By Wayne Turmel

All managers—heck all people—are worried about making the best use of their time. We try to save minutes here and there, hoping it will result in higher productivity and eventually, less stress. One of the ways we do this is to be very intentional about not wasting time on meetings with anything that isn’t strictly work-related or task-oriented. We may be making a mistake.

I’m not suggesting that we actually fritter away our precious lives—nobody has that luxury. We do need to take a look at how we spend our virtual time together, though, and see if there are things we’ve been writing off as time-wasters that might actually add value.

The most obvious example is the time to help people get to know each other on a personal (rather than simply a transactional) basis. In real-world meetings, this takes the form of casual chat before the meeting starts, or leaning over and whispering asides and jokes to our neighbors. The ability to see someone and be reminded that you have a question or information for them that you hadn’t planned to share is one of the unexpected but very tangible advantages of meeting in the first place.

As leaders and members of remote teams, we want our people to forge good working relationships and feel engaged and part of the team and the larger organization. So why do we intentionally shut down those opportunities in the name of efficiency or time-management?

Here are a couple of tips for maximizing the opportunities you get to strengthen the interpersonal relationships on your team while not losing productivity and effectiveness:

  • Allow (and encourage) people to log into your virtual meetings and calls early, and don’t mute their phones upon entry. In regular meetings, when someone walks in you’re reminded of something you want to tell or ask them. Same happens online.
  • Don’t restrict chat or mute microphones unless you have to. Encourage people to contribute in every way possible
  • Jokes and humor aren’t wasting time, they’re building bridges. Yes, they can become distracting and inappropriate, but don’t diminish the importance of letting people reveal themselves to their teammates, address important issues in ways that diminish conflict and (shockingly) allow people to have fun, rather than treating everything as deadly serious.

Time spent forging relationships helps people identify resources and grease the skids for team communication long after the meeting is over.

Maybe it’s not wasted, so much as invested.

In our Remote Leadership Certificate Series, we talk about how to have more effective meetings, how to write and manage email effectively and so much more to help make you more successful in your remote leadership position. Learn more here!


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

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