boosts with its mostly remote workforce. One study of 800 employers found:

  • 67% of companies reported similar productivity levels as pre-pandemic days
  • 27% reported an increase in productivity 

So what’s separating those seeing gains in productivity from the rest? It could be in how they define productivity and the tools they’re using to track it. 

Categories
online meetings

How To Combat ‘Zoom Fatigue’ For More Fulfilling Video Meetings

The rapid shift to online, remote-based work provided many benefits for employees and employers alike. These flexible working arrangements are here to stay, even once COVID-19 is no longer a concern. 

There is an unintended side effect of this new way of work, though, and it stems from ineffective, badly designed tools and misguided approaches to handling meetings with a remote team: “Zoom fatigue.” But by understanding the cause of this fatigue, you can adjust your approach to online meetings in a way that better engages your team.

What Is Zoom Fatigue And Why Are Video Calls Tiring?

Despite being a convenient replacement for our in-person interactions, video calls require a more significant effort to truly process the conversation (the primary cause of Zoom fatigue).

That’s because a great deal of crucial content is communicated not in what we say, but instead in how we say it, with nonverbal cues like hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Intrinsically, video calls make it difficult to absorb these nonverbal cues. Only so much of any given speaker can be seen, spotty internet connections can distort speech, and grid-style views can easily send an attendee into sensory overload. 

Categories
remote work

When You Can’t Measure It, You Won’t Fix It

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

According to Google Trends data, as much of America’s knowledge workers settled in for the second month of working at home under the COVID-19 work from home mandates, ‘Zoom fatigue’ hit an all-time high. But the truth is, it’s not just being stuck at home and having most of our socializing taking place over video conference calls that are to blame for our dissatisfaction with workplace meetings.

Whether it’s 9 million versions of conference call bingo or 21 million views of a conference call in real life, poorly-run company meetings have long been a source of employee dissatisfaction. A 2017 study published in Harvard Business Review surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries to gauge how meetings impact their work:

  • 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work
  • 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient
  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking
  • 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together

Many factors contribute to this negative outlook on workplace meetings, but one that has bubbled up significantly over the last few months is meetings are often where the lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace shows up.