A dozen ideas about making meetings work at hybrid startups

By David Frankel

We recently held a roundtable discussion with founders of scaling startups in our portfolio on managing hybrid organizations in this third year of COVID.

They shared a dozen tips based on learnings from managing thousands of remote employees.

The common belief was that these needed to be more frequent for remote work to function: all-hands, team meetings, and 1:1’s need to be scheduled.

The major challenge is striking a balance between the right cadence of meetings and carving out time to get stuff done. Most participants block out meeting-free days or times.

Once a meeting is on people’s calendars, it can be hard to dislodge. Create a “spring cleaning” process, so low-value meetings can’t shamble on forever.

Insist on meeting agendas and pre-briefs, and that meetings start and end on time. These are simple requests, but when done consistently, they change the way people feel about meetings and the value they provide.

Along the same lines, managers should turn many meetings into processes. E.g., If the goal is reviewing a document, commenting on a Google Doc is likely more time-efficient.

While there are many cultural practices, you should stand up, don’t sleep on software tools. I wouldn’t be doing my part if I didn’t plug our portfolio companies serving this market: Airtable, Akooda, Allma, Grain, Hugo, Ianacare, Karat, Troops.

If someone doesn’t need to show their face, why are they being invited in the first place? More importantly, ensure everyone understands *why* they are there and what’s expected of their participation.

Setting default meeting times to 25/50 minutes, particularly using Google’s “speedy meeting” tool, was cited as a “game-changer” by many participants.

More on how to do that here:

Executive facetime was another popular discussion topic. Here are a few of the recommendations the founders shared.

Several founders/execs had created an “open office hours” system where employees could book time on their schedule in an attempt to recreate the encounters that once might have happened in the hall or cafeteria.

One company has started grouping new hires into monthly batches. Groups of employees all go through orientation together in an attempt to create a sense of camaraderie. This format also lets executives spend more time with the group.

Founders recommended bringing the entire team together in a fun, non-office setting. They did note that this kind of meeting is an expensive outlay, and best practices to maximize ROI are still very much a WIP.

Several founders were reluctant adopters of remote work and still find it a strictly worse alternative to office culture. So they’re trying mightily to encourage people back to the office. Here’s some of what has worked for them.

If you want people in the office, make a point to make yourself available. Take your lunch in the canteen. Walk around. Announce when you’ll be free to chat. Lead from the front if you want people back!

It seems trite, but offering a free bite has had a good ROI. In addition, sponsored happy hours after work and other combinations of socialization and free stuff seem to help encourage people to re-engage with their colleagues F2F.

This thread is far from the final word on the topic, and things will probably continue to change dramatically. What has worked best at your startup? Are there good learning opportunities inside of your portfolio? Please share!

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