27th April, 2021

Tech Tips for Happy Hybrid Working with Dr Hussain Gandhi

With Rachel Morris

Dr Rachel Morris

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Dr. Hussain Gandhi, or Dr. Gandalf of eGPlearning, joins us in this episode. He is a GP, PCN director, and host of the eGP Learning Podblast that shares deep dives into health tech for primary care. He shares his tech and time hacks for hybrid working to survive and thrive in the new virtual environment.

If you want to find out how to improve your hybrid working experience, then tune in to this episode!

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Episode transcript

Rachel: So we’ve been at it for a year now. Some of us love it. Some of us can’t stand it, but there’s no getting around the fact we all need to do it: work in a virtual or hybrid environment. But did you know there are some tech and time hacks that will make your virtual workplace world much less tiring and more productive? In this episode, I’m joined by Dr Hussain Gandhi, aka Dr Gandalf of EGP learning. He’s a GP, PCN director, and host of the EGP Learning Podblast, which has deep dives into health tech for primary care. He’s got some great tips for you on how to survive and thrive working in this new virtual environment, whatever organisation you’re in. So listen to this episode to find out how to run virtual and hybrid meetings which don’t suck, our top three virtual hacks to save you time and hassle, and the important principles for great IT setup which will dramatically improve the tech quality of your meetings without spending a fortune.

Welcome to You Are Not A Frog, the podcast for GPs, doctors and other busy professionals in high-stress jobs. Even before the coronavirus crisis, many of us were feeling stressed and one crisis away from not coping. We felt like frogs in boiling water, overwhelmed and exhausted. But this has crept up on us slowly, so we hardly noticed the extra long days becoming the norm. And let’s face it, frogs generally only have two choices, stay and be boiled alive or jump out of the pan and leave. But you are not a frog. And that’s where this podcast comes in. You have many more options than you think you do. It is possible to be a master of your own destiny, and to craft your life so that you can thrive even in the most difficult of circumstances.

I’m your host Dr Rachel Morris, GP turned executive coach and specialist in resilience at work. I work with doctors and other organisations all over the country to help professionals and their teams beat stress and take control of their work. I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts, all who have an interesting take on this so that together, we can take back control to survive and thrive in our work and lives.

Before we get into this week’s episode, I’d like to let you know about a time limited opportunity. In April we’re opening the doors to the Resilience Team Academy again, a membership for busy leaders in healthcare and other high-stress organisations, who want to get a thriving, happy and connected team without burning out themselves. Now the RTA membership gives you all the resources and training you need to use the breakthrough Shapes Toolkit, coaching, resilience and productivity tools to help you support your team for well being, have better conversations and connections, and stay resilient and productive yourself. The membership also gives you a monthly webinar which you can join live or watch in your own time, monthly bite-sized team building videos and activities to use in your meetings, plus a community of colleagues in the same boat, coaching demos, and many, many more resources. We know you don’t have much time, so everything’s delivered in bite sized chunks and recorded so that you can watch and access in your own time. We’re also offering a 90-day 100% money back guarantee so you can try it at no risk to you. You’ll need to hurry though, as the membership only opens at this price until May 2, and won’t reopen till later this year. I’d love you to join me on the journey. So click in the link in the show notes for more info.

It’s really brilliant to have with me this week back on the podcast Dr Hussain Gandhi, otherwise known as Dr Gandalf from EGP Learning. Welcome! It’s great to have you back.

Dr Hussain Gandhi: Thank you for having me there.

Rachel: And Gandhi’s a GP. You’re a PCN director. You’re a podcaster, and you’re a health tech wizard.

Hussain: Yeah, I guess I’m one of those people that likes tech and likes to share what I know about tech to try and make other people’s lives easier. Yes, but the past couple years trying to make that work a bit better, really.

Rachel: And you’ve just been releasing so many sort of videos and podcasts, and stuff that I know have been incredibly helpful for the GP primary care community. And I’m sure there’s been lots of other people listening to those as well.

Hussain: Yeah, it’s interesting, because right now, loads of people are consuming so much information, wanting to find the right resources, how to do things, that kind of stuff. I love sharing how to kind of fix problems. I think that’s probably the GP side of me. Patients come and see me to see how can I fix what’s going on with them. And I’ve just realised with tech, I want to do the same thing. So, people are asking for help right now, particularly with all the COVID stuff. So yeah.

Rachel: Yeah, we’re in a pretty steep learning curve, aren’t we? And I think it’s fair to say that you are right at that end of the early adopters?

Hussain: Yeah, I’d say I’m not far off inches. I think there’s definitely people ahead of me in terms of what they can be, they’re the creators, the ones kind of coming out with all this stuff. I’m probably the one that he turned to to figure out, ‘How do I make this work for me in practice?’ And I found that that works quite nicely, quite well. I think there’s some areas that even I probably need to jump on the bandwagon and try, and help with and stuff, but getting their fingers crossed.

Rachel: Yeah, you were just showing me your amazing new or singing or dancing keyboard?

Hussain: Yes, loving keyboards right now. So much in life is just better with a nice keyboard, I think, particularly when you spend all day using one. That’s one thing I think many people in primary care forget, we spend so much time using a desktop PC. And then we’re just happy to accept the run-of-the-mill carbon copy things that, not thinking about how that affects our posture, or health or that kind of stuff. So looking for better equipment, always a positive for me.

Rachel: Yeah. And programmable keyboards. Who knew?

Hussain: Yeah, absolutely. It is a rabbit hole, I’ll warn you about that. Anything, once you go into them, you can end up going, spending huge amounts if you want to. But yeah, but my innate sense of wanting not to spend too much money is always useful, I think at times, so.

