Alternatives to In-Person Meetings

With the clock always ticking, workplace meetings often get jammed into an already packed schedule. Entrepreneurs and other corporate workers might find themselves putting off a demanding task to sit in a twenty-minute meeting that could have been an email. While in-person meetings have several benefits, such as management immediately getting a response to their message and an increase in visibility on everyone’s part, there are many alternatives to in-person meetings that maximize the benefits and save time.

One of the most common alternatives to in-person gatherings is email. If team leaders don’t need immediate feedback from their peers, they can send an informative email. To ensure their colleagues are reading and understanding the material, management can have the everyone email back in the affirmative, stating they’ve read the information. This way, no one must commute to a conference room, but the message is still received. And unlike with a traditional meeting, employees could review the email later if they forgot a piece of critical instruction.

On top of email, team leaders can utilize digital message boards and group chats. These options work best for small notifications or updates that management needs to get across quickly and concisely. For example, Slack is an instant messaging program commonly used in the professional world for this and other communication purposes.

guy having a zoom callInstead of holding a weekly meeting, management can consider keeping their team updated via bulletin boards or white boards. If employees are already working in the office location, they can easily read an announcement that’s posted on the board whenever they check in for the day. To ensure that employees building-wide can read the announcements the board should be placed at the entrance where most people check in. If more convenient, each department may have their own board, so department-specific updates can reach those who need them.

To mitigate the concern of employees not checking the board, team leaders can require that employees sign the board or send a quick text saying they’ve read the updates. This option works best for smaller organizations, especially for weekly announcements.

With virtual work on the rise, video conferencing provides another alternative for an in-person meeting that wouldn’t require remote workers to commute from their locations to a specified one. This option not only saves the time it would take to travel from various parts of the state or even the country, but it also saves the money and resources that would have been allocated towards travel.

Some applications commonly used for video conferencing in the professional sphere include Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, and GoTo Meeting. According to their websites, all of these applications provide users with a whiteboard feature, allowing participants in the video call to draw and mark their ideas on a virtual whiteboard. On top of that, all of the applications feature breakout rooms, which firms can use to remotely break people into groups and put them in a separate video call so they can collaborate.

Similarly, team leaders can record their briefing and post it on whatever application is most convenient. Most video conferencing platforms allow this feature, including the ones listed above. This way, employees get all the visual cues of an in-person meeting, while also reaping the benefits of not having to commute or pause their current workflow to join a meeting, and the video can be replayed later for clarification. Also, many applications allow the leader who posted the video to see which users watched it and for how long.

Some meetings are held with the purpose of conducting a productivity check. While this might be necessary for employees working together on a specific project, it might not be necessary for a company-wide gathering. Instead, employees can submit progress reports as frequently as needed so that management can monitor their progress.

The reports can be submitted online easily via email or project management tools like Trello, Asana, or Basecamp. This allows employees to check in with their leaders frequently and stay visible, while also reducing time wasted in a group meeting.

In the event that the employees are working on a specific project and need to delegate tasks to one another, project management tools offer a solution. Applications such as Forecast, Asana, and Hive allow colleagues to assign tasks to one another and track their progress. While in-person meeting time in such a situation cannot be completely done away with, project management software can reduce time spent talking and increase time spent completing tasks and accomplishing goals.

Additionally, surveys offer an alternative to meetings where feedback is needed. Surveys can allow team leaders to ask their peers questions and peers can respond whenever they can, which often allows for feedback in a way many alternatives to meetings do not. Qualtrics CoreXM, Google Forms, and Zoho Survey are all popular platforms used to send out professional questionnaires and receive responses.

The next time one is in a meeting that’s cutting into their work time, they should consider introducing some of these substitutes to their workplace.