5 Questions to Decide When You Should Meet with Colleagues in Person

In a distributed world, it can be difficult to distinguish between what can be done online and what needs to happen in person. Let’s face it – we’ve all been in that 45-minute, in-person meeting that could have been an email and we didn’t get much out of it. But by now, we’ve all participated in the type of Zoom call we all want to face. You know the type… 12 people on a single call, all coming up with ideas at the same time, no idea who’s talking or where to look. Yes, you get the idea.

As more companies embrace flexibility as part of their work model, knowing when to meet with colleagues in real life is crucial. Whether you’re an employee trying to navigate remote work and face-to-face meetings; Or you’re trying to help your company set guidelines for hybrid work, here are 5 questions to help you get started.

Question 1: Should it be a meeting?

You will often assume that someone has called a meeting, so the topic to be discussed must be appropriate for that meeting. But that’s not really always true. Time is a precious commodity at work, and running between meetings and Zoom links isn’t always the best use of your time.

So, before making a meeting call (or answering one), think about the purpose and goal of taking the time to speak with a person. A simple exchange of information, for example, can be much more beneficial via email or instant messaging rather than in person or online meetings. It doesn’t take time out of anyone’s schedule and can be saved for future reference. However, a creative session or strategic planning meeting is always more productive in an office space or other work environment.

Question 2: What kind of meetings are being organized?

Yes, this is arguably a very obvious question. But it is this simple question that will form the basis of understanding where a meeting needs to be held. For example, let’s say you’re setting up a weekly 1:1 between a team member and a line manager. While there is added value to conducting such meetings in person, virtual meetings will work just as well. On the other hand, if you’re bringing your marketing team together for a creative brainstorm on your next major campaign, they’ll likely get more out of it by meeting in real life.

Here’s a quick chart of what types of meetings we recommend in person versus online:

Online Individual/Hybrid
catch up Brainstorming session
check-in Strategic planning and problem solving
Status update Onboarding
feedback session Team building
Follow-up Coaching and mentoring sessions
1:1s kick-off
celebratory event
the workshop
Performance review

Question 3: What is the goal of this meeting?

Harvard Business Review recommends dividing meetings into two “buckets” based on goals. It suggests asking whether a meeting is task-oriented or relationship-oriented. The difference is that a task-oriented meeting focuses on ticking things off your to-do list, whereas a relationship-oriented meeting is about building connections between colleagues.

Let’s take an offsite as an example. A meeting to plan that offsite will typically include things like picking a venue, a theme, and a date; Sorting out accommodation, transport, food and more. It is a task-driven meeting and one that meeting participants can realistically attend via video conferencing.

On the other hand, true offsite is about giving teammates a chance to come together, share an experience, get to know each other and make memories. This is the perfect example of a relationship-driven meeting. Especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, people are eager to meet their colleagues face-to-face. In a recent survey we conducted, we found that 79% of employees were excited to meet other colleagues and develop meaningful relationships in real life.

Cool company events

Question 4: What tools and facilities will help achieve the goals of this meeting?

Not all meetings are created equal. Nothing really requires more than the presence and attention of meeting participants. Others, on the other hand, will need tools to help move the process along. Things like whiteboards or TVs for people to share screens or presentations can go a long way toward making a meeting more productive or creative.

That’s why a simple meeting that doesn’t require any props can easily take place online. However, your more complex strategy or brainstorming sessions will inevitably benefit from a conference room or meeting room that can provide the right space with the right equipment.

It’s also important to think about whether you have a more distributed team where some colleagues are able to meet in person, while others are in another city or country. Most modern offices and coworking spaces will have the necessary equipment to facilitate a hybrid meeting, but it’s worth keeping in mind to ensure all participants are included.

Question 5: Is there a way to take this meeting to the next level?

One of the biggest benefits of in-person meetings is the ability to build meaningful business relationships. Whether it’s with a client or between team members, face-to-face meetings bring with them something that online meetings simply can’t – the opportunity to get to know your counterpart on a more personal level.

In a meeting in real life, you are able to read a person’s facial expressions and body language through video conferencing tools. You’re able to sense their mood, understand their sense of humor, and engage in casual small talk in a much more natural and intuitive way than online. That’s why thinking about how you can add this social element to a meeting and kick it up a notch is a great way to add value to these interactions.

For example, why not consider running a weekly team catch-up over lunch or at the end of the day? You might even consider taking your department offsite for the day somewhere unconventional for outside teamwork!

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