The Future of Meetings: Striking that Balance

The Future of Meetings: Striking that Balance

Lauren Basham looks at the pros and cons of virtual meetings and asks the all important question, whether a balance can be struck?

Lauren Basham

I think alot of us can relate to the feeling of sitting in a meeting (either virtual or in person) with numerous unread emails in our inbox and thinking this definitely could have been an email.

I work as an Assistant In-house Counsel in a busy Legal Team for a large housing association and after 15 months of working from home, I, like many others crave some in person meetings and social interaction but also value the time saved by virtual meetings and not sitting in traffic on my commute.

For our company and many others, in person meetings have been entirely replaced with Teams or Zoom calls. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are so many benefits to virtual meetings; reducing the time and cost of travelling to the meeting and being able to instantly speak to clients or colleagues in different areas of the country or in a different time-zone – but how do we move forward to a blended approach as we come out of lockdown and offices start to open up?

There are so many scenarios that actually virtual meetings work better, but what does this mean for in-person meetings moving forward? As we slowly move out of lockdown and more people return to the office, I think a lot of us are wondering what approach will be taken to meetings in the future. Are in-person meetings gone forever?!

Working from home has had huge benefits for so many people, with many companies (including the company I work for) planning on moving to a hybrid system moving forward. There is much more of an emphasis on how you work, not where you work.

I spoke to a number of members of our In-house Legal Team to get their perceptions of meetings moving forward.

Gabriella, Trainee Solicitor misses in-person meetings, she struggles to feel as confident sat on Teams behind a camera in her bedroom. Something I think many of us can relate to. Many of us enjoy putting on that power suit, getting your head in the game and walking into a meeting room to meet colleagues or clients ready to win the business or pitch a new project to management.

Moving towards a more blended approach allows for a number of different personality types. I’m personally very sociable, an extrovert and enjoy in-person meetings. I’m someone that thrives on in person interaction. However, in contrast a paralegal, candidly shared her thoughts on virtual meetings. As someone who is anxious and considers herself introverted, welcomes the option to turn off her camera in meetings and more often than not prefers to quietly observe than contribute, yet still producing the high-quality work required of her.

Finally, Namita, Commercial Property Manager and In-house Counsel re-iterated that need for balance. Not having to travel has saved her a significant amount of time but at the same time when there are 20 people on a call for a large value transaction or conference, it is much harder to interact with others and network. It is a lot more difficult to network across a Teams call than in-person.

I think Namita’s correct, it’s striking that balance. In order for employees to thrive moving forward, I think a blended and hybrid approach in the workplace is key. Allowing for meeting to take place in person or to be joined virtually allows for employees to determine what best suits their needs. Many employees juggling complex home lives or children, it will increase the productivity and ultimately improving the results for companies. It will be interesting to see what approach companies will take moving forward