Remote work is nothing new, but the global pandemic that rocked the world in 2020 transformed the way we view workplaces, sending millions of workers to their home offices to perform their jobs. This was revolutionary, as it opened up a world of possibilities for global trade and communication. With workers no longer limited to their physical offices, meetings could include workers from all over the globe. With the world opening back up and companies returning to in-person workspaces, the question is whether online meetings are here to stay.
Zoom, the platform that was almost unheard of just a few years ago, exploded in 2020 as companies used it and other applications to conduct work projects and meetings completely online. This format confirmed what workers have been saying for years—that online meetings are more effective and that remote work should be a viable option for workers that desired the flexibility it provided. In the past, getting approved for remote work was a complicated endeavor, and one that many companies treated with skepticism. Not that meetings have gone completely virtual, companies are finding out that they are more cost effective and are embracing the concept of permanent virtual meetings.
Virtual meetings level the playing field, allowing a diversity of thoughts to move the discussion along. Whereas in in-person meetings there was always that one person who could dominate the discussion by talking over others, being physically intimidating or simply ignoring the speaker, online meetings create a greater degree of control. Hosts can mute participants, and physical intimidation is no longer a possibility. Online appointment scheduling is so common after 2020 that sometimes people forget to go places in person.
Virtual meetings also solve the problem of including the team members who may be away from the office. Workers who are traveling can easily dial in, getting in on the action. Workers who are on leave can still keep abreast of the company’s projects by attending virtually. A sick worker who has taken the day off can still keep up with what’s going on on the team by simply attending a virtual conference.
Another reason that virtual meetings are here to stay is that they create a feeling of inclusion. In the past, the person that was dialing in to the teleconference was typically “left out” of the meeting. They heard the content but typically missed out on the non-verbal communication, the interaction and the participation. They were the “other” who often didn’t get the full benefit of the meeting. With virtual meetings, everyone is getting the same experience which increases morale and improves workplace relationships.
Virtual meetings also allow for more work-life balance, eliminating the time that it takes for workers to travel to and from meetings. Workers are more productive when they can jump right in to work instead of fighting through traffic and arriving exhausted. They can also log off after the meeting and get right to work, saving the company time and money.
In many cases, there is the build up to the meeting—booking the room, grabbing coffee, chatting about the meeting printing out papers—which can take up to 30-45 minutes. then the post-meeting wandering back to their desks, chatting about the meeting and trying to get re-focused on work. This is eliminated with virtual meetings. Companies are quickly learning that happy employees that have a greater work life balance through virtual meetings are more productive and add value to the company’s bottom line.
Virtual meetings are here to stay. Even when companies switch back to in-person work, the trend of meeting online is likely to stay for the foreseeable future. The efficiency of online meetings, the work life balance that they allow and the inclusivity of them means that companies will utilize this technology to bring teams together and work on a global scale.