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HBR Report: Company Meetings Critical for Supporting Remote Workforces

Based on survey results from corporate managers, a newly released report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services makes the case for more in-person meetings among coworkers to strengthen an organization’s top line and bottom line.

With so many employees working from home on a regular basis, the importance of holding employee meetings has become increasingly apparent to corporate managers, according to a recent survey and analysis conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services titled Investing in Travel to Strengthen Culture and Increase Engagement: A Strategy for Thriving in Disruption.”

Specifically, 71 percent of the 425 survey respondents say that a primarily remote-work model can make employees feel disconnected from the organization. Those managers saw this firsthand during the Covid pandemic: Fifty-three percent say their firms had collaboration challenges because of the lack of in-person internal meetings between 2020 and 2022, while 52 percent experienced decreased employee engagement and 49 percent faced communication challenges.

Because remote-work arrangements have continued into the present at many companies—93 percent of respondents said it was the case at their organizations—those difficulties are likely to remain. As a result, a solid majority of respondents see the benefits of coworkers meeting in person to collaborate and innovate, build trust and relationships, increase feelings of inclusivity, and create a more cohesive culture.

The proof: Fully 88 percent say that in-person interactions such as off-site meetings and workshops are critical for ensuring positive long-term relationships between employees and their coworkers. In fact, 83 percent say that they themselves have gained greater awareness and empathy toward coworkers and customers as a result of in-person interactions they had to travel for.

HBRchart1.pngThe specific benefits these corporate managers see from in-person meetings happening in the remote-work environment include stronger relationships between employees/teams (74 percent said so), greater collaboration (60 percent), stronger organizational culture (55 percent), and greater employee engagement (54 percent). A broader list of benefits that managers cite can be seen in the chart.

And while just 49 percent say their company’s travel program is supported by executive leadership “to a great extent,” that
might be changing: The 2024 Global Meetings & Events Forecast from American Express Global Business Travel (a sponsor of HBR Analytic Services’ report) found that 67 percent of corporate meeting professionals have seen their budgets increase for 2024, while 48 percent predict they will have more internal meeting attendees in 2025 as well.

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