Rachel: Yeah, brilliant. So first of all, I wanted to get you back on the podcast because the other episode’s incredibly popular with people. But then also because you’ve been sending out so much really, really useful stuff. Everyone has really pivoted on a penny, GPs where, perhaps a year ago might have been heard saying ‘Over my dead body, will I ever do a video consultation’, and oh, there we go, three months later, everybody’s doing video consultations. We’re all doing virtual meetings, whether we’re on the frontline, and whether we’re at home, and we’re all just massively having to embrace tech, we’ve had to buy our children laptops. It’s all these things that we never thought we would be doing this soon and this early. But I think, unfortunately, some of the tech does cause extra stress. And you’ve got all the fatigue around virtual meetings and virtual stuff and online this, online that. But I know that actually tech can really, really help make our lives easier.

So I know you have explored everything. You’re the go-to person for these time saving tips and these tax hacks. So I thought it’d be really nice to do an episode, looking at what you’ve discovered that makes your life easier that anybody can use whether you’re at work on the front line, or whether you’re at home. Whether you’re doing a bit of both, or whether you’re leading a team, or whether you’re just part of a team, or whatever. Is that okay?

Hussain: Absolutely. So where do you want to start then?

Rachel: Let’s start with just let’s wait, we’ve talked about a few things already. What for you, if you were to come up with sort of a top two or three top hacks, what would they be? Let’s start there.

Hussain: Okay, so I think, for me, the one hack, which is probably a really simple one, but one that saved me a lot of stress. So it may not save me huge amounts of time, but in terms of stress, it’s definitely saved me loads of things, is using a password locker. And so I’m a big fan of these. And there’s loads of different variations out there. The one I use is something called LastPass. But there’s loads of options out there. And it is what it sounds. It is an online app locker that you use to store your passwords. And that may sound really simple, but the reason why I like it is I don’t have to worry about the stress of remembering all my different passwords. And as a result of that, my life’s just easier. So much easier. And I’ll give you example: anybody working the NHS knows that even just to start your day, you have to probably log into about three or four different systems. You’ve got the computer itself to log into, the clinical system that you’re using, you’ve probably got one or two other systems that you have to access with now, particularly with online consultations, or whether it’s accessing your emails, that kind of stuff. And all the requirements for the passwords are completely different. Some of them have, has to be 10 characters with no weird numbers and digits and all that kind of stuff. And some of them are the complete opposite.

So one of the systems I use will only allow you to use six characters. And none of them can be the weird kind of like exclamation marks and that kind of stuff. So having to remember that is really frustrating. And it’s stress inducing when it doesn’t work. So I like using these password lockers that you can store it all securely, that they claim to have the security of like banks and more so to degree, and the one I use is on my phone, so it unlocks my fingerprints, I don’t even have to remember the password for it. And if I did, I only need to remember one password, the one to get into that. And that one is ridiculously crazy and secure. But it’s something I know that’s personal to me, but I’m not going to forget, and therefore I can then get access to everything else. And you can even get the additional stuff like two-factor authentication. So that’s when you get text messages, to say stick this number in you’ve got the extra security. And it works, really works. And the best example I can give you: a few people know this but this time last year, I went away and my phone got stolen and you can imagine the stress of losing your phone, losing everything that’s on there. And actually, yeah, okay, clearly I was disappointed, I got stolen. But then when I got back and I need to sort everything out, like that I just had to log into my thing. I’d already had access to all these passwords. And that meant I could access everything else so that all my bank details and stuff I could cancel, sort out so easily. I just needed access to a digital device, got in there, got my details sorted. And when it came to transferring it all back to my new phone, I just had to wait for it to pay, and it was done. So stress-wise, that is my big massive tip, use one, especially if you work in the NHS.

Rachel: Yeah. And do they work on the NHS computers?

Hussain: They do. So a lot of them are based on browsers. So they work on things like Chrome. And increasingly, more and more places are happy to let you use Chrome, because actually, a lot of the tech we’re probably going to talk about, for like meetings and stuff, we’re on so much better on that. But they’re all got extensions on Firefox as well. That if even if not, you can just still simply dial into their website, log in and you’ve got access to it. So yes, you’ll need to remember the password. And it does work on the fingerprint like it does on my phone. But to be honest, all I do is I just pull my phone out, search for it and I’m there instantly, and I’ve got access.

Rachel: Brilliant. Brilliant. Yeah, I can’t imagine the amount of times that I forget passwords, and put your email address, go to email. Yeah, just crazy. That will save a lot of time. And a lot of stress. Brilliant. So that’s one, what other things that you found been helpful for you?

Hussain: And so the one that really changed things for me, particularly as a clinical director, was the ability to save time without having to book meetings so much. So I use a platform that basically, whenever somebody wants some of my time, the first thing I just now ask them is ‘How much time do you think you need?’ And then I’ve got various different links I then send to people that lets them book in for that amount of time based on when I’m free, and it automatically links calendar, so it knows when I am and am not available. And then that person can then choose it. And as a result of that there’s none of that to-and-fro of, ‘Well I’m free on Wednesday. And I know you’re free on Thursday,’ going back and forth and keeping track of it as well. Because in the back of your mind, you’re trying to remember, ‘Have I actually arranged that meeting I wanted to have,’ or ‘That person contacts me. Do I need to get back to them? I haven’t done that.’ There’s none of that. I just simply send the link, and then they can book it. And I get an email saying this meeting’s booked, I use one that lets me ask the person a couple of questions like, ‘How am I contacting you? What’s the meeting for? Give me a bit of a precis kind of thing.’ And, ‘This is how much time we’ve got? Is that enough? Or do you feel you need more? And we need to look for something else?’ And it works really well. So the scheduling, all the podcasts and blogs and stuff I do, I use that. When it comes to meetings with PCNs with people wanting my time as a clinical director, I’ve got set days where I do meetings. Again, I’ll just send that and then that’s when they can contact me. And the only time I have a break that is to be honest when it’s family because they kind of get to join the queue.

