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Meeting and Email Guidelines for Remote Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work. Here are some best practices to help with managing remote work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work and video meetings are part of our daily routine. Although we’ve (mostly) adjusted to holding meetings this way, frequent and back-to-back meetings can create mental and physical stress when we don’t have time for short breaks between meetings.

Below are some guidelines and best practices to help with managing remote and in the office work.  These are guidelines, not rules, as we know that operational needs will vary. The goal is to establish guidelines that will help promote the health of all DASA faculty and staff.

General guidelines for scheduling virtual business meetings:

  • Video meetings should typically be scheduled for 50 minutes (traditionally 1-hour meeting) or 25 minutes (traditionally ½-hour meeting) to allow some preparation and break time between meetings. When longer video meetings are needed, follow the same principle and end the meeting at a time that allows for a short break.
  • When possible, video meetings should not be scheduled during the lunch hour (noon to 1:00 pm).
  • While normal business hours should be maintained, limit scheduling video meetings before 9:00 am, after 4:00 pm, and on Friday afternoons when possible.

Best practices for virtual meetings:

  • Before scheduling a video meeting, consider the best method for the purpose of the information exchange and size of the group involved. To reduce the number of meetings, could an email exchange, chat thread, or phone call accomplish the same goals?   
  • The meeting organizer should identify a clear purpose and have an agenda for the video meeting, including expectations for camera usage, the chat function, and recording. This will help keep video meetings more focused and efficient. According to MIT Sloan Management Review, the best meeting leaders recognize their role as a steward of others’ time. Online meetings also require higher levels of facilitation than in-person discussions and the meeting organizer must make an active effort to invite contributions from remote attendees.
  • In the absence of other guidance, in general cameras should be on during small meetings with participants actively engaged. (Note there may be circumstances when a small meeting participant working remotely will desire to turn their camera off.) In large meetings formatted as presentations, listeners may often have their cameras turned off. In such formats, consider turning your camera on when speaking or asking questions to engage with the presenter(s).
  • For video meetings in which you are an active participant, consider minimizing multitasking (like checking your email) as it may distract you from actively listening to and engaging with other speakers in the meeting.  The mental workload associated with video meetings is actually higher than in-person meetings. 

Time management practices to consider:

  • Uninterrupted time during the day (away from email) is helpful to work on critical tasks, eat, and recharge. Block some time on your calendar to work without interruption and consider disconnecting for the lunch hour to eat or participate in some physical activity (e.g., consider going for a walk).
  • Limit when you answer your emails primarily to business hours. It is tempting to answer work emails at all hours of the day, but try to limit when you answer emails primarily to business hours to preserve your downtime. 

Sources: Purdue University, Inside Higher Ed, and MIT Sloan Management Review.