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The Benefits of Face-to-face Interactions in an Era of Remote & Hybrid Work

Terry Farber Eliasaf | Nov. 24, 2022

The hybrid work model is today’s new normal, but the value of face-to-face interactions remains uncontested. When does meeting in person fulfill a need, when does it present an opportunity, and how can leaders maximize the few face-to-face meet-ups that still take place? Read this week’s blog post here

Last week, we took a deep dive into the hybrid work model, why it’s here to stay, and how organizations’ leaders can shift their mindsets to make it work for their places of work.

Today, we’re taking this concept one step further as we discuss the need and benefits of continued face-to-face interactions, despite no longer being tethered to the office, day in and day out.

Now that so many employees, across seniority levels, are spending fewer work days in the office, face-to-face company meetings and events have been given a whole new sense of meaning. In a way, they’re almost viewed as optional, or bonus encounters. But what do we want to gain from these in-person interactions, really? What needs do they fulfill and what are their short and long-term benefits, for employees, as well as for executives?

It’s important to understand what these physical meet-ups enable, that we simply cannot replicate via the myriad of digital channels at our fingertips.

Face-to-face: a need, or an opportunity?

Meeting up in person is, in part, a social “event.”. It’s also a great way to infuse the workday with some much-needed structure and truly separate work from home. Both of these situations serve as the fulfillment of needs AND opportunities to enhance and maintain company cohesion and morale. While some employees may not feel the need to connect with the organization and its other workers to perform, studies have shown that positive morale is linked to increased productivity and efficiency, as well as better quality of work.

What’s more, there are simply some work-related activities that need to be performed face-to-face, to generate optimal results. The more complex the task at hand, the more an in-person meet-up is required. This is true of more “divergent” tasks, such as brainstorming, as well as of more “convergent” tasks, such as drilling down on a particular, broad or complex subject, to ensure it’s either understood, or its options are narrowed down to those most likely to succeed. When can a face-to-face interaction be considered “extra” and stuffing countless people into a single boardroom or event hall be determined optional? If the goal of the interaction is simple, its outcome is beneficial but not mission-critical, and non-verbal communication may enhance the encounter, but isn’t required to convey the message at hand.

So, for example, providing information on a simple project can easily be done via email, and meeting a client for the very first time can be done over Zoom, but problem-solving/troubleshooting or running through your organization’s strategy for the next fiscal quarter, should always be done face-to-face.

Making the most of face-to-face interactions

Leaders who decide to hold face-to-face meetings are tasked with the responsibility of determining how these encounters should take shape, so as to generate the greatest possible value for all of their participants. It is up to them to ensure that the few in-person interactions that still take place enable optimal communication and interpersonal bonding, promote an aligned company culture, invite deep learning that sparks creative innovation, and generate value-oriented focus.

While this may ostensibly sound like a tall order, it all boils down to creating a safe space for open and honest human interaction. Rather than sticking to a “script,” the leader should open the floor to discussion, all the while watching, listening, and adjusting proceedings, to ensure everyone is on the same page. When the meeting is coming to an end, or in its aftermath, leaders should provide and request feedback on the interaction and its results. Reading the room and understanding the non-verbal communication taking place can provide unmatched value for both the short and long term, on personal and professional levels.

When done right, these face-to-face interactions can open the door to unparalleled benefits for employees, leaders, and organizations. Sitting together can create an environment of purposeful focus, one that enables deep learning to take place under the umbrella of a unified organizational culture and a sense of structured serendipity. Together, teams in face-to-face situations can explore various channels and avenues at length, bouncing ideas off of one another to determine how to optimally execute ideas so that they have the organization’s best interests in mind.

Simply put, within the framework of four walls, a few chairs, and opportunities for simultaneous verbal and non-verbal communication, teams can generate better results, for some of the company’s most important and/or time-sensitive tasks.

Creating a support network face-to-face, for all kinds of interactions

Now that face-to-face meet-ups are far fewer than they used to be, it’s natural for participants to feel nervous or lonely in a sea of co-workers who are, most certainly, all in the same boat. With proper preparation and a little help from the Hunter team, any organization can prepare its teams to thrive during face-to-face interactions, seize exceptional opportunities, and grow.

How do your organization’s leaders create value through face-to-face interactions in an era of remote and hybrid work?