In-person meetings and why they should stay

To be remote, or not to be — that is the question.

There’s a standoff going on between companies. The ones who have gone fully remote are soaking up the best talent with promises of a great work-life balance. On the other side, hybrid companies are waiting for fully-remote orgs to flounder from a lack of personal connections and deep relationships.

Whether or not fully-remote conditions will weather the storms ahead doesn’t change the fact there are some connections employees can only make in person.

What you can only get from an in-person meeting

Clearer concepts

One big problem with virtual meetings is that managers or presenters can’t read the body language and facial expressions of their audience. Does their audience look engaged? Do they look confused? Have they been attentive? By reading body language, a presenter can tailor their presentation, linger or jump through topics depending on the audience’s comprehension.

Also, virtual meetings leave presenters quite limited in ways they can convey messages. Complex concepts aren’t always clear through shared screens and a bodiless voice. In person, presenters can highlight, draw out, point out, or note key points while anticipating and reading their audience’s needs.

Fewer interruptions

Have you ever been on a conference call and spoken at the same time as your teammate? Only for you both to stop talking, wait for the other person to resume, and then restart talking at the same time?

Body language can help resolve major confusions that keep team meetings from running smoothly. Meeting in person makes it much easier for everyone to read body language that indicates when someone has something to say. Body language also reveals when the rest of the team will be most receptive to someone cutting in.

Relationship building

In-person meetings foster relationships and trust much better than virtual meetings do. While many companies have tried to create virtual relationship-building events, such as virtual coffee breaks, the keyword is “tried.”

Most executives appreciate in-person communication for more meaningful relationships, the ability to read another person, and greater social interaction. In comparison, the executives who prefer virtual meetings valued the saved time and money, plus greater flexibility… None of which particularly bolster relationship building.

Face-to-face meetings don’t end with the click of a button like Zoom meetings. At the end of an in-person meeting, there’s polite smiling and a mass exodus where employees leave side-by-side, often carrying on to the coffee room — all of which are excellent opportunities for serendipitous relationship building.

Trust building

In 2016, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs believe lack of trust among employees threatens the growth of organizations. Yet, according to Paul J. Zak, most organizations have done nothing to improve trust. Why? Because they don’t know how to. In-person meetings generate trust among employees. With many companies transitioning to remote work, that source of trust is now either gone or fizzling out.

According to Harvard Business Review,

“Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.”

In his article, “The Neuroscience of Trust,” Paul J. Zak identifies 8 ways to manage trust in a work environment. One key method is to “intentionally build relationships.” In-person meetings are a great way to build relationships, increasing trust and therefore employee performance.

More engagement

Remote work isn’t the same experience for everyone. Introverts often hesitate to speak up whereas extroverts willingly take the floor.

No one wants to speak when they won’t be heard, many people hesitate when speaking to strangers, and talking to someone you don’t trust can be daunting. Body language, quiet meeting spaces, strong relationships, and trust are key elements for raising employee engagement.

4 times a meeting should be in-person

Despite how valuable in-person meetings are, remote workdays have become just as essential. Since remote working became widespread during the pandemic, many employees have reported reduced stress, greater work-life balance, healthier lifestyles, and overall improved happiness.

Still, as great as remote work is, in-person meetings are still more effective in certain scenarios. Below are four types of meetings that are best conducted in person.

Team-building initiatives

Team-building initiatives aren’t restricted to team lunches, games, or coffee breaks. Team building occurs in every meeting, especially during in-person meetups. Take or make opportunities for team building. Yes, schedule some events that are simply for fun, but also throw in some team building during regular on-site meetings.

Complex concepts

If a complex concept arises, managers should schedule an in-person meeting before making a mess of things. Rather than confusing teammates with underexplained concepts, it’s best to do things right the first time. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before scheduling an on-site meeting.

Developing trust

There’s no recipe for when to build trust through in-person meetings. Simply, in-person meetings help develop trust — so have them. Regular on-site meetups cultivate trust, whether they’re for team building, concept explaining, or other reasons.

Improved participation

When in doubt, feel it out — schedule onsite meetings to gauge employee engagement. Hosting regular in-person meetings helps managers get an idea of how engaged their employees are.

Also, regular in-person meetings can remove distractions and increase employee focus for complex concepts, improving overall participation.

Where in-person meetings should happen

With hybrid work, the world is your oyster! Unless you need meeting room tech, teams can meet anywhere. Swapping things up and taking work outside the workspace can create a new bonding experience among employees.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

Cafes

While caffeine gives people energy, there’s another source of energy to be found through coffee breaks.

One Harvard Business Review article describes a call center that was struggling to meet its goals. The company took a lucky guess on an easy solution: make everyone take a coffee break at the same time. Before long, the coffee-break team building generated a different kind of energy through stronger relationships.

Parks

Parks are the opposite of the office. There’s no technology, no workplace internet, no walls… Meeting in nature is like meeting with a clean slate. Teammates can relax and, without distractions, and dive into brainstorming sessions full of entirely fresh ideas.

Meeting rooms

Sometimes there’s no way around it: teams need conference rooms and the technology that comes with them. Still, meeting rooms are only useful when they’re available.

This caveat is why many hybrid companies are investing in an office management system. Joan’s meeting room meeting room management all but eliminates room squatters, overrun meetings, and other roadblocks that keep teams from making the most of their in-person meetups.

Users can check a room’s availability through the meeting room display, the Joan app, or in-house calendars.

Joan Desk supports desk booking, helping teams reserve desks together when they’re working on site.

To learn more about how Joan enhances in-person meetings, contact our sales team.

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