It has been more than a year since the outbreak of COVID-19 virus which has affected everyone’s lives without any exceptions for better or worse. Coronavirus has changed everything; the way schools’ classes are held, the way companies operate, the way we serve food, or even the way people behave. Even though the end is near with the new vaccine being on the horizon, not everything might go back to the way they were as nothing ever fades away without leaving an impact. One of which will be the way companies hold their meetings and conferences.
In the last couple of years, technology has seen a great deal of improvements and further developments. Some companies have been moving forward with technology by using the newest pieces of tech devices for the betterment of the way they operate whereas many corporations have been slower regarding their use of modern devices and catching up with the pace of technology. However, with COVID-19 and cities being under lockdown, every company was left with no choice than using teleworking devices and working from home. So by the end of this pandemic, many companies will be equipped with proper hardware and have gained enough experience using suitable software and teleworking apps. Having tasted the advantages and efficiencies of teleworking, a lot of these companies might not want to completely go back to the way they were
One of the things that we believe might not entirely go back to normal is the way companies hold their meetings and conferences. A lot of firms and corporations used to send their employees on business trips for different reasons. Sometimes it was an interview, sometimes it was a business deal with other companies, or sometimes it was about overseeing the process of one of their branches. With COVID-19 and borders being closed as most countries have their cities under quarantine, companies had ceased having business trips. Based on solid researches and reports, in April 2020 around 98% of the countries which were members of GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) cancelled their international business tours and 92% of them halted all or most of their domestic trips. Instead, companies had to have their meetings and interviews on online platforms such as ZOOM, Skype, etc. For some good reasons, they might not want to stop using these apps even in post-COVID era.
Computers and Hardware
While it costs a company a considerable amount of money to send their employee to a business trip just to have an interview and or conference somewhere else around the world, video conferencing platforms are completely free. Even if you go for their premium business subscriptions which offer advanced features and let you throw bigger meeting rooms with larger number of participants, the fee is pretty cheap, especially compared to how much business trips cost. All you need is a good hardware setup with proper devices, which we covered in our previous article, to join a conference with anyone, anywhere around the globe. This can easily save a company the cost of plane tickets, hotel reservation and services, and all other sorts of expenses. Instead, you can just grab your coffee and attend your business meetings via your computer!
Although online conferences might not be an appropriate replacement for all types of business trips, especially those that require overseeing a company’s environment or sorting out a deal with a new company partner, they do can prevent a lot of business travels. Having easier means of communication with the most recent innovations, improvements and reliable technological tools, these cost-free online conferencing apps hold great appeal for many decision-makers within a company, especially since business travel represents the third largest cost within most companies after human resources and property.
Business trips can take quite some time. You pack your bag, get ready and go to the airport where one of those infamous long airport waiting awaits you! Then you get on the plane, and reach your destination in a different time zone. Next you get to your hotel, take your shower, get prepared and then wait until your meeting starts. After all this time, your meeting and the process of your actual business work finally starts!
Business travels can take at least a full exhausting day while with ZOOM or Skype, you just power up your computer and join your meeting. Having online meetings and conferences instead of unnecessary business trip can save time for employees and executives to focus more on their actual work or even gather more research and data for the upcoming conferences rather than spending a lot of time travelling.
Stress and Health Problems
Studies have proved that there is a strong correlation between humans’ health and the number of their business trips. Stress, sleep interruption caused by different time zones, unhealthy non-ordinary eating and drinking, lack of exercise, risk of obesity, anxiety, and depression are only some of the health problems that can be caused by having regular business trips. The odds of having these physical and mental issues in one person increase with the number of business travels per months. The results of these studies are worrying for the health of both these persons and their organizations.
The most significant risk here is probably the stress caused by business travels which can also be the source of most of the other health hazards we mentioned. One of the possible solutions for this problem, apart from all alternatives which have been investigated for years, is to hold business meetings on online platform as much as possible. This way, companies can easily minimize their business trips and also take care of their employees’ health. Plus, unlike previous solutions for eliminating stress, this one is cheap and does not require companies to invest even more money.
