Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet have all been essential to us maintaining communication with our teams, colleagues and family over the last 16 months.
But, whilst these platforms have certainly provided a lifeline, and will indeed continue to play an integral part in the future of business, they can never replace nor be a real substitute for in-person communication, and when it comes to creativity and collaboration between teams, nothing can beat face-to-face contact.
We are social beings, we thrive on interaction. We need only reference the many reports relating to the decline in people’s mental health during the pandemic due to isolation to know that working from home has been detrimental to the wellbeing of many.
According to a recent employee survey, 83% of employees have worked remotely at some point since March 2020 and 38% of them have found it difficult to maintain close business relationships.
A massive 95% of professionals say they believe face-to-face communication is vital to achieving long-term business goals.
So, what is it about working alongside colleagues in an office environment that cannot be replicated when working from home? We take a look at the benefits of being back in the office and connecting with colleagues and business associates in person.
1. Team participation
People are naturally more collaborative and more engaged in face-to-face settings. This is particularly true for millennials. Reuniting teams in a community setting encourages more active participation from every member of the team when it comes to creativity and idea generation.
2. The power of persuasion
Conversing by email with someone who may not agree with you can be cumbersome and ineffective. Perhaps they are absorbing only a fraction of what you have written, or worse still they are misinterpreting it. Similarly, meeting via video conferencing technology eliminates the ability for either party to pick up on the finer nuances of body language.
The ability to bring people around to a particular point of view is an essential skill for managers and business leaders and, without doubt, this is much easier to achieve when people are together in the same room. It is much harder to say no to someone face-to-face than it is over the phone or by email.
3. Stronger connections
Trust is essential in business and difficult to build when communicating digitally. A colleague or client who never sees you in person is unlikely to feel the same connection to you as someone who you see on a regular basis. There is no substitute for face-to-face contact when enabling real connections with other people.
Getting to know someone on a personal level, even if its just their preference for tea over coffee, can go a long way. It’s the personal touch, socialisation and in-person interaction which leads to a sense of camaraderie and community spirit and so develops stronger team bonds, increased loyalty and more positive working relationships.
4. Improved non-verbal understanding
There’s so much more to communication than talking. Body language is an important dimension of communication providing non-verbal cues that often speak louder than words. Body language relays a person’s feelings. It tells of sincerity, attentiveness and engagement. Body language offers the opportunity to read between the lines, to assess if a staff member is unhappy in their role or if a potential client would respond better to a change of tactics or a tone of voice adjustment.
5. Efficiency and effectiveness
There can be no doubt that some things are just done way more effectively and efficiently when you are in the office. Sending an email to a colleague and having to wait for them to come back to you with an answer, possibly a day or so later, is frankly annoying, when you could have simply walked over to their desk and received an instant response to your query. Emails can also cause problems when the intention is misconstrued and certainly problem-solving is most definitely done in person.
Getting back in to the office has significant benefits for both employers and employees, and chief among these is community. The benefits of community and collaboration are hard to quantify but critically important. It is in our nature to be social, to make connections and feel true engagement. We have an innate need to be united, to share ideas, be part of something and benefit from the career development opportunities that can only take place in a work environment.