What today’s meetings look like

We keep hearing about the “new normal” in every aspect of our day-to-day life, but how does the Covid-19 pandemic affect the meetings and events industry?

The meeting of today will be subject to some changes.

It can be challenging to plan for meetings during these difficult times. From a human resources point of view, it will require a different planning strategy, including incorporating social distancing measures in terms of the seating arrangements, to ensure the safety of attendees.

What are the latest Covid-19 meeting guidelines?

All businesses, small, medium or large, will need to take into account the key factors when considering meetings in this age of the pandemic. With the latest government figures showing cases have risen slightly in the UK, it’s even more important that companies take steps to keep their employees safe.

Covid-19 undoubtedly poses challenges for organisations who hold physical meetings. The starting point for every organiser is to know and understand the legal requirements when it comes to hosting a meeting. With government advice changing regularly, in response to the behaviour of the virus, it pays to keep yourself informed.

The latest government advice is aimed at maintaining social distancing. Organisations are already adapting to this new way of working. Companies are advised that only participants who have to be there should physically attend meetings. They must maintain current social distancing guidelines of two metres, or one metre with risk mitigation if two metres isn’t possible.

© Andrey Popov / Adobe Stock

Should video conferencing be included?

To keep the number of physical attendees down, face-to-face meetings should incorporate remote working tools, so other people can take part via a video conferencing link.

To help avoid transmission during meetings, delegates should avoid sharing pens, documents and other objects. Hand sanitiser should be provided in the meeting room, which should be well-ventilated where possible. Floor signage can be used to help people maintain social distancing. When physical meetings are held, everyone involved must be mindful of the health and safety implications and adhere to the relevant government guidelines.

If a physical meeting is combined with a virtual meeting, the organiser should understand the mechanics of how this works. Nothing can ruin a meeting quicker than a blip with the technology! While most of us are familiar with virtual meeting technology today, linking it into a face-to-face meeting needs careful consideration to ensure it runs smoothly.

Organisations must consider the most suitable technology and how to assure access for all those who need to participate. Practical considerations include how to count votes when a combination of physical and virtual attendees are taking part, how to enable questions and how to maintain a debate.

How can you plan meetings at this time?

In today’s workplace, teams and employees need to strike the right balance between carrying on with “business as usual”, while adhering to the “new normal” measures. Meeting rooms are by nature designed to house people in a fixed space for a period of time.

According to research published in the 2019 Workplace Utilisation Index, which analysed more than 10,000 hours of meetings, 85% of meetings had less than seven attendees and only 6% of meetings had ten or more attendees. The research showed that even with normal use pre-Covid, 36% of meeting rooms didn’t pose any risk to social distancing, due to the fact smaller meetings were more common than larger meetings.

For meetings where there was a risk of overcrowding, it followed that the organiser could simply upgrade to a larger venue to avoid any risk of being over capacity. The solution is having a larger meeting room, or permitting fewer people into your existing room, to give you a greater opportunity to maintain social distancing. Organisers can set new, lower Covid-19 capacity limits for meetings, in comparison with the pre-pandemic days.

The study suggests that on average, putting two to three people into a four to six-person meeting room will suffice. Reducing the capacity by around 50% will ensure social distancing is maintained. Although this is a generalised example, it sets the standard for teams to customise capacity limits, based on the size and layout of their meeting room.

Companies who can’t spare their own large meeting rooms for smaller group meetings may consider renting a venue offsite to accommodate their team. To facilitate social distancing measures, &Meetings is automatically upgrading clients to a room twice the required capacity at no extra cost.

Managing a return to normality during the Covid-19 pandemic is fraught with challenges and uncertainties for workplace teams and employees. The only way to manage this is by understanding social distancing and developing solutions to mitigate the risks. Providing continuous feedback on how effectively the solutions have worked will help companies plan for ongoing and future meetings.

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