Oh, you’re on mute [ insert name here ]” and “Right, can everyone see my screen” are probably two of the most frequently used expressions you’ve heard work whilst working from home in the last year. It’s also quite likely that occupying third place on the podium of remote working phrases is something along the lines of, “my diary is absolutely chocka today!”.

Indeed, KitKat recently captured the mood of lockdown Britain with their ingeniously simple bus shelter advert below, which drew widespread praise and acclaim.

However, with the vaccine roll out reaching almost 30 million arms and counting and the road map back to normality clearly defined, what does this mean for the future of ‘the meeting’.

In the last year we’ve been bombarded with data highlighting the positive effect that embracing technology platforms such as Zoom and Teams can have on productivity.

Personally speaking, pre-pandemic a ‘big’ or ‘important’ meeting would often involve the following routine: an early morning train from Manchester to London, over-priced coffee, suspect train WiFi, tube to the client’s office, friendly catch-up, deliver a presentation – repeat procedure in reverse. Now we have the ability to skip the majority of that process, jump straight into the ‘important stuff’ and have four or five ‘big’ meetings in a single day, which most would agree, despite some challenges, is a good thing.

It’s easy to forget given the events of the last year that strong, mutually beneficial working partnerships were often forged from face-to-face interaction when it is much easier to pick up on those innocuous throw away comments that open up a rich vein of conversation and opportunity. By human nature, being in the same room facilitates an environment of open and honest discussion that underpins many successful working relationships. And, working in the HR and Marketing spheres it’s safe to assume that the majority of calls and meetings are with clients and suppliers who for the most part are largely social beings, looking forward to at least having the opportunity for an old-fashioned meeting with human interaction. Not to mention avoiding the “Zoom fatigue”, of having to see yourself constantly in the top right corner of your own screen.

Recent data from Gartner found that 48% of employees now expect to work from home post-pandemic. However, once things start to get back to normal this does raise interesting questions around meeting etiquette. What constitutes or even merits an in-person face-to-face meeting and what is suitable for the tech platforms mentioned above?

It is too simplistic for meetings labelled as ‘big’ or ‘important’ to require a meeting room environment as this would imply that Zoom calls, vicariously, are not important. Attendees would be well within their rights to ask themselves if it’s needed at all? Can my time be used elsewhere? Will the subject matter have my full attention if it is not deemed as worthy of a face-to-face sit down?

The likely outcome is that we will have a mix that will largely come down to personal preference. The trick will be understanding those mutually agreeable preferences as early as possible, so no one feels jilted, and everyone feels valued in the “new, back-to-normal”.

Another one of those phrases.

Danny Gartside