What is meeting equality?
Meeting equality or equity is a way to ensure more inclusive and engaged meetings. So, making sure everyone feels valued and is on equal terms in a meeting. Meeting equity ensures that remote employees have the same sense of engagement, collaboration and access to technology as those who are physically around the table.
Many factors can influence meeting equality:
- access to meeting technology,
- visibility of all participants,
- audibility of all speakers,
- experience and personality of participants,
- availability of features like polling, chat, note taking, blackboarding, annotation,
- the role of the host and/or manager.
Some workers have never experienced issues with meeting equality, others struggle with inclusion on a daily basis. HR managers should explore options to create more awareness for meeting equality. Simply because anyone who has the feeling he or she can freely express his mind, is a happier employee. And every worker should have access to the right tools to do so. In such, meeting equality is directly linked to employee well-being, as our research unveils. 1 in 3 is thinking of moving jobs because of frictions, stress and inequality during hybrid work and meeting. Empowering workers with more autonomy and flexibility leads to more job satisfaction and a more productive staff. Which ultimately results in a higher employee retention. A win-win for all.
"Hybrid meetings have become the mainstay of professional collaboration, and organizations must do a better job removing the access and engagement barriers that can create a 'less than' perception for remote workers," said Lieven Bertier, Segment Marketing Director, Workplace at Barco.
Why is inclusivity a challenge in virtual and hybrid meetings?
In the new hybrid workplace meeting equality has become more than just a buzzword. Since in-room meetings usually have a higher rate of interaction and participation, they make collaboration easier. Everyone is present in the same room and can contribute equally. Actually, there’s more happening in the room than just talking. You have power dynamics playing in the room, you can read a person’s body language, see facial expression, and hear every nuance. Everyone has the same access to meeting room tech which only strengthens the seamless and natural way of working together.
Adding remote participants to a meeting, makes collaboration more complex and less intuitive. There’s an actual, physical distance between participants in video meetings. They no longer sit together in the same space, there are virtual and physical walls separating them.
In virtual videocalls or remote meetings, where every participant is dialing in, there is a regained sense of equality. The talking heads experience where everyone is out-of-the-office or working from home, has access to a laptop, apps and UC platforms like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. The video experience is identical for all, be it not ideal. Since every team member is equal, there are no power dynamics at play and different voices can engage. A fully virtual meeting may thus come as a relief, and a chance to fully participate and be heard in discussions. With features like hand raising, additional chat discussions, surveys, automatic timekeeping, possibility for taking notes and recording, new ways of participation are endless.
In hybrid meetings, you have a unique mix of in-room and remote users, so creating an equal meeting experience for all can be challenging. Remote users can easily feel alone, distracted, ignored and left out, especially when they have no access to video or a camera view of the meeting room. Their engagement drops faster, which makes their meeting participation far from equivalent to that of their in-room colleagues.