We’ve all been there… Yet another hour of consecutive Teams or Zoom meetings and fatigue begins to set in. Before March 2020, did we ever imagine we might be yearning for an actual face-to-face meeting?
Since the pandemic began, video calls have become the norm. But now we’re back in offices, many of us are weighing up the pros and cons of real-world meetings compared to virtual gatherings.
Alex Turner, joint Managing Director of TheBusinessDesk.com, believes that meeting in person can be not just more productive, but also less confrontational. “People are better with their choice of words and there is less opportunity for misinterpretation,” he explains.
Alex’s position is supported by a recent HubSpot survey, where almost 100% of respondents said face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships. Meanwhile, a Forbes survey revealed that 84% of people prefer face-to-face meetings for their ability to build stronger and more meaningful business relationships.
There are good reasons for this. As humans, we’re naturally social beings and meeting actual people enables much more genuine interaction alongside the ability to read body language and facial expressions better than on screen.
However, employees have found that the benefits of remote working (facilitated by video calls) can often mitigate these disadvantages. The ability to work from anywhere, and thus saving commuting time and money, seems to be the main bonus of not having to meet in person – as numerous surveys, including Business Wire research indicated.
Some other hybrid working benefits are connected to:
- Better talent attraction and retention (especially important for smaller companies with less market power).
- Enabling opportunities to access different skill-sets, both regionally and globally. This can be one way of addressing skill shortages. Having greater access to more countries and an international footprint can support growth, especially when looking to expand.
- A move away from meetings for their own sake to create more effective meetings with clearer purpose.
- Increasing wellbeing by allowing individuals to better co-ordinate work with their personal biorhythms as well their other commitments.
Some employees may even prefer the relative anonymity and comfort of being in their own space during meetings – which will depend largely on individual personality types as well as the quality (or otherwise) of their technology and broadband connections.
The hybrid working approach might even lead to more inclusivity. US research by The Harvard Business Review found that some people are more comfortable speaking up in virtual meetings, which may lead to more diverse brainstorming sessions and problem-solving. And the use of digital whiteboards may be helping – as no one is pre-screening the ideas before writing them down.
But there is a danger that hybrid working could leave some people out of decision making, especially if they are not present during in-person conversations. It thus becomes even more important that organisations ensure transparency and purposely embed behaviours that minimise the risk of non-inclusive informal decision making.
With our working lives evolving so quickly, we’re all still adapting to the new hybrid ways of working. And knowing whether to choose virtual or real-life meetings may simply depend on the people involved as much as the circumstances.
These are interesting days, indeed.
Discover more about the challenges and opportunities of the new world of work by downloading the full Curium report here.