Remember when an office meeting required more than wearing a headset and making sure the webcam didn’t show your unicorn pajama pants? Much of the professional world has existed in virtual reality for the past month or more – since the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses around the nation (and world) to vacate their office buildings and work from home. Conducting online meetings has become the way to keep business operations from stalling while much of the nation is quarantined. How will this change when the world goes back to normal? Or are virtual meetings the new norm? Let’s take a few minutes and evaluate the benefits (and downsides) of both online and face-to-face meetings.
In This Corner: Online Meetings
The most obvious benefit of virtual meetings is the flexibility of holding conferences anywhere and at any time. You and the other participants do not have to be in the same location or even in the same time zone. Especially right now, managers are still able to work with their teams and be productive by holding remote meetings. Certain video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts or even Facebook Messenger allow participants to share files, view each others’ computer screens, and show presentations.
Even before the Coronavirus pandemic hit the US, many businesses were opting for online meetings to save time and money – no need for travel expenses and dealing with varying time zones. Additionally, the use of video conferencing can lessen the potential for complications with busy schedules; the ability to “attend” a meeting from anywhere makes it easier for both the company and the participants.
The Cons of Going Remote
Technical problems are one of the biggest drawbacks of conducting online meetings. Losing your internet connection in the middle of a meeting is a much bigger dilemma when you aren’t in the same room with your other team members. Issues with whatever software website you were using may also hinder presenting important/necessary information. And as great as it can be to work and attend meetings from home, the potential for distractions (kids, background noise, delayed sound, knowing people are speaking, not knowing where to look, etc) is also more likely than in the office. Physical meetings force those present to focus on the task at hand.
The Perks of Face-to-Face
Virtual meetings certainly would have their advantages, but face-to-face meetings also have their pros. Conducting physical meetings generally means fewer outside distractions and smaller chances of technical issues halting any progress. Even if technology glitches, your team is still present to discuss any necessary points and work around the problem.
The most obvious benefit to in-person meetings is the opportunity for personal interaction with others. Webcams and mics allow you to see and hear the other meeting attendees, but video conferencing technology still cannot take the place of physical interaction. Voice inflections, facial expressions, and body movements/hand gestures can be misconstrued or completely missed by a camera.
The Verdict for Business Communication
Even though current conditions may be changing to bring the economy back to normal, the time frame for business professionals returning to the office is still in limbo. And now that companies have seen how remote working is working out, the professional office landscape may be shifting more permanently.
Business meetings had already been slowly morphing into a hybrid of virtual and physical, but the recent happenings may have companies and managers leaning more to online gatherings. Who knows – business discussions in your unicorn PJs might become the new standard.