A break of nearly two years from most personal interactions, including standing face-to-face with professional colleagues, has likely taken a toll on the social skills of many people. And even though in-person meetings are back, getting participants to once again engage in smooth interactions might be hampered by the fact that so many people no longer work alongside colleagues in an office for much of the week.
Released in June, the Global Survey of Working Arrangements asked more than 42,000 workers across 34 countries about the quality of their workday. Of the 28,000 respondents who almost always work in their