Good reasons why sometimes face-to-face meetings are NOT outdated

Meeting face-to-face in times of virtual working

If you have followed our blog so far you know by now that I am an evangelist for virtual working. And I am always willing to share my experiences in that area with anyone who is interested.
So feel free to get in touch with me right now if you want to enhance your or your organsiation’s virtual working capability. But even I believe there are still good reasons for face-to-face meetings every now and again.

Con-TACT is an entirely virtual organisation

Con-TACT has been a total virtual organisation right from the beginning and we celebrate our 10th anniversary this year. The partners regularly meet through Skype, Zoom, Adobe Connect, or whatever is most suitable for the subjects on the agenda. And we truly believe in the power of virtual interaction and -if carried out correctly- that it can largely replace face-to-face meetings. In the age of time and budget constraints, travel restrictions, and climate change discussions not an unimportant fact, we believe.

However, we still meet face-to-face about once a year even though we regularly challenge our belief that a face-to-face meeting would be necessary. At the end of the last meeting’s planning discussion, we were still convinced that meeting face-to-face for the annual review would create additional value for each of us. The dominant aspect for all of us was to refresh the social bond amongst the partners over a nice meal together and some quality time beyond work. We shared the view that anything work related can be done remotely but there is a lot of additional value in spending time not related to work.

Our recent meeting made me think

So, our recent meeting triggered in me a reflection under what circumstances virtual teams should consider face-to-face meetings as well. For me it boiled down to 3 essential factors:

  1. refreshing the social bonding amongst team members
  2. enhancing trust amongst team members
  3. diffusing persistent tension in certain areas of interaction

Let me explain why I consider these aspects essential:

Social bonding

Clearly, this is the most important aspect for us in Con-TACT.
I am convinced a lot can be done through dedicated virtual interactions to develop or refresh the social bonding in a team. And many teams rely on this almost entirely. However, from personal experience I can tell that a face-to-face meeting is much more powerful to enhance relationship amongst team members when it also includes opportunities to relax, walk & talk about non-work-related things or having fun together in shared activities (and I don’t necessarily mean organised team-building activities!).

Trust enhancement

I assume we all know from personal experience, and lots of research is supporting it, that trust is an essential element for team performance and it forms one of the great challenges for virtual teams. However, trust can only be reached when you know the person you are supposed to trust at least to some degree. Also, trust can erode over time. That is why I believe that a face-to-face meeting with a certain focus on (re-)building or enhancing trust enables a much faster team development then one can achieve through even the best virtual interactions.

Persistent tension diffusion

Tension doesn’t mean that there is direct conflict! Nevertheless, it can linger for a long time in the background of certain areas of interaction. Sometimes tension can be healthy when it appears but then disappears after a resolution has been found. However, those that persist over a longer period can become a source for frustration and an energy drain. Here too, having a face-to-face conversation about areas of tension is a lot easier than in a virtual setting. The main reason is that all persons involved experience the human element through the physical presence much stronger than in a virtual discussion. And that eases its resolution very much.
It is important though that this aspect is not the only reason for a face-to-face meeting. The social aspect should still be the key driver.

This is a just a summary of my thoughts about the value of in person meetings after we experienced a very enjoyable and effective face-to-face partner meeting. We are motivated again for the future and our regular virtual interactions.
Are you interested to discuss this in more detail or find out how we managed to get to this point (I also perform almost 50% of my client work via virtual media)? Then feel free to get in touch with me.

 

As I said:  we truly believe in virtual working and interactions and we want to share our experience with others. Therefore …

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