COVID – is this the end of meetings as we know them?

Presence or video meetings. Which is better?

The topic is definitely on everyone’s lips at the moment. And self-proclaimed “remote experts” already smell consulting potential. They say things like: Handouts have to be “planned completely differently”. Really? By that you mean a… PDF?

For me, the question is not whether presence or video conferencing is better.

Face-to-face meetings are always better. Who seriously doubt that?

90% of communication is non-verbal. New colleagues are difficult to integrate remotely into a grown team and anyone who has any ambition to make a career in the company will never rise without the corridor radio, without the interpersonal skills. Or at least get along well with their colleagues. It can happen that shy colleagues without regular social contact – at least in the workplace – become lonely.

Everyone is talking about it at the moment, as if presence meetings have become obsolete. Because people don’t look at it with a long term perspective. They are just happy to be able to work from home.

But you should remember that you got to know your colleagues offline before your employer thought about saving the money for office space leasing and let you work from home.

Does that make video meetings superfluous? No. Not at all. They can be an efficient tool if they are well done.

Turns out, the old wisdom still applies: A fool is a tool is still a fool.

In Germany, I often see that the cameras remain switched off during video conferences. But then it is no longer a video conference, but a teleconference. Welcome back to the 80s. Furthermore, it seems to be true that the larger the company, the more technical problems there are. In corporations, IT departments castrate systems to the point of utter uselessness in order to comply with all kinds of nonsensical rules and standards. In practice this means for virtual meetings that you have to allow a quarter of an hour until everyone at least has audio. The fallback is then again dialing in by phone. The 80s never die.

Of course, I also see the advantages of virtual meetings: more time for the family and the important things in life. Less commuting is also great for the environment. Less office space means free space for affordable living. And for focus work, fewer distractions caused by colleagues who “just want something”.

Personally, I have already managed many projects remotely. This is quite possible – if you design it right. But as a service provider who is only booked on a project-by-project basis, I’m not representative of people with a fixed workplace.

The challenges that have to be overcome in order to manage purely remote teams can only be credibly described by those who faced the challenge long before Corona. Those companies exist. You should listen to them.

What is the conclusion? Maybe you should simply not overdo it. Neither in one direction nor in the other.

It needs the balance.

Those who now conjure up the end of the physical office space should come down again. And the old-school executives with control needs should learn.

Leave a Reply