Rachel: Yeah, I will say I think I heard about this hack from you originally, actually, these meeting apps. And I’ve used one myself and I must say, everything, it saves so much time on the going back and forth. And the other thing that it does is it helps you, it’s another layer of barrier to, not barrier to your diary, but control of your diary.

Hussain: Yeah.

Rachel: Because I’ve said to myself, I want to spend, I want to leave a few hours every morning to create, to run stuff, to prepare for stuff the things I need my real thinking time in. Now I know that if someone says to me, ‘Oh, can we just have a quick chat?’ Then I would say, ‘Yeah, don’t worry and book it over.’ So you can set up times and when people can book you can set up times and when they can’t. And the fact that it then integrates you have diaries. So if there’s already something there, it won’t do it. It’s just really, really helpful.

Hussain: And it is, yeah.

Rachel: It will say no, so you don’t have to in a way.

Hussain: And I think it also helps other people to start to learn to respect your time as well. So one of the things I found out, I used to have a couple of people, they used to just say, ‘Oh, can we just have a meeting’ and they cannot intrude into my time. And actually, this has allowed me to take a little bit more control. And ‘Actually, I know, you may feel this is really important. But for me, actually, this isn’t something I need to be jumping up and down about. So this is when I’m available. This is when I can fit it in. And if it doesn’t fit with that, well, then we need to think differently about why that’s the case.’ And I’ve used that a lot to push back on some of the certain asks that I get in terms of clinical director and all the kind of things and saying, ‘Look, I have a set amount of time. I’m more than have, and have done so many more hours than I should be.’ Don’t get me wrong. I think any clinical directors say that, but the fact of the matter is, I need to have some control. And that’s one of the ways I’ve found that that helps to give me just a little bit more sanity and just make life a little bit easier.

Rachel: Yeah, and I’ve also set up something I read in a book, I think Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt said, use your email signatures a lot more. So I’ve set up lots of different email signatures with the links in them that says, ‘Here’s the link, I’d love to speak, have a chat.’ And then I also add a little caveat. ‘If there’s no time at all, just get back to me, and I’ll have a look in my diary.’

So what I was worried about when I first started using it would be a bit rude to people that ‘Oh, she’s wanting me to sort of book in a slot.’ Do you think people mind doing that?

Hussain: I think sometimes people may come, feel that’s the case. I know, the first time I have experienced it, I kind of felt like that, I have to admit. So the first time I came across one of these platforms, somebody sent me one of these links. I was like, ‘Oh.’ but then when I actually did it, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is awesome. How do I do this?’ And within 10 minutes of doing that, I’d already signed it to an account. ‘Wow, this is amazing. I’m using this.’ And then over time, I’ve kind of found one that works better for me. And yeah. I cannot imagine my life without them now.

Rachel: Yeah, I think probably my emails would double, if I didn’t have it on the back of it. And it’s so much easier for the person who wants to book in the meeting as well, because they don’t have to trawl through everything, as well. But I think it’s just really handy. And what I do like is this question. In fact, you can ask them, ‘What are we meeting about?’

Hussain: Yeah, absolutely.

Rachel: It’s sometimes I don’t quite remember who the person is. And they just put you know, I have to put, ‘What’s the one thing you want to know?’ And they put it and, ‘Brilliant, I know exactly what I’m talking about.’ Whereas I don’t always put that if I’m putting stuff in my diary manually, I don’t always put what it’s about.

Hussain: And what I like as well is you can link it with other kinds of things like Zoom or Teams and that kind of stuff. So then as well, when it comes to time for the meeting, I’ve managed to trawl through my emails or anything, I go to my calendar, because I know that’s where all my stuff is scheduled is, I’ve got the link, the meeting there, I just tap on it and go. And I’m not having to look around for the meeting codes or anything like that. It’s just all in there. And if it’s a phone call, it says, ‘Okay, I need to call.’ And tap the number and my phone’s dialing them straight away. So timewise, stress-wise, so much better since I’ve started using these. And I’ve had a few people that you say just come back to me saying, ‘Oh, how do I do that? What do I do?’ Okay. And yeah, it’s amazing.

Rachel: Yeah. And most of them, you can get a free version that’s completely what you need.

Hussain: Absolutely.

Rachel: I use a (paid version) because I need quite a few different events. But you know, this is how we built this podcast, wasn’t it? Because we were like, ‘She didn’t have a podcast, right? Here’s the link. Boom!’

Hussain: Exactly. And you’re right, most of them are free if you just have one meeting type. In your multiple meeting types, which I’m a bit of a control freak, kind of wanted different ones for different reasons. So I just paid for one and then yeah, definitely is a cost that I’m more than happy. And I have no doubt it has saved me more time, the cost of the application itself several times over.

Rachel: It’s definitely when you think about the time just replying to emails. Brilliant. So we’ve got these sort of calendar, scheduling tools, we’ve got password lockers. What was the third thing that you think will really save people time and stress when they’re working from home or doing this hybrid working?

Hussain: So I’m gonna go out and say that pre-COVID I’ve been talking about video meetings well before COVID came along. And I remembered me and Andy did some work on this for our podcast back in, so where are we now? Two years ago, almost. And we were talking to various different groups about how we wanted to shift all of our meetings to online because it would just save so much time.

Rachel: And guess what happened? You’re like a profit.

