While virtual meetings make for some hilarious moments (cue lawyer assuring everyone on his video conference that he was, indeed, not a cat), it’s safe to say that the lack of face-to-face team interactions has not always been the most helpful.
Sure, traditional office life may never go back to what it was pre-pandemic. But based on what we have seen over the past year, it’s time to make a strong case for at least some sort of remote/office hybrid. The truth is that no matter how much your team might enjoy that #WFH life, your team members need face-to-face time because it benefits them as much as it does the future of your company.
1. While remote work runs the risk of eroding trust between employees, meeting in person builds trust.
When the whole world turned to remote work last year, leaders quickly learned how to manage remote teams, providing them with countless resources for remote work. Even in instances where managers’ trust in their teams and their productivity did not waver, trust between employees can still suffer.
When teammates don’t get to see each other in person, they have less information to take in about whether their teammate will deliver what they say they’ll deliver. Face-to-face meetings give employees that information about their coworkers: Is this person prepared for a presentation? Are they on time and reliable? Can they engage with me in small talk? Trust is the most important thing for creating collaborative teams.
Managers should be aware that a flexible schedule, blending remote and in-person options, greatly enhances your team’s trust in each other. It also helps your team invest in each other’s growth and happiness, whether through informal mentoring or the simple water cooler conversations that occur throughout the day.
2. When it comes to innovation, informal exchanges are just as important as formal meetings.
Anyone who has been involved in starting something new knows that sparks of creativity don’t always happen in the conference room. Similarly, virtual whiteboards— used for collaboration in a remote work setting– can only go so far. Innovative ideas can just as easily come to you (or your employees) on a lunchtime walk, in the elevator, or over a happy hour beer. Creativity happens from interacting with a diverse group of people and in environments where team members feel free to share and to be heard.
Finding a work location that provides these formal spaces (desks and conference tables) as well as the informal (couches, outdoor patios, etc.) can help foster these lightning bolt ideas. (Galvanize is at the top of its game when it comes to innovative office design, and we’re offering a 20 percent discount on office suites through April!)
3. Holding meetings in-person creates more focus and deeper results.
When it comes to gathering team members together, video conferencing has its challenges. Team members might have external distractions like children, pets, or WiFi troubles that would not exist in an office conference room. Plus, team members have to be wholly present in a conference room, engaged, listening, and offering ideas or challenges that might not be the case if they are distracted by working remotely. In addition, when team members are physically present, they can read each other’s body language and nonverbal cues much easier than in virtual meetings, which can give insight into what that person is trying to communicate. When team members have the chance to interact with each other face-to-face, they go into “deep learning” mode, giving them the opportunity to challenge each other and truly grapple with ideas that will dictate the future direction of a company.
Perhaps more than anything, startups and companies need the dedication of their employees. They need employees to trust each other and to trust their leaders. While not impossible to create over virtual interactions, in-person interactions and creating a company culture that relies on interpersonal relationships can only enhance the creativity and productivity of your team.