The obvious exigencies of the past two years have led us to a sudden shift to virtual meetings. As organisations, communities and groups avoided physical encounters, meetings underwent a revolution, a paradigm shift. Many were pleased to be rid of the unnecessary meetings and commutes “that could have easily been an email.” However, one shouldn’t be quick to dismiss the loss of physical cues and non-verbal communication that can easily happen with virtual meetings. In this article we explore the advantages and disadvantages of the Virtual Meeting.
A popular advantage: reduced carbon emissions.
In a study, it was noted that virtual meetings reduced overall carbon emissions of an event by 94%. If your company is working towards reducing carbon emissions and becoming net zero, changing your annual conferences to virtual ones is one easy (and cost-effective!) way to do this. Think about it: zero to little travel, no lodging to book, no meals, and zero printouts and resources.
Another advantage: more economical
Apart from the improved quality of life due to avoiding unnecessary commuting and travelling in an already jampacked schedule – virtual meetings tend to be shorter, saving more time and money. When people meet for a meeting, they tend to try and make it worth the while and a short cursory meeting ends up being unnecessarily long-winding. On the other hand, virtual meetings can be quick catch up or an opportunity to touch base without the commute. Due to being more efficient over all, they can also be more frequent.
Also, less scheduling problems
One big pro of virtual meetings is that when it comes to virtual meetings, the only scheduling that needs to be done is for the actual meeting. No conference or meeting room to be booked in advance, no travel to be arranged and no traffic and parking problems to consider. Anyone can be anywhere to be able to join the meeting.
Since people are sitting at their workspace and/ or their own computer, documents can be shared virtually instantly and edits can be made there and then. No follow-up email is necessary with the “aforementioned documents”. Changes can be made almost immediately, thanks to screen-sharing and real-time editing capabilities of many modern software.
But…communication can be challenging
Non-verbal cues go unnoticed in virtual meetings. What may come about organically in an in-person meeting may not come up in an online meeting. This can make it difficult to understand where your colleagues stand on an issue unless they speak up, one by one. Participants also have to speak one at a time. Interjectory remarks, which would usually spark a creative tangent, cannot happen as easily.
Another disadvantage: Tech problems of the Virtual Meeting: “Can you hear me?”
Technical problems may ensue. An internet connection may cut off the call just as your colleague was about to identify an important issue, your mic may stop working in the middle of an impassioned speech, and, perhaps, worst of all: are my colleagues listening or are they frozen?
And…it can be tiring
The one pro of commuting for meetings is that you get to step away from your desk for a while and feel connected to the world outside of your computer. An endless schedule of video calls leaving you stuck at your desk may leave you drained and video call fatigue will kick in.
Finally…meetings can be come too frequent
It’s easy to schedule an online meeting and frequently they can become part of our weekly schedule “just because”. It is therefore important to have a purpose for your meeting and set an agenda just as you would for an in-person meeting.
Balance is key
When scheduling your next meeting it may be fruitful to consider what your meeting requires. Will it benefit from face-to-face interactions, will it avoid misunderstandings if done in-person or is it enough to meet virtually and avoid impinging on everyone’s already busy schedule? Balance is key, after all.
If you prefer meeting virtually rather than in person then perhaps a remote / hybrid job would suit you well. Take a look at what’s available on Keepmeposted.