Hussain: But it has been, I mean, yes, don’t get me wrong. I think all my meetings have challenges. And I’m sure we’re going to cover that in a second. But in terms of time saving, the fact that I don’t have to worry about physically going from place A to B, and the stress that comes with that. Okay, so I can give you an example for this one. I had a meeting before we actually started chatting. And unfortunately, because of all the COVID vaccination stuff, that meeting overran, and I wasn’t going to be able to make it home in time to record this. Now, I’m one of those weird people who carries loads of kit with me, as you can probably tell. So I was perfectly fine to just start from here, but I didn’t have to stress about rushing back in the traffic, making sure I get home on time, being late for it. I just literally connected up my device and I was ready to go. And a lot of them nowadays you don’t have to have big fancy equipment, you can just do what you know from your phone, from your laptop, whatever. But not having to deal with the stress of that is great. Not having to deal with stress of parking, absolutely, God sent me, I hate that particularly. Actually, if you’re thinking about environmentally as well. So you know, you’re having to worry about having large meeting rooms where you’re having to heat them, light them, you know people coming towards an environmental impact at that. Feeding people as well. Okay, fair enough. It’s nice sometimes to have lunch provided for you. But actually, now I get much better control over what I’m eating. I’m not eating weird stuff I probably don’t want to eat, or, you know, all those lovely little cakes

Rachel: No more soggy sandwiches and dried eggs. Yeah.

Hussain: Yeah, now having this unnecessary case, I’m having better food, better hydration as well. I can go grab a drink whenever I want. I don’t have to worry about interrupting the meeting. I can just temporarily pause my camera and stuff, grab a drink, or whatever. And I’m good to go kind of thing. So I think in that respect, online meetings are amazing in the opportunity they give you, and the time saving they can offer. I think there are some problems we need to be aware of. One, I think is definitely this whole concept of it being a bit more intrusive, and so easy to set up a meeting that actually you then end up having loads of meetings or runs of meetings in particular. I’ve definitely had days where I’ve been in nonstop meetings from 9am till 6pm. And that can be frustrating and tiring. And particularly, you look at your screen all the time. So eye health care, you know, dry eyes, that kind of stuff, making sure that’s not a problem for you. But also, it’s not nice looking at a TV screen for eight hours straight, not moving as much. So I make a point now, whenever I have all my kind of meetings, I stand up, as I’m doing right now because then it’s just trying to build that into actually not just sitting around all day long.

And definitely, they don’t work for some people. Some people don’t like the concept of being on camera, being just on showing away. I think more and more people are understanding it’s not necessarily what it’s about, but I think there does need to be that recognition of that. There’s that element of things. Although I think it also improves accessibility, people that have disabilities that prevented them from attending meetings, less of an issue to a degree, apart from the big one, which is internet speed. And obviously, that needs to be right. And that’s the one that I think catches sometimes people out, particularly if you’re in a busy house, and you’ve got kids doing online school learning while you’re in a meeting, and that kind of stuff makes you got enough bandwidth to keep it going or if you’re out and about and not dropping off and that kind of thing. But if that’s okay, generally, most of the other stuff works enough. Certainly, you can engage. So yeah, online meetings may have been a big thing. It’s something I’ve talked about quite a lot with various groups and peoples. And I definitely see it as the ongoing future. I don’t see it as the future anymore because we’re living in it now. But I think the next big thing is going to be hybrid meetings, to be honest. And I think that’s where people probably need to start thinking about what they’re going to be doing, particularly as, hopefully, all the COVID stuff should *fingers crossed* be getting better in the near future.

Rachel: So I’d like to come on talk about hybrid meetings in a minute, just and I’d like to just go back to when you’re all online. And the reason I’m laughing, because yeah, you’re saying that as long as you got good internet, we’re gonna have to go back and edit this podcast because we just froze a few minutes ago, because I think it’s just about half-past four. And I know exactly what has happened. I know that my son stopped school, and he’s got on the X-port, and suddenly everything crashes. It drives me crazy. But yeah, if you don’t have good internet, it’s so frustrating. That is something I guess you just have to try and take control of and do what you can. But there are a few other hacks that can help me. One thing that I like doing is to hide my self-view on the meetings because I’ve read somewhere that looking at yourself makes you feel like even more of a performance. Whereas if you can hide that view of yourself, you’re not constantly thinking, ‘Oh, I’m looking a bit tired today. That’s my hair and makeup.’ I know you’re probably not thinking that, but maybe 50% of the population are. Or worrying about what’s in your background and all that sort of things, it’s just that extra mental load. To hiding yourself to get, we talked about getting good lighting actually can be quite helpful. And I was amazed you have a vast array of lights, even in your consulting room. I’m so impressed.

Hussain: Yeah. So I share with yeah I’m up the chase. I’ve got a ring light, which is normally what I use because we kind of decide we’re going to do this, I have kind of set up at the side. And then on this side on my right hand side, which is what Rachel was mentioning, I’ve got this big huge light here. Now this is here because there’s some of the EGP Learners know I tend to film videos to help with patients, education and some of the other stuff. And like you say having good lighting is one of the really important things. I think actually my main lights dropped, which is why it probably looks a bit dim in here actually. But you know, having good lighting is really important because it makes you look more engaged in the meeting. It keeps you awake. And I would always try and recommend you set up so use natural light if you can. Now of course you can’t do that here because my natural light is this big, huge window that’s on this side. And if I was to put my cameras like that, it just wouldn’t work in the setup I’ve got here. And unfortunately, there’s certain things I can’t change, but making sure that it’s good for the aesthetics for the people watching but also for your own well being. It’s just nicer having natural light than artificial light. And I think the other one is sound. Making sure your sound is good, because we all know that when you’re in a meeting, if you’ve got like a really high pitch whine or loads of interference coming through, it just distracts you, it just makes you not want to engage with the meeting. You switch off.

Simply put, to having both good audio that you can hear and good audio that the other people can hear is really important. We’re fortunate nowadays; most tech is pretty good. So most inbuilt microphones and laptops are pretty decent nowadays. And desktops have a bit of an issue that they don’t always have those kind of things built in. But actually, a lot of the decent webcams are okay enough for that. But I still recommend using a headset because it’s just always better. I find, A) if you’re being able to listen, so you don’t get the interference from the computer speakers, which generally speaking, particularly in the NHS, most computer speakers are awful. But also you get less interference as well. So getting any of that reverb feedback that when you’ve got speakers going on, and you’ve got your microphone and stuff, it just means the audio is cleaner. And hopefully works a lot better for both ways, both for you and for the other side. And that’s definitely more of an issue when you’ve got like 15, 20 odd people, because if people got their microphones on, you can get loads of interference. And that’s why it’s really important to have good audio, definitely.

