Ways to enhance meetings for remote teams

The right hardware and software can help meetings with a distributed workforce run smoothly and efficiently.

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Like many businesses today, IT service provider Avaap has a distributed workforce: With offices in New Jersey, Minnesota and India, it also employs hundreds of remote consultants.

These consultants -- and their in-office counterparts -- rely on tools that help them have better meetings to keep business running smoothly, says Adam Goldstein, VP of service and delivery.

"The tools we use to meet and communicate with employees, groups and clients across the world have enabled us to extend our talent pool. Our focus is on hiring for core competency, not geography," Goldstein says. "Because we make that work, it outweighs a lot of the disadvantages of not being in a single office and talking face-to-face."

Making meetings work -- even without the added challenge of distributed workforces -- is a pain point for many companies. Meetings consume slightly over 16% of the average employee's workday, according to a Harris Poll published in October 2014, and were also cited as the No. 1 workplace frustration: Almost 6 out of 10 enterprise workers say wasteful meetings get in the way of their productivity.

"Employees always complain about meetings, whether it's that they're too long, unnecessary or unfocused," says Adam Preset, principal analyst at Gartner. "But meetings are not bad in and of themselves; it's bad meetings that are bad."

But even good meetings can be made unproductive when remote participants find themselves unable to, well, participate. Some of these problems are systemic, Preset says. Businesses might not have the technology they need to conduct productive meetings with remote workers. Other times, they might have too many tools, and sometimes they're just the wrong tools, he says.

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