The move towards more and more online meetings in the workplace was already in existence before the Covid-19 pandemic, of course, but the restrictions imposed by the health situation in recent times has sped up the whole process. What was in effect a slowly trickling stream became a pounding tidal river in no time at all, it seemed, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that personal conversations and interactions still have their place in the business world.
The advantages of using Zoom meetings are all too obvious; they save time, cost very little, reduce the need to travel and don’t require a large conference room to accommodate everyone. But, amid all the understandable positivity, are we losing something far more important, something that is almost impossible to put a price on? Put simply, if you have a Zoom meeting that has crucial, far-reaching consequences, can you rely 100% on the interaction that will be taking place?
Having an informal chat with anyone can be easily accommodated by Zoom, Webex, BlueJeans, Cisco Jabber or any other similar platform, and no doubt will prove to be extremely useful, but what if you need to make judgements based on body language? Or, even more difficult, on that gut feeling you get when you know something’s going exactly to plan or is heading for imminent disaster? A talking head on a laptop screen can give you some useful information, obviously, but there will always be times when you need way more than that.
Never lose that common ground
As we hopefully move away from the most serious Covid restrictions, possibly for good, many of us might reflect not on what we gained from online meetings, but what we lost. There will, for some people, be a need to rebuild relationships that were once thriving, ones that were based on joint opinions, common grounds, similar backgrounds or maybe just a shared love of anything from the skills of Lionel Messi to the songs of Lionel Richie.
Perhaps what we’ve learned most about online meetings since the pandemic struck is that they have their place in the modern business world but they’ll never take the place of real-time, in-person communications. The chances are that we’ll never go back to the amount of face to face meetings that we once had, but those we do attend will be seen as more meaningful, more productive and, yes, more enjoyable.
And after all, who really wants to attend meetings while wearing a smart jacket on the top half and a pair of stripey pyjama trousers and dinosaur slippers on the bottom?