Published On: Mon, Jan 8th, 2024

Balancing the Benefits of In-Person Meetings with the Convenience of Virtual

By Harmony Nordgren, Vice President of U.S. Operations — Cyberbacker

A recent study reveals that employees sit through approximately 55 million meetings in the US each week, 11 million each day, and over 1 billion each year. For individual employees, this amounts to at least 3 hours of weekly meetings. With a nationwide total of 24 billion hours wasted in unproductive meetings each year, it’s time we looked into what makes a gathering worthwhile and what does not.

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay


Virtual vs. in-person meetings for remote workers

In 2020, 48% of remote workers employed video conferences, but by 2022, that number increased to 77%. Although our over-99% virtual company is highly effective, our last annual conference reminded me that sometimes productivity still requires face-to-face interaction.

At Cyberbacker, our Cyberbackers and clients are located worldwide. During this first annual franchise meeting, we invited franchise owners across North America to join us at company headquarters and flew in 10 Cyberbackers from the Philippines. This in-person event allowed us to participate in team-building activities, brainstorming sessions, and one-on-one conversations on a level we had not experienced in virtual meetings for years. Though gathering our global team to one central location required a massive investment in time, effort, and resources, I absolutely believe it paid off in the productivity and connectivity we achieved.

Despite cutting-edge technology, remote workplace culture encounters challenges when it comes to connection and collaboration. Nature Human Behavior says that, in companies where employees do not interact face-to-face, up to 25% of team members decrease collaboration and knowledge transfer time. The study finds that shifting to remote work alone reduces networking and connectivity across the organization as a whole.

However, if the pendulum swings back to all in-person meetings, we encounter massive costs in time, convenience, and resources. As the global workplace returns to normalcy, it’s time to strike a balance that ensures the best of both virtual and in-person meetings.

How to balance the effectiveness of in-person gatherings with the convenience of virtual meetings for remote work

The day-to-day productivity I personally gain from virtual meetings is still preferable to in-person ones. Admittedly, I don’t miss the days of packing up power chords, fighting unexpected traffic, feeding parking meters, making presentations with unfamiliar equipment, and waiting for my laptop to connect to Wi-Fi.  

Seated at my desk, I have presentations, documents, spreadsheets, and notes at my fingertips, preparing me for any question. My computer and multiscreen monitors are set up exactly how I like them. Virtual meetings slip into my busy schedule with little disruption. They don’t require me to dress up, drive across town, or lug a laptop up three flights of stairs. 

Although, following the success of our in-person event, I can’t deny the benefits of meeting face-to-face. As an executive in the modern workplace, striking a balance between the convenience of virtual meetings and the connectivity of face-to-face gatherings is crucial. The best way to do this for remote work is a cost-to-benefit analysis.

Before asking yourself whether your meeting should be virtual or in-person, ask whether you need to meet at all. The simple fact is that many meetings are a waste of time; you don’t need to gather a large group to disperse information that can easily be shared through a memo or email.

If you decide the meeting is necessary, your next question is whether to meet virtually or in person. Virtual meetings are ideal when one person at a time is presenting or disseminating information because the tools in virtual meetings allow for the easy sharing of links, screens, and documents. For meetings like this, a virtual format is more efficient and considerate of your employees’ time.  

Even for teams primarily involved in remote work, some meetings — such as those focused on creative brainstorming, idea generation, or problem-solving — are worth a face-to-face event. While online meeting apps allow for interaction and small groups, these functions are limited when compared to face-to-face conversation.

To determine the best format for your meeting, calculate its overall cost. When considering the total price of each attendee’s travel, meeting space and utility fees, physical materials, and salaries lost in travel time, you will find that in-person meetings are very expensive compared to virtual meetings. If the cost isn’t worth the output in ideas, creativity, or relationship building, then the meeting should be virtual.

The post-pandemic workplace allows us to be extremely successful and productive virtually through remote work. However, some pre-pandemic ideals are worth holding on to. Virtual meetings are more convenient, and in-person meetings are more personal. The best approach is to strike a balance that takes the best of both formats by balancing convenience and justified costs.

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