Do you prefer face-to-face or virtual meetings?
As the threat of Covid-19 lingers, businesses are finding themselves adopting new protocols to ensure the health and safety of their customers, clients and employees. Many companies have not only encouraged, but mandated that their employees work remotely and communicate solely through technological means. Online video chat platforms have replaced face-to-face meetings as the primary source of both internal and external communication for many – nearly all – companies.
Although these measures have been effective during the peak of the pandemic, settling into the “new normal” will soon include the reintroduction of face-to-face meetings.
In 2018, 2.46 billion people were using social networks for many aspects of their daily lives, including professional communication. With that number continuing to rise each year, it seems apparent that society was beginning to trend away from designated office spaces and in-person meetings.
Despite the rising popularity of remote work, the value of face-to-face interactions in the workplace has not diminished. Millennials currently make up the largest portion of the North American workforce. Although millennials grew up in a predominantly digital environment, 80% say they prefer meeting face-to-face over online.
While maintaining in-person interaction in the workplace in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic may seem ill-advised and pointless, there are many steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of all employees and clients. Ultimately, ensuring that employees and clients maintain some form of face-to-face interaction can result in more positive relationships, and can create conversations that are considered more credible than online or virtual conversations.
Here are 3 reasons why businesses should consider re-introducing in-person meetings in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
1. Build trust and strong relationships
In the early stages of developing a relationship with a new client, face-to-face meetings build the foundation for a long and successful relationship. It is in these meetings that you can show your clients that you value their time and business. The effort you put in shows that they are important to you and what you are discussing is worth the time you are both putting in. Face-to-face meetings are more personal and allow the client to connect with you on a level that online video chats just do not allow. It is this connection that instills trust and creates a bond between you and your client.
The same goes for employees. By meeting in-person, employees can connect with their peers and their employers. In this way, employers can earn their trust and loyalty, building a stronger relationship. In-person interactions are also important among co-workers. By meeting face-to-face, relationships form and a team that runs smoothly can develop.
2. Clear communication and body language
Non-verbal cues and body language have always been a huge part of communication. Things are often misconstrued and misunderstood when communicated through online platforms. In a 10-minute conversation, a person can show up to 150 micro-behaviours that show you how the conversation is going. This is through facial expressions, gestures, body posture, etc. It is much easier to tell if a person is understanding, engaged, and focused when you are meeting in-person vs. online. It is also a lot easier to communicate and reduce misunderstanding of ideas, instructions, and other important information when the person is standing in front of you.
3. Increased focus and productivity
The body language mentioned in the previous point also plays a role in productivity. Mimicry and mirroring may have something to do with this. One study found that when working together on a project, mimicry is prevalent. If one person is working towards a goal, others in the same room will most likely follow suit. It was also found that on average, 13.36 ideas are generated in in-person meetings, while virtual meetings only resulted in 10.43 ideas.
Focus among participants of face-to-face meetings is significantly higher than those in virtual meetings. 70% of people have admitted to browsing on social media while on audio-only conference calls. It is demonstrably much more difficult to surf the web and get distracted when the person speaking is right in front of you.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has made it essential for businesses to move to online platforms for communication, face-to-face meetings have not lost their significance. With proper precautions, in-person meetings can be both productive and safe for all participants.