Covid-19 five years from now
The virus will still plague us and its impact will reverberate far beyond health concerns in 2027.
With the country in lockdown and organisations operating in extraordinary times, boards are rapidly adapting their practices to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This may include meeting more frequently and increased reporting from management. While physical distancing restrictions remain in place, virtual board meetings are on the rise. Some boards will already be practiced in holding board or committee meetings online. For others this will be a new experience.
Exactly how a board meets during lockdown will differ depending on the board’s particular requirements and what works best for them. We discuss four key areas below to help boards conduct effective online meetings.
Boards can conduct meetings by audio or video conferencing technology. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. A video conference, for example, allows a more natural conversation and can be more engaging. Practical considerations may be an overriding factor in some cases. Internet speeds, for instance, differ around the country and boards may find some participants have to phone into the meeting to ensure a more reliable connection.
There are a number of virtual meeting service providers that can be used such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype and Microsoft Teams. Irrespective of medium or platform, security is critical. It is important that there are appropriate policies and procedures in place to ensure the online platform, data and equipment (such as laptops and tablets) are protected and secure. Other points to consider include:
Directors are expected to be well prepared for board meetings and virtual meetings are no different. As with usual practice ensure board papers are well-written, concise and distributed well in advance. This will help enable the board to move quickly and focus time on the issues that require discussion. Other points to consider include:
The chair is always critical in ensuring a meeting is effective and efficient, and this is even more important in virtual meetings where there are additional challenges. Some particular matters that the chair can influence include:
Many boards are already meeting and operating differently in response to COVID-19. This includes holding more frequent, often shorter, meetings to deal with urgent matters, alongside the regular monthly or bi-monthly meetings. Others are considering alternative ways to hold their regular monthly meetings such as splitting the meeting into two shorter time periods.
Ways in which boards can meet differently were raised in our discussion paper, Always on duty: the future board. What matters is what works best for each individual board at this time in carrying out its roles and responsibilities including supporting management. Every board is different but operating in a crisis and during extraordinary times, will drive boards to use technology and try innovative practices. This can lead to improved ways of operating and it is likely some boards will continue these practices into the future.
See virtual boardroom meetings article from experienced director Rick Christie CFinstD on what has worked well in his experience with virtual board meetings.
Also see Diligent’s virtual meeting toolkit (sign up required).