Good lighting, is it essential? Depends on what you’re doing. I think if you’re presenting a meeting, you’re trying to get people engaged. Absolutely. You need to have good lighting then. If you’re just there to participate and just absorb the information, kinda makes me wonder why you’re there in the first place, but then at the same time, okay, maybe not as important and stuff.

Rachel: Yeah, yeah. So I take it from that, good lighting if you can. Good audio. And I know, certainly with podcasting, the one thing that matters for podcasters is good audio quality. Yeah, headsets are good. Most NHS speakers are pretty rare. It always makes me laugh, that, you’ve got, I’m sorry, I can actually see Addenbrooke’s in my window. And there have got these beautiful, multi million pound machines with such high-tech stuff in there. And then some of the computers that everyone’s using really old, really old tech. So if you can just buy a headset or a webcam with a good with a good speaker on it or microphone on it, that can be… And turn off your self view that’s really revolutionary. Although you must not forget that your camera is still on, if you tend to have yourself, just in case, you’re doing a meeting in a onesie or something like that, I don’t know.

Hussain: Absolutely. And if you want another quick little thing, I recommend to a lot of people that aren’t comfortable using cameras and stuff. One of the things I say to them is just put a post-it on your webcam, pointing downwards, saying, ‘Look here.’ Because the reason for that is, when you’re looking at the webcam, you get much better engagement, I think, with other people watching because you’re actually looking at them, rather than looking at yourself on screen and stuff. And using that A) as a good direction, so you’re not focusing as much on the rest of the screen like you say, kind of hiding yourself, you’re less self-conscious of things. But also found that when you’re trying to have, you know, engagement with people in meetings and stuff, because you’re now looking at, they think that you’re not looking at them. That’s the impression it gives. And that often leads to much better engagement. Definitely, when I’m presenting and what I’ve been doing, obviously, when you record videos for YouTube, and that kind of stuff, they always teach you: “Look at the camera, don’t look at the screen, because it looks weird otherwise.”

Rachel: Yeah, brilliant. So that is a few sort of things about how to do meetings. And I guess that there’s I mean, there’s all sorts of things about then how to do good meetings, which includes having an agenda, knowing what you want to actually talk about, having a good chair, including everyone, and that’s a lot harder, isn’t it? In an online environment, because really, you know, and I found this with my training that I’m doing online, if you know, whereas I used to break into groups of maybe five or six, they would chat. Now when we break out, it’s never more than three or four because it’s very hard to get good conversations going because you can’t interrupt and stuff like that you could do normally.

Hussain: Yep, absolutely agree with that. I think a couple of hacks if you want them to learn how to do that. So whatever system you’re using, most of the systems have keyboard shortcuts that can help you structure and figure out how you’re going to use those systems a lot better. Now, as a participant, it’s nice; it makes your life easier. And definitely the ones I always recommend you learn is how to mute and unmute your microphone, and how to switch on and off your camera and how to raise your hand or get the attention of somebody. Those are the three ones as a participant, you need to know. It’s so much quicker if you do that. Zooms, got some awesome shortcuts. Teams is catching up. Theirs is a little bit trickier, I think, but definitely learn those. But as a host or as the chair, are there, their absolute godsend, my favourite one hands down is mute all. That mute all button. Absolutely. And knowing how to use it is important, knowing when to use it is also really important. So the fact that it can just help to clear the meeting, but at the same time give you control over what’s going on and stuff. And actually, as long as you have good ground rules at the start of the meeting, and you remind people that the bar escape is over here, make sure you switch your microphones off, switch them on when you want to. Generally, it’s not something you need to use. But when you do need to use it can be really impactful and helpful in terms of understanding and structuring that meeting to make sure it flows really nicely and stuff. So definitely learn the keyboard shortcuts.

Rachel: Yeah, my favourite one is just it’s the spacebar isn’t it, if you want. If you want to unmute yourself, you can just talk while you press the spacebar in zoom. And then that will unmute you. I think that thing about mute, unmute, videos on, videos off. If you’re presenting something, get everyone to turn the videos off, just you. Mute. But then try and get people to keep their videos on if possible, because otherwise, it’s so easy just to switch off, tune out and go and do something else. In which case, you might as well not not be at the meeting. So it’s much better to ask people to put their videos on. Okay, now, the thing I’m struggling with is, and I know lots of people have fed back to me that they really struggle with, is hybrid meetings. So first of all, definition of hybrid meeting.

Hussain: So hybrid meeting is when you’re combining online meetings and face-to-face meetings at the same time. And I do think the future of what we’re going to be heading towards, because there will always be this wanting, this need to have, you know, physical face-to-face meetings. And they’re generally, for majority of people, much easier. Because it’s nice to just have a chat, and you get a lot more of that kind of side chat, that discussion. And we all kind of know, a lot of times, all the decisions are actually made outside of meetings, not actually at the meetings, there’s that elements of things. But also you know that it’s just, it’s easier at times to have that face-to-face stuff, and more productive because that’s how people’s brains work. I think there’s loads of cool tools that can help you do some of this stuff. But sometimes it’s just nicer having everyone around the table. And as we move towards that, what you don’t want to lose is the benefits of remote meetings and online meetings. So the fact that anybody can join may increase the accessibility of your meetings.

