Face-to-face meetings will decline post-COVID

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// New research suggests that 80% of Aussies feel most meetings will run remotely from now on… what do startups think?

COVID-19 has undoubtedly disrupted our way of life, particularly in the workplace. Many businesses were forced to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances these past few months, utilising online means of communication to conduct meetings and other work-related tasks. 

Startups were mainly using these means beforehand, and may have wondered what all the fuss was about.

But now that the COVID crisis has calmed down a bit – in WA anyway – people will be returning to the workplace, and meetings can return to be being face-to-face. 

Yeah, maybe not.

A recent survey study has revealed that 80% of Australians who have been working from home say most meetings will still be run remotely when they re-enter the workplace.

Having said that, 86% of them identified problems with remote meetings to date, highlighting where these could improve.

The findings come from an independent survey of a nationally representative panel of 1000 Australian employees who have been working from home (full-time or part-time) during the pandemic, commissioned by digital event specialist, Redback Connect.

Survey findings

Larger organisations are more likely to create a staggered and incremental return to the office. As such, the survey revealed that the larger the organisation, the more likely they are to continue to hold remote meetings over face-to-face meetings.

In organisations with more than 1000 employees, 88% of respondents believe remote meetings will dominate, compared with 63% of respondents in micro-businesses (up to 15 employees). 

The survey also found that remote meetings have not been run well by some organisations, with employees having an issue with the length, lack of objectives, and structure. The table below shows responses to ways that remote meetings could be improved. 

Table Supplied

“While video and teleconference meetings ensure physical distancing, our research reveals that poor meeting management and technical difficulties can sometimes defeat their purpose,” said Jeff Downs, CEO and Founder at Redback Connect.

“In this current climate, we have seen an overwhelming number of organisations fall back on video and audio meetings and teleconferences, simply because they are not aware of other remote meeting technologies they can use.”

What do startups think?

We also spoke to three startups for their opinion on this study. 

Tom Young, co-founder of online building plans and approvals software system, Udrew says that although remote meetings have the potential to be far more efficient and just as effective, face-to-face interaction is important in the early stages of the relationship. 

“I have found for BD and client meetings that face-to-face contact is important as it helps build relationships and trust on a personal level, which is still a really critical part of human nature,” Tom told Startup News. 

Tom Young, Udrew

Regarding the improvements with remote meetings, Tom says that much of the points included in the study (such as ‘Meetings could be shorter in length’ and ‘Meetings need to be more structured and productive’) not only apply to remove meetings but also equally to face-to-face meetings. 

“The major point on this list comes down to technical issues for me.” Tom said, with the main ones being “bad internet connection, and mic and video cams not working.”

Tim Hyde, CEO and founding director of irrigation management software, SWAN Systems also had similar things to say. 

“I think face-to-face meetings will still be required especially at the start of a relationship. Our intention as a business is to travel to start relationships but then try and replace face-to-face meetings with Teams/Zoom calls.” Tim told Startup News

Tim Hyde, Swan Systems

Tim also agrees that many of the points brought up to improve remote meetings will also apply to face-to-face meetings. 

“Like any other meeting: they need structure, a chair and some direction, so I don’t treat them any differently.” 

Chris Braine, co-founder of anti-counterfeit wine management system, Cellr shared his thoughts on the high percentage of dissatisfaction with remote meetings.

“Companies that have been thrust into working from home understandably do not have the right procedures and processes in place to successfully execute from home.” he said.

“Companies like mine on the other hand that are focussed on being distributed from day one have a very different view of this. Internal meetings can be super effective online.

In fact, often the topic of the meeting could have been solved via a good chat platform like Slack resulting in minimal distraction and no uncomfortable tech issues to blame.” 

Chris Braine, Cellr

Chris also adds that non-distributed workforces can benefit from hints and tips published by very successful companies working remotely. 

“Companies like Automattic, a billion dollar plus business with over 1,100 staff (all remote) share their insights into how to make it work very freely online.”

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Redback Connect (founded in 2007) is an Australian digital event company that helps organisations meet, present, and collaborate with their stakeholders at a distance.

MAIN IMAGE: Anna Shvets from Pexels.