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Solutions

General considerations:
Use meetings for discussions or directed problem solving that requires a group. Specifically solicit topics, questions and comments from ECRs during meetings. Adjust the meeting length according to the task. Avoid scheduling meetings for a full hour – 45- or 50-minute meetings allow attendees to get coffee, move around and mentally decompress. Decide on someone who can serve as a moderator/timekeeper. Limit meeting attendance to those required for the discussion. Consider scheduling project meetings when milestones are achieved, rather than at fixed time intervals. More importantly, discuss meeting preferences together and be open to trying different options.

Option 1:
Written updates: Routine updates, where problem solving and discussion are not required, can be shared without meetings. Ask everyone to post a brief written progress update in a shared document or group chat channel the day before the meeting. Leave a bit of time in the meeting agenda for discussion and your feedback on updates.

Tips: 

  • Use a table with bullet points for updates from each team (e.g. project name in rows, update date in columns).
  • Keep it short - these updates are meant to be a time-saving tool and should not involve extra organizational “overhead”.

Option 2:
Virtual brainstorming: Consider using virtual brainstorming, an approach for asynchronously gathering ideas online, for complex topics that require creative problem solving. This format leads to an explosion of ideas, levels the playing field so that everyone can contribute and allows more time for the discussions to evolve.

Resource:
This document summarizes the steps in organizing a virtual brainstorming event for your team.

Option 3:
Low-threshold coffee meetings: Consider having a virtual space or social channel where lab members can meet one another to have coffee, take a break or just share fun pictures or links. This can help to address feelings of isolation at work, and lead to spontaneous discussions or problem-solving on ongoing projects. If you have time, occasionally drop by.

Resource:
The websites Wonder.me and Gather.town offer free lightweight platforms for spontaneous interactions and video calls in small groups.