The global health crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has changed many things about our world. Not least of which is the way that we work. In a pre-March 2020 world, the norm was a standard 9 AM – 6 PM full-time job in the office. Some particularly modern companies gave employees a fixed number of days to work remotely as a benefit. Remote or hybrid work was reserved for the realm of a few cool tech companies.
With international lockdowns being enforced, in-office workers whose jobs did not depend on physical proximity to their place of work were sent home. What was initially forecast as provision for a few weeks turned into months and now into years.
This shift has raised many questions. What will the future of work look like? Will all of our meetings be virtual meetings? Will we build our business relationships through Zoom? What will happen to small talk around the water cooler?
Hybrid: the word of the century
Whether you’re afraid that you’ll live out the rest of your career through video conferencing, or fear a full-time return to the office—you can rest easy. Many companies around the world are adopting a new way of working that combines the best of both worlds. You may have heard of it (it’s only the hottest topic of conversation lately): hybrid work.
The idea behind hybrid work is to give all employees the flexibility to work both from home and in the office. This working model is one that will let you balance all the benefits of face-to-face meetings with the ability to manage your own personal and professional schedule.
The value of face-to-face interactions
If you’re thinking that the reason hybrid work is being put in place is to increase the amount of time employees spend together in person, you’d be right. But there’s a very good reason for that! Actually, there are 5.
1. They help build relationships
Sure, no one’s saying you can’t build a strong relationship online. But humans are biologically and psychologically social beings, and we thrive on in-person interaction. They create time for conversations beyond the task at hand, enable you to get non-verbal cues through facial expressions and hand gestures, and generally help you develop a better understanding of the person you’re working with. This can, in turn, help boost trust and productivity in the workplace. Stronger relationships bring about bursts of ideas, comprehension, and connection.
2. They make you communicate clearer
We’ve all grown up with face-to-face communication. From the moment we’re born, we’re immersed in a tactile world full of interaction. In fact, about 70% – 90% of communication is non-verbal! Think about how much you understand a person from their body language. If they’re being perfectly polite but avoiding eye contact, then you know they might not be too comfortable around you. Now think back to how many times you misconstrued an email or a text message because it was one line long, or featured a weird emoji. Digital communication is an incredible way to connect people from around the world. But it cannot replace in-person meetings in this way.
3. They inspire bursts of creativity
Be honest. Have you ever really had a eureka moment while using instant messaging apps? Getting team members together for brainstorming sessions is a great way to come up with new ideas, novel concepts, and different ways of doing things. Team meetings give you the opportunity to debate, challenge each other, draw incomprehensible mindmaps on the whiteboard, and find previously unexplored paths towards business success. Human beings thrive on one another’s energy, and that energy simply isn’t transmitted via FaceTime.
4. They make discussing sensitive issues more human
The truth is that not every interaction at work is easy. Difficult conversations and moments exist in the workplace, and it’s usually much better to deal with them in person. Reprimanding a colleague on Skype or doing a performance review in a video call can be quite disheartening. Doing it in person adds a more human touch to otherwise tricky issues. The importance of face-to-face meetings lies in a simple truth, which is that human beings require empathy. That’s no different in the digital age.
5. They help you avoid technical difficulties
“I’m sorry, you’re frozen!”, “I can’t hear you, your connection must be bad!”, “You have to click UNMUTE at the bottom of your screen!”, “Is that your kid drawing on the dog?”, “Larry, you’ve put the cat filter on again!” Yeah. The soundtrack of life doing conference calls. Sure, it can be more comfortable to take a call in a shirt and pajama bottoms. But can you seriously say you’re going to miss seeing your own ffffroooozzzzeeen vvviiiddeeeeooo ffffaceeee?