The other one that we haven’t already talked about, is the ability to record meetings. And that’s a massive thing. And that’s actually the main reason why I really pushed for online meetings. So when we set up our networks in Nottingham, we had loads of new clinical directors, myself included. To be honest, we didn’t have a clue what we were meant to be doing. Everybody was learning the job. So we wanted to try and learn together. And that’s where I set up the whole concept was having Zoom meetings between the leads of our local networks to try and support each other, but also meant that we could work rapidly because then we could have a quick meeting in the middle of the day for half an hour. And obviously, if you’re trying to get 10 GPs into a room, that’s really expensive.

Rachel: And difficult.

Hussain: Massively. But yeah, difficult time-wise. But get them to sign in to their computer for half an hour, in the middle of lunch, was inconvenient. Actually, it wasn’t impossible. But then the best part was, is that we used to record all meetings, and then I would publish those on YouTube, on an unlisted YouTube channel, and then send those to everybody else. So then, we didn’t have to worry about having the minutes when people wanted more depth of the discussion, because that’s the part that we’re missing from the minute: the peculiarities, the fine kind of points and stuff. They could listen or watch to those. And one of the hacks I shared with those people is that when you do that, the cool thing about YouTube and other kind of platforms like that is you can listen back at 1.2, 1.5 speed.

Rachel: Exactly. Speed it up!

Hussain: So you can, most people can actually understand what’s going on in a podcast or on a YouTube channel if you go 1.2x. Quite a few people can manage 1.5x, some people awesome and can manage 2.0x speed. Yeah, I can’t. For me, I found 1.4x is the sweet spot for me. But you listen to it quicker and then the parts where you do want to really pay attention, just slow back down to normal. And doing that just makes life easy. And we could share the information quickly, easily. People were kept up to date because they didn’t have to worry about missing the meetings and can dial in for the relevant part. If you go that extra step of sticking in timestamps, then it’s even better because then it can just zoom to the parts that really are relevant to them and stuff. But being able to have that recording is just obviously Something that’s really useful. And now that we’ve got admin support as well, if they can’t make it, we can send them a copy of the audio, and then they just take the minutes as well. So you don’t even have to worry about necessarily having somebody live there, doing the documentation and the minute writing and stuff, because you can actually now potentially outsource that. And in some places also, that could be really effective in terms of timeliness and cost effectiveness as well.

Rachel: That is brilliant. That’s the sort of benefit and massive benefits, isn’t it of, of online meetings that never get from face to face. But I am still puzzling about how, if you’ve got my experience with hybrid meetings before COVID was, I’ve been in meeting with those people, and then two, poor souls would have to dial in, and they’d be a speaker in the middle of the table, and they’d be sort of even really, bits on the telly would never work, they’d have this thing that would connect Skype with the telly. And occasionally beyond that, but mostly, you couldn’t see them. And then occasionally, you’d hear a little voice piping up from the middle of that thing would just be awful. So how do you do it well?

Hussain: Okay, so one of the key changes, I think that’s happened is the fact that we’ve now, as a society, have acknowledged that video meetings is really good. And so before those meetings tended to be people dialing in on the telephone, and you’d have the telephone thing in the middle. And that’s where the problem was, because they didn’t have a physical presence in the meeting room. So the big difference with video meetings is, you need the screen, you need them up on there. And that’s where you’re looking. And that’s where some of the focus is. So you have to have that element of things. So we talked about the tech you need to have good online meetings, we talked about audio, video, and lighting. We need to expand that a little bit more for hybrid meetings. So for hybrid meetings, you need a decent screen, and a probably a decent-sized one as well. So whether it’s a projector or a TV, and that kind of does need to take the focus point just like it does in people’s homes. So most people, their living room, the TV’s the focus, it’s no longer the fireplace and stuff.

But you need a good visual device to look at the meeting. You can’t have it be a laptop, it’s not going to work. Okay? Secondly, you need good audio as well. So this is where you do actually need to invest a little bit of potential funds into certain things. So you need a decent room microphone. So obviously, the people are going to be joining you who are online, they need to be able to hear what’s being discussed in the meeting, and the webcams that you get, they’re going to be okay for potentially doing the visual side of things. So the webcam I’m using now is a Logitech C920, which many people know is my favourite webcam that’s perfectly good for a hybrid meeting for a majority of rooms. But if you ask that to do the audio, just won’t cut it. People won’t be able to hear it. It’ll be grainy. It just doesn’t have the direction of the microphone to capture that. So you need to use something that’s got much better audio pickup. So ideally, looking for an omnidirectional microphone is what they’re called.

Rachel: So this one in front of me, that’s a unidirection, so any picks up here? But then if I walk, if I walk away like this, you can’t hear me very well.

Hussain: Exactly. I imagine you’re in the middle of a meeting room, we know standard desk-size, people sit around it, you’re not gonna be able to hear them. And then the people are watching on the online point of view, they’re just going to disengage because they can’t hear what’s going on in the meeting. And so you need a decent mic. Omnidirectional mics aren’t expensive. You can get really decent ones, they’ll cover about three meter diameter for about 30 quid. Or if you want to spend a little bit more, my personal recommendation is the same one I make the podcast with actually, it’s the Blue Yeti. Because it does everything. It works really good personally. And it’s got an omnidirectional setting. That’s actually really good. So you can capture pretty much the whole room.

Rachel: Great. And does that plug into like a USB port or?

Hussain: You just stick into the USB of your computer. So you don’t need any weird adapters, or interfaces or anything like that. It just works. And the other reason why I like it for hybrid meetings is it looks interesting. So people have a focus point to talk to when they’re talking as well. So it’s that additional little cue of it’s not hidden microphones, so people don’t know where to talk to. You’ve got something that’s just a little bit unique that I think I share, I need to I want to talk I need to talk towards that. And that helps.

Rachel: And I’m thinking probably if you were going to invest in screen or mic, probably mic is the first thing because audio is the most important. You’ve got to hear anyone. There’s no point seeing them, right?

