Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2024

Meetings: The Antidote to Workplace Ills

Hybrid and remote-work are popular — but they also are taking a toll on mental health, corporate culture and teamwork. Are meetings — both internal meetings and industry business events — the antidote? Recent research suggests that may in fact be the case.

Now that many companies have, albeit reluctantly in many cases, embraced a post-pandemic work-from-home or hybrid workplace, they are seeing many benefits in terms of increased employee retention, a more diverse workforce, lower operating costs and more. But it also is coming at a cost.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, employees are feeling increasingly disconnected, lonely and disengaged. This can impact the bottom line in some big ways: health insurance firm Cigna estimates that absenteeism due to loneliness is costing companies up to $154 billion per year. And virtual meetings don’t really help much. According to a study quoted in the Journal article, people who describe themselves as “very lonely” actually go to more meetings than those who feel less disconnected — only these meetings are generally online, not face to face.

One way to combat this, according to 250 senior business leaders surveyed in Q1 2024 by meeting-technology firm Cvent and The Harris Poll, is in-person internal meetings. More than half of the surveyed C-suite execs who have noted an improvement in employee management over the past three years credit replacing virtual meetings with face-to-face meetings or in-person touchpoints. In fact, 78% are replacing those daily or weekly virtual meetings with less frequent, but more impactful, in-person gatherings.

“We’ve witnessed in-person meetings and events make a strong comeback over the last few years and wanted to understand what is driving the increasing investment in internal face-to-face experiences,” said Patrick Smith, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Cvent. “These results show that with more dispersed workforces and the reduction of daily organic in-office connections, companies are increasingly bringing their people together through a combination of curated in-person and virtual experiences to build a more engaging, collaborative environment.”

Ninety-four percent said that in-person meetings have been essential to companies as they brought employees back to the office after the pandemic, and 86% credit these face-to-face events as being crucial to the success of their hybrid model so far. Overall, 78% of these business leaders say that in-person or face-to-face meetings are “absolutely necessary” or “very important” within their companies. So much so, in fact, that a full 90% said internal face-to-face meetings will continue to have an important place in the future of their business due to their effectiveness in driving improved productivity, employee innovation, retention rates and morale.

The tricky part is ensuring that those internal in-person meetings are impactful — which can be hard to quantify. While most use things like employee satisfaction surveys and department or team-specific KPIs, more than half still say they have a hard time determining the return on investment (ROI) of those meetings.

Could External Meetings Be the Answer?

Industry events have always been an important connection point between buyers, sellers and far-flung business associates. Now that so many are working in a hybrid environment, could events also be where companies send their employees to network with internal colleagues?

While it can be just as difficult to track the ROI of industry events as it is internal in-person meetings, the work-from-home trend also is causing some companies to up the number of employees and managers they send to conventions, conferences and trade shows, said Cvent CEO Reggie Aggarwal in a podcast with event consultant and Boldpush founder Julius Solaris. Not only are these types of external events a one-stop-shop for buyers and sellers to connect, they also can double as teambuilding and networking events for a company’s own employees.

That’s why some associations are now offering team-registration packages to entice companies to send multiple employees, offering everything from registration discounts to work lounges, said Solaris. While group registration discounts aren’t a new thing, they do seem to be proliferating lately — and for the same reasons as internal meetings are on the upswing.

For example, the Support World Live conference this year offered a group discount on its registration website with this enticement: “Many of us now work remotely (or have teammates that do) and have missed the face-to-face camaraderie that exists when we’re all in the same place at the same time. Reunite the team and enjoy teambuilding, while dividing and conquering our vast conference program to maximize learning.”

While in-person internal meetings increasing, it’s more than possible that many organizations will hop on this trend of using external conferences and conventions to provide the additional benefits of education, networking and teambuilding far beyond the organization’s conference room.

 

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates. www.conferencedirect.com

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually. www.meetingmentormag.com

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