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Employee Meetings More Necessary than Ever, but in Different Forms

New research confirms that many workers feel lonely and crave personal interaction with colleagues. In-person meetings can be a central part of the solution—and executed in new ways.

The prevalence of hybrid work arrangements is making in-person employee meetings an increasingly important tool for productivity as well as employee satisfaction and well-being, and recent research backs this up.

For instance, nearly 80 percent of 250 senior business leaders surveyed in Q1 2024 by meeting-technology firm Cvent and The Harris Poll said that in-person interaction among their employees is essential to success. As a result, 85 percent said their company is trying to bring employees together for meetings more often, with 79 percent swapping frequent virtual meetings for less frequent but more impactful in-person events.

The reasons for a renewed focus on in-person meetings are apparent to these business leaders: More than 90 percent of them said that impactful internal meetings raise engagement, drive productivity, and boost innovation.

The need to take such action is acute, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. It documents the trends of diminished in-person connections among coworkers and higher levels of employee loneliness and disengagement. To wit: In 2019, 79 percent of 101,000 employees surveyed by performance consultancy BetterUp said they knew their colleagues on a personal level. Today, that figure is at 68 percent. And the number of U.S. adults who call themselves lonely has climbed from 46 percent to 58 percent over that period, according to health-insurance firm Cigna, which estimates that loneliness is costing companies $154 billion a year in absenteeism alone.

The WSJ article also presents this surprising finding: A 2023 survey by employee-experience company Perceptyx found that people who described themselves as “very lonely” tended to have heavier meeting loads than less-lonely staffers, though mostly in the virtual realm. More than 40 percent of those people spent more than half their work hours in meetings—often virtual ones where one or more coworkers are actually on site with them but attend the meeting separately.

A Trending Solution
At the C2 Montreal festival that took place May 21 to 23, Cvent CEO Reggie Aggarwal told Julius Solaris, a veteran event consultant and founder of Boldpush, in a podcast interview that the prevalent work-from-home environment is a central reason why many companies are sending more employees and managers to industry-wide events—using those as an opportunity to connect with coworkers in addition to learning and conducting business with industry colleagues.

Solaris noted that some associations have recognized this trend and now offer team-registration packages featuring admission discounts, meeting rooms, work lounges, and other benefits for multiple attendees from the same firm. Another possibility: An organization could conduct a proprietary meeting around an industry show, with employees who attend the show briefing coworkers on what they learned there.

Lastly, Solaris and Aggarwal both put forward this thought: Are events the new office?

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