In-person conferences and staff meetings have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the large number of employees working from home offices and social distancing protocols, many meetings have been canceled or postponed. If not already doing so, MCIT members should consider phone or video conferencing as an alternative to in-person meetings, especially those addressing important issues.*
A number of video conferencing products are currently available and being used by MCIT membership. Staff should consult with the organization’s IT department to determine which conferencing product is compatible with existing organizational systems, policies and security protocol.
Keep Safety Committee Meeting
One meeting in particular should rarely be canceled or postponed. That is of the safety committee. This is a vital group of employees, management and board members working to advance safety and helping to reduce injuries and claims for the organization. Members should consider using video meeting platforms before cancelling or postponing the next safety committee meeting.
The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MNOSHA) requires most organizations with 25 or more employees to have a joint labor-management safety committee that meets at least quarterly. Given the exposures of county government, a number of safety committees meet more frequently (every two months or monthly).
A canceled meeting delays the ability to discuss incidents, near misses, emerging hazards or concerns related to safety. Because a committee is often made up of representation from many departments, these meetings offer an ideal environment to bring those safety concerns up for discussion and deliberate on recommendations and action items. It is particularly important as departments ease into post-pandemic operations that emerging risks be shared and discussed.
The MCIT loss prevention resource, Discussion Items and Resources for Safety Committees, presents ideas and best practices to encourage an active and effective safety committee. In the chapter, Safety Committee Pitfalls and Solutions, it addresses canceled meetings: “Frequent cancellations undermine the committee’s importance and perceived value to members, management and employees. The safety committee holds an important position and should strive to stay active. Meetings should be scheduled well in advance, preferably at the same time and day of the month. Posting preplanned training, property survey review, safety campaign coordination and recent loss reviews in a calendar can add value to the committee and make it unfavorable to cancel a meeting.”
Maintain Information Flow
Communication is vital. Phone or video conferencing can keep important meetings on track and give employees and managers a chance to interact and discuss vital information. Many of the video conferencing products also allow for the sharing of documents that cannot be done using phone conferencing.
Keep in mind that if private data is shared or discussed in a remote meeting, participants should ensure that no one in the vicinity could overhear the conversation or view the data.
Be sure to consult with the IT department to discuss the features of the meeting platform and to ensure it is safe to use.
Video Conferencing Etiquette
Tips for making a video meeting more effective include:
- Test camera and microphone before the actual meeting.
- Arrive a bit early or at least on time.
- Dress appropriately.
- Ensure background and lighting is appropriate.
- Mute self when not speaking
- Introduce self before talking for the first time.
- Wait until another participant is done talking before commenting.
- Do not multitask in the background. Stay attentive to the meeting.
- Make others in the area aware that you are going to be in a video meeting.