Hussain: Absolutely. So the audio is the priority. And also for those that are listening in the room, you need to make sure they can hear the people online. So you’re probably also going to need to invest in some speakers as well. And again, doesn’t have to be really expensive stuff, a 20-30 pound 12 watt speaker will be more than enough for most average general practice meeting rooms. But if you’re talking much bigger meeting rooms and stuff, you may have to get a little bit more, and possibly two speakers and that kind of stuff. But for example, our meeting room, which is about 30 meters squared. That’s the kit I’ve been using for our hybrid meetings before COVID happened. And the quality and the engagement we had from people online was just as good as those that were in the room. But you need one more thing and you need one person that’s actually sat on the computer that is controlling the online as well as supporting the in room. So I call it the coordinator role. So that you have your chair, everybody kind of recognises the chair role. And the chair and the coordinator could be the same person. But I wouldn’t recommend it because that’s a lot for one person to do. And you’re probably going to find it doesn’t work so well, particularly if you’ve got lots of people in the room. But effectively, what the coordinator’s job is to support those that are online, and help to make everyone aware that actually they want to raise things. And that doesn’t mean they can’t engage in the meetings. So no prizes in ‘Guess who the coordinator was for our meetings’. But…

Rachel: He’s pointing to himself, for those of you just listening to the audio.

Hussain: Ah yeah, sorry. I’m so used to doing video kind of things that I forgot about the audio side of things. But having somebody that is responsible for doing that, and supporting those online so that they can keep track of the people raising their hands online. And it’s the same etiquette. You don’t go to everybody in the room first and then to the people on the computer. They’re keeping track of who actually put their hands up, they’re supporting the chair, to understand what’s going on in the meeting to bring people on to do the screen sharing that kind of stuff. And actually, that’s the other benefit. Everyone can see the screen now, are those online, and those are in the room as well, which previously with telephone meetings. People talking about slides, you’re like, well, I’m not clear what they’re talking about. Somebody’s showing something like, I don’t know what’s going on. That’s the difference. That’s why hybrid meetings I think are the future.

Rachel: Hmm, well, now you put it like that it makes perfect sense. And I think that role of someone who is there. I mean, yes, as the meeting participant, but to make sure the people online are okay, or engaged, are included, is really important. What would you say about the chat because often I find in meetings, you’ve got this sort of side chat thing going on? Would you suggest that the people who were there physically in the meeting, also get into the chat or not? It’s gonna be difficult for them to sit on our lap, they’d have to open it up then in front of them.

Hussain: So you can do it different ways. And I think when it comes to hybrid meetings, what you generally have is you could have people join in the chat, but then they have to dial in on the devices at the same time if they want to control that. And that can get a little bit cumbersome. And you also have to remember to make sure that anybody dialing in the same room has their microphone off all the time, really various feet. Yeah. And same with their speaker so that if they are doing that, they have to switch off all audio inputs for their meeting Probably tell them to also switch off their video one as well, because it’s not really going to add anything. But if you want to do that, that’s fine. I would definitely always suggest having chat in meetings. I know there are definitely some schools of thought, I think it’s a bit of a distraction. And it’s not helpful. But actually, I found that it allows people to make points, particularly those that are anxious about speaking up, it can be really good. It can be a good way of tracking additional stuff, but, and it works when you’ve got somebody whose role is to keep a track of that. Where it doesn’t work is when you’ve got one person trying to do everything. So I found the sweet spot is six people. And so what I mean by that is if you’ve got six participants, whether it’s face to face, sorry, in the room or online, you can probably manage that with one person doing the coordinate to the chair, that kind of role and stuff. Once you get over that. It gets quite cumbersome and quite challenging. And you need to split those roles into at least two people. And once you hit both 25 you’re definitely one person whose sole job is to be the coordinator.

Rachel: Yeah, well, I would say if it’s over 25 is not a meeting anymore. It’s a seminar.

Hussain: Yeah. But that’s not how the NHS works.

Rachel: Fair enough. Because how can you? Everyone have their say, in a meeting of 25 people, that’s ridiculous.

Hussain: But the reason why it’s 25 is because Zoom defaults automatically is 25 people on the screen. So that’s the reason why 25. Teams is a bit weird, because Teams likes changing it up all the time. So Teams are probably even less because you have less people on the screen at the same time. But yeah, 25 is probably the sweet spot in terms of you needing someone whose sole role is to be the coordinator, and probably, that’s where I probably think about having an admin person supporting you for it, not necessarily somebody who’s particular to the actual information of the meeting. So if I was a clinician, they’re not going to be so busy doing the coordinating, they’re probably not going to be able to contribute to the meeting as much, whereas up until then, it’s probably depending on your experience and stuff.

Rachel: Yeah. And I was just thinking, actually, we were talking about the chat being quite important. I’ve been in a couple of meet– Actually, it’s when I’ve been doing online presentations in conferences, and between the organisers, they had a Whatsapp group. So actually, you could have a Whatsapp group for the meeting, and do the chat on that rather than people in the room having to dial into Zoom and having that extra sort of thing going. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried something like that it’s having a sort of–

Hussain: So that’s kind of how Teams work. So actually, Teams that the chat was you do have a separate chat for in meeting, that you cannot organise a chat for the meetings, participants that works on Teams itself that doesn’t require to dial into the meeting. And I know that because often when there’s meetings happening where I’ve been invited to in the past, I’ve suddenly got a chat hanging up in the bottom corner, saying this is going on. ‘Okay, so the meeting started, I now need to go across.’

Rachel: Okay. Okay. I didn’t know that. Interesting. And I think what’s the role of breakout rooms and things like that? Because I’m a huge fan of breakout rooms and love them. And I know, soon you can do it really well. And even in small meetings, still break them up into breakout rooms? Because then everyone gets a say, and then people want feedback. Would you use that in hybrid meetings?

