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Intranet Advent Day 11 – Can we still afford to meet face-to-face?

Intranet Advent Day 11 – Can we still afford to meet face-to-face?

11We’re counting down to Christmas with a stocking-filler tip every day.

An old school friend is now a senior executive, and though we are peers it feels like his view of the workplace is much more old school than mine. When describing the digital workplace concept to him, he replied “but I don’t see the need, if you want to talk to someone you just meet up with them and have a conversation, why spend all this extra money?”.

It struck me that the costs of meeting face-to-face have become invisible, because that’s what we’ve always done, whereas proposals for a digital workplace get challenged because they’re new. So as a different take on ROI, let’s think about the costs incurred by not meeting digitally:

  • There is an opportunity cost in delaying decisions – especially dealing with calendar conflicts for bigger meetings. We don’t weigh up the value of quicker decisions against the value of waiting to have all people present.
  • Speaking to more than one person face-to-face, even informally, can take time to catch everyone at his or her desk. It’s much easier to use presence online to bring people in.
  • If you primarily operate face-to-face, you have a bias towards people who are near rather than those who are most knowledgeable. This is that start of many office politics of the ‘why weren’t we consulted?’ variety.
  • Travelling to meetings is not just a time drain, but can be physically draining, especially when things go wrong.
  • Verbal communication is optimised only for some personality types. My friend says he doesn’t like to have pre-reading, just a short verbal summary, but he benefits from others in his team that will scrutinise the detail of a document to do this.
  • There is a lack of record. The nuance and rationale for decisions get lost if they are verbal. Yes, we should take minutes but in practice these are rarely as comprehensive as the dialogue that would happen on, say, an online discussion.

In summary: Working virtually is not an additional cost; rather there is a trade-off to be considered each time between the benefits of high bandwidth face-to-face meeting and the immediacy of working digitally.

Check #intranetadvent for a fresh idea each day.

Sam Marshall

I'm the director of ClearBox Consulting, advising on intranet and digital workplace strategy, SharePoint and online collaboration. I've specialised in intranets and knowledge Management for over 19 years, working with organisations such as Unilever, Astra Zeneca, Akzo Nobel, Sony, Rio Tinto and Diageo. I was responsible for Unilever’s Global Portal Implementation, overseeing the roll-out of over 700 online communities to 90,000 people and consolidating several thousand intranets into a single system.

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