Evolution of Meetings; A Moment of Reflection
Blog brief: Employees globally are increasingly expressing preference for WFH leveraging virtual meeting tools. While at the same time, expressing further comfort to go back to other social interactions at gyms and cafes. This raises a question, or rather highlights a conundrum that requires further thinking of its reasons, which extend beyond health and safety concerns. This blog highlights this behavioral controversy requiring everyone to reflect and consider its implications on how businesses and meetings overall will be conducted in the future.
Meetings have always been a key component of structured organizational developments over time, all the way from the meetings attended by Socrat and Aristotle at the ‘Agora’ to discuss and vote on key societal issues up till today’s virtual town halls and conferences. However, much of those meetings have been subject to research and criticism, as many are deemed to be unnecessary and unproductive. Hence, the rise of outcome focused meetings as per the concept of ‘agile’ and ‘scrum meetings’. The recent global surge in use of virtual meetings, as a result of the pandemic further highlighted the importance of re-considering workplace communication methods and the most efficient means to achieve desired outcomes. Thus, it is essential to analyze and reflect on the global consensus of employees to continue working from home while at the same time indicate comfort to go back to cafes and restaurants as the world considers moving to a post pandemic phase. A global survey conducted by the World Economic Forum found that at least 25% of employees globally prefer to continue working from home even after all pandemic related restrictions are removed. In some countries such as Singapore and India between 43-48% expressed preference to work from home completely or more often than before the pandemic. On another end, social arenas such as gyms are witnessing quicker revival to business as usual. Such behavioral controversy raises question marks and requires us all to delve deeper beyond pandemic related concerns.
In response to changing employees’ requirements several large corporations such as Apple and Google decided to delay their return to office to plans. Although many attributed this to the surge in cases because of Omicorn, yet their requirements for further flexibility beyond the pandemic signal behavioral changes that are not necessarily centered around safety concerns. This indeed requires a moment of reflection on how business has been conducted for years, the expenditures on business travel and even on office space. In fact, it is not just about business only but also about how humanity has been interacting in the past and how it will continue to do so in the new normal. A survey conducted by Virgin Media found that 18% do not want to return to the pressure of small talks and one in five not looking forward to ‘not’ using the restrictions as an excuse to avoid social events. The key question here did the pandemic and the Work from home style provide employees with what they have always wanted or strived for and were never able to achieve, perhaps ‘work from home’ is now allowing them to achieve it? Is it work/life balance? Or did it pave the ability to achieve self-actualization (basis Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) in the right way? Or is it just that the whole pandemic has made us avoid social engagement overall. It could be multiple things and further research is indeed required.
To sum up, the key message here, is that such behavior changes and demands by employees require a moment of thought from each of us, not just human resources, or senior management at organizations. Why are we willing to stay at home? Is it to manage our lives better? Or did we anyways not actually like our workplaces and hence we are running away from them now that we found a reasonable justification? Such questions will help us better think of the future of meetings and interactions, is it driving us to the metaverse where our avatars will meet to discuss key issues ?