Hussain: I think you can, it’s important to remember that when you break that up into hybrid meetings, it does become a little bit more challenging, because the people in the room, you’re not gonna be able to, unless you’ve got a separate room for them to go into, they’re all going to be in one room. So it’s this slight downside of hybrid meetings, that all the people that are in that physical room are likely to be in one breakout room. And all the people that are online, are not. I think that would work if you are having enough people online where it’s almost an equal split. So you could probably do it that way. So you have the online people just go off into a separate kind of area to have their breakout room and the people in room, that’s probably the easiest fix to doing that. But the problem you’ve got then is, if you want to do it properly, you’re gonna have to have several rooms for breakout rooms, physically as well as online.

Rachel: Maybe just having to put a bit more thought into that. Right? Well, that that is really helpful. It’s really concrete, actually easy stuff to do. Buy a microphone, get some good speakers, make sure everyone can see what’s going on. So it’s pretty obvious, really, but so often we forget to do the really obvious stuff. And then I would say learn to run a meeting properly. But I guess that’s another entire podcast until you’ve got what very quickly, what’s your pet bugbear about meetings? If you could change one thing, what would you change?

Hussain: I probably change people trying to take over the meeting. So that sometimes happens, where you’ve got people wanting to have their own meeting about something else. And that kind of intrudes into things. I think that’s where I probably like my omni-control, controller mute and stuff, because that allows me to manage that. But if I’m being honest, as long as you’ve got, set good ground rules at the start, just like you should, at any meeting, generally speaking, it’s not a major problem. Most people kind of understand that if you’ve got the ground rules, and particularly the ground rules of how you’re going to get the attention of the chair, how you’re going to actually engage in the meeting, that’s probably the best thing to focus on. Because I think that’s where a lot of people don’t do. And then people kind of wondering, ‘Oh, I’ve got a point. Do I raise my electronic hand or raise my physical hand? What do I do? Do I just jump in?’ that kind of stuff. And so, having your ground rules at the start is probably the best way of making sure that’s less of an issue.

Rachel: Thank you so much. I know, we’re gonna have to finish now because we’re getting out of time. We could probably talk about this for another couple of hours. I’m sure there’s so many more, we’ve only talked about three things, three hacks, but I actually think a lot of those just following that it’s going to be really, really helpful. Any other quick pieces of advice for just staying a bit sane and avoiding the stress of all this virtual stuff we’re having we’re having to do before we finish?

Hussain: I think it’s a non-tech one. But I think just remembering that we’re all ridiculously busy. But making sure there’s just a period of your day that’s just for you. And this is a lesson I’ve been learning a lot more lately, like you said, trying to be uber-productive. One of the downsides to that is just having a period of the day where you’re doing something that just helps to refresh you and you have to have that every day. So my more recent way of doing that as I’ve been either playing board games, which may my EGP learners will know is my big, big thing, or reading the book. Just completely disengaging from Tech for a bit as much as I love tech. You need to have your boundaries. And yeah, getting through a good book is a great way of doing that or playing a decent board game is absolutely a good way to do that. That does not include Monopoly.

Rachel: Oh so you don’t like Monopoly?

Hussain: Monopoly is a great game when it’s played properly. That’s the problem. Very few people play it properly. The House Rules always come into effect and, ‘No, no, but I played this way’ or you know that that’s what gets to me.

Rachel: Don’t cheat on Monopoly. That’s another good tip. And I think my top tip would be trying if you are at home a lot, try and put a space between your virtual self, and your work self and your home self. So, there’s a door behind me. When I get out that door in about two minutes, I’m going to be in my home self. And that transition can sometimes be quite difficult, particularly when you’ve been working at 100 miles an hour. So there’s a really good TED talk about that, about creating a third space between work and home. And sometimes it’s just a potential space. But what can you think about what you can do to just decompress yourself between work and home? So for me, I’m gonna get for a run in a minute just between doing my work and home. Some people like to meditate or some people gonna have a shower or walk the dog, some sort of ritual you have. If you don’t have that commute that a lot of people have been having normally, but some people aren’t at the moment, just just create a ritual for yourself to create some boundaries between work.

Hussain: Absolutely. I mean, for me going, I’m still having to come into practice to see patients the other day we’re starting to see people. And that’s really important. But like you say, for me, the commute offers the really awesome option of listening to a podcast, which is my decompression when I get home and stuff. So soon as I sit in the car, podcast on, car on, off I go, I’ve got a good 20 minutes or so of listening to something. It just helps me [breathes out], The whole kind of work stuff. And then when I get home, hopefully I’m back to me.

Rachel: Brilliant. So, hang on a sec, I have a little home intrusion. Well, I’ll be finished in one minute. The clarinet lesson. That’s another example of the difficulty of working from home and actually, everyone needs your space.

Hussain: Managing interruptions.

Rachel: Yeah, my son’s… Actually just changed to saxophone. So yeah, he’s got a saxophone lesson in one minute. So I’ve got one minute to ask you. If people want to connect with you, find you, hear more about your work? Where can they go?

Hussain: So best place is either go to https://egplearning.co.uk/, which is the website, or just search EGP learning on YouTube, and you’ll find all the content I’ve got on there on YouTube. And on the podcast as well. Same thing as the EGP Learning Podblast, just type in EGP learning and you will probably find me right at the top.

Rachel: Fantastic. Brilliant. Well, thank you so much. That’s been incredibly helpful. And we’d love to have you back again soon, if that’s okay.

Hussain: Absolutely, anytime.

Rachel: Thank you for spending the time. See you soon!

Hussain: Here.

Thanks for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. Please subscribe to my You Are Not A Frog email list and subscribe to the podcast. And if you have enjoyed it then please leave me a rating wherever you listen to your podcasts. So keep well, everyone. You’re doing a great job. You got this.