Who would have thought that we would look forward to going back to the office so much? After more than a year of remote and home office work, we are ready to rediscover ourselves as social beings. Although remote work has conquered a place in our hearts, we also want to meet with people face to face again, and physically connect with each other. But as we’re re-entering the physical meeting room, our expectations about technology and meeting engagement have grown.
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Working from home for the first couple of months of the pandemic gave employees a break from office life. For many of us, this was not so bad, especially because there was a sense that this was going to be a short-term process. More than a year later, the end of the pandemic is in sight, and we are more than ready to give up our reclusive life.
While working in relative isolation, our sole form of interaction with colleagues needed to come from online meetings. We embraced it, maybe a bit reluctantly, but the magic of our one-sided diet of video calls soon wore out. Although in the end everyone became familiar with video calls, it just wasn’t as engaging and interactive as a physical meeting.
According to Microsoft’s Annual Work Trend Index Report, digital exhaustion was never far off. The digital intensity of workers’ days increased substantially, with the average number of meetings and chats steadily rising since 2020. Comparing collaboration trends in Microsoft 365 between February 2020 and February 2021, the report also mentions that the time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled (2.5X) globally and the average Teams meeting is 10 minutes longer, up from 35 to 45 minutes year-over-year.
No wonder people want to return to the office. Apparently, we need the physical component and social interaction in our working life. But there’s more. According to our own research, our return to the office is driven by other factors too: we feel more productive on the work floor and we have more efficient meetings there.
Meeting room revival
Is a meeting room revival in the making? We like to think so, and the numbers seem to prove it as well. We already see that, when organizing a meeting, half of employees actually travel to the office to host calls in a more professional setting, with less distractions and easier access to better technology. According to our research, employees anticipate that once the pandemic is under control, in-office meetings will return stronger than ever, with 81% of all meetings being face-to-face or hybrid.
Employees anticipate that once the pandemic is under control, in-office meetings will return stronger than ever, with 81% of all meetings being face-to-face or hybrid.
Of course, meetings will still remain a mix of in-person, hybrid and virtual. When we look at meeting behavior, our research found that meeting preferences depend on factors such as meeting purpose, number of participants and meeting type.
- Meeting purpose: When the goal of a meeting is to build or maintain a relationship or to discuss personal issues, 59% of employees prefer an in-person meeting. However, when information sharing is the main goal, employees find a virtual or hybrid meeting more convenient. That’s exactly why Google CEO Sundar Pichai offers his workers a hybrid work model: “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new, so we don’t see that changing.”
- Number of participants: Employees favor face-to-face meetings when there are less than 5 participants. When more than 10 people attend, virtual and hybrid meetings are clearly preferred.
- Meeting type: The more engaged and interactive the meeting type (such as trainings or project kickoffs), the more people decide to meet in person.
When the goal of a meeting is to build or maintain a relationship or to discuss personal issues, 59% of employees prefer an in-person meeting.
Engagement is key
The lack of engagement in video calls is an important reason why we want to go back to the meeting room. But being deprived of engagement and interactivity for so long, our expectations of the physical meeting room may have grown all the more. Whether we are hosting a physical or a hybrid meeting, we expect that our meeting room enables every meeting participant to fully engage in the meeting. We want to be able to share content with our colleagues from any device, take over the meeting screen without much hassle, make annotations or have whiteboarding sessions with multiple people…
As we prepare our return to the office, business leaders now have a unique opportunity to create a workplace where everyone can thrive. This includes creating a better meeting experience for all, where everyone can fully engage, be it for in-office or hybrid meetings, whether it’s for a fixed conference room or one that uses external AV peripherals like a camera and audio devices.