Number of Attendees
Since business trips are costly to corporations, there is always a limitation for the number of attendees. In fact, if it was not for the expenses, many firms could have send more of their employees with relevant expertise to a trip in order to join the business meeting. However, with video conferencing there is no limitation as suitable apps such as ZOOM can host meetings with up to 300 participants. This way companies can hold their conferences and meetings without losing any of their experts from the board.
Planet earth is getting more and more polluted every day throughout the air, seas and oceans, forests, and etc. One of the major source of this ongoing pollution, which also lead to increasing global warming, is transportations. Just imagine how much transportation is used for a simple business trip; planes, taxis, private cars, buses, and so on. On the other hand, video conferencing platforms are environmental-friendly and do not add any more pollution to the earth.
What’s the catch?
Even though online conferencing apps can replicate much of the experience of an actual meeting, for many situations they cannot replace seeing clients in person. In some crucial situations, for instance, especially those that involve a new party other than the employees of a company, online meetings and conferences would not suffice. For example, when two companies want to start working with each other for the first time, or two parties want to sign a sensitive deal, or even a corporation wish to show off their work on their previous projects to possible clients and are trying to impress them, they need to meet face to face. When they try to build a relationship, meeting in-person is essential. Even a simple handshake can help them create bonds. After all, a lot of these deals are often made in happy hours, companies’ tours and business lunches.
In many cases, corporations’ representatives need to have an actual physical meetings in order to spend some time in the other companies’ environments, see their workplace, get to know their employees on deeper levels, and then discuss their terms. Sometimes they just need to actually go to the office of their partner company, take coffee breaks with the manager, then ask him about the pictures in his office, and create bonds. Trust is a very important factor in companies’ relationships and cooperation which is gained only in face to face meetings. Not to mention that in many cultures around the world, sending an appropriate representative for the business meeting is considered an act of respect and also imply how much serious you are about the project. Based on researchers, meeting with business partners and clients in person has a strong effect on investments as it helps business grow.
According to recent studies, physical relationships are still widely favored with only 30% of executives surveyed do not see business travel as adding value. In fact, 89% of respondents believe that face-to-face meetings are more appealing in several crucial situations. These situations include meeting a new customer, having negotiations for their cooperation, understanding company’s clients, etc.
Apart from above factors, there is another problem which is about… “Sorry, Can you hear me?”, “Can you see my screen?” “Could you please unmute?” “Sorry, my connection got interrupted.”…. Connection Lost!
Internet connection can become a big obstacle in video conferencing. Even in developed countries, internet quality and its speed are not always in their best; and while these connection problems could be tolerable in a normal call with a friend or a family member, in business meetings are not acceptable. No one likes to struggle with their internet while they are on an important business conference with everyone having a busy life and a limited amount of time for the meeting, waiting for him to talk! Apart from that, using these online platforms require a little bit of educations too. Employees need to learn how to work with them, when to mute, when to unmute, how to use the app’s features, and so on.
While video conferencing platforms are full of advantageous on paper, they might not be the absolute perfect replacement for business meetings. Sure, they are much cheaper, much more efficient time-wise, they do not increase stress in employees, and they also prevent further pollution on the earth. Yet, in many cases with crucial meetings or sensitive deals, face to face meetings are still favored.
In conclusion, video conferencing might not lead to a complete elimination of business travels, at least in near future; however, we believe they are a proper alternative for many situations. In a post-COVID world where a lot of companies are equipped and experienced with suitable devices and applications, they will be more willing to hold their meetings and conferences on video conferencing apps as much as possible. Based on provided facts and reasons, many corporations and firms will continue using online platforms such as ZOOM and Skype rather than sending their employees and executives on unnecessary business trips; unless it would be a crucial situation in which face to face meeting is required.