Boards and the Adoption of Remote Working Practices

Alan Hewitt  |  July 29, 2020

Around the world, certainly in Europe, business and social lives are starting to have a semblance of normalcy. But there is still a long way to go, and there is always the risk that we will see a second wave of COVID-19 in the fourth quarter of 2020. 

New Ways of Working Remotely

Having said that, and maybe as a result of this, companies are evolving and workers are requesting changes to their ways of working. This seems to be gaining traction. The change to remote working isn’t driven purely by companies, but rather by the people who work for them. They have discovered that they can be more productive, have more flexibility, and achieve a better work/life balance as a result.

There is also another interesting factor emerging. The end users, such as employees, are becoming more experienced with the use of technology to hold video calls, exchange ideas, and participate in discussions online. They will not want to utilise what they see as an inferior technological platform for work – compared to what they have become used to in their social lives. This is a great opportunity to capture employee insight, which can be harnessed to build remote work systems and processes that suit the majority.

Boards and Remote Technology

If we look at board meetings in particular, the need for efficient, better structured ways of working remotely is key. With advances in technology, the need for people to travel long distances to attend meetings is diminishing. However, this will only be established if the meetings that the board members attend remotely are well run, clear, and conducted efficiently. 

Do the attendees feel that they are well informed and/or are properly included in decision making? Do they feel they are able to make a full and valuable contribution to the Board? 

In addition, will the remoteness and use of technology be an inhibitor rather than an enabler? 

Like employees, board members have also gained valuable experience utilising video conferencing technology for their own social gatherings – whether this might involve catching up with friends and/or relatives or joining in group quiz sessions. They’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, and what they might expect to see from any meeting system that a company adopts moving forward. 

(It is important to note: security will be a key factor as security breaches that some video conferencing products have suffered [over the past month or two] have become public. 

We have discussed the need for highly secure board management portals in various posts in our blog – and perhaps the time is fast approaching to think about combining board portals with video conferencing technology in order to create a complete and highly secure environment.)

Running Better and More Effective Remote Meetings

I found the following CIO.com article which sets out quite a few simple rules for running better online or remote meetings. It’s a good read.

Many of these items have been discussed in previous blog articles, but it’s useful to revisit how you conduct your meetings and gather input on what it’s like for meeting participants. 

For instance, as a personal preference, what works best is when I can see everyone at the same time. This is what one of the video conferencing companies calls “Gallery View” (I am sure that each platform has their own terminology). The meeting is not nearly as effective when I only see the person who is talking at any one time. There always seems to be a short time lag when switching screens and, should someone have a coughing fit or the like, they end up regularly appearing on screen even if they don’t intend to interrupt proceedings.

Other Recommendations

I’ve seen a couple of recommendations that propose recording video meetings for others to watch if they fail to attend a meeting. But the thought of watching two hours of a video conference meeting doesn’t come across as a great idea. 

What does make some sense is what is suggested in this Zapier article, section 3, regarding note taking.

It takes a little more discipline but if the person taking notes for the meeting (and/or generating the final minutes) notes down the approximate time when a statement was made, or an action agreed, we could have something that is useful. Being able to jump to key statements or decisions could be extremely helpful and act as a valuable audit trail.

Conclusion

Ultimately, what’s important is to ask the board members about the technology they feel comfortable using. They can tap into their own personal experience utilising other tools outside of the working environment. 

We hold board meetings to achieve invaluable information exchange and to drive effective decisions that lead to positive outcomes. Therefore, if the technology to used to enable these is more inclusive, all the better. 

What do you think?

Alan Hewitt

Alan Hewitt

Alan is a Non-executive Director at Praxonomy. Alan has worked in IT Services and Consulting for nearly 40 years including 30 years at IBM, where he was an Executive Partner in IBM’s Global Consulting Business responsible for the development of the Workforce Transformation Practice. Since leaving IBM in 2010, he has worked as an independent Business Consultant working for major companies across industries and the world. Alan is a Fellow of both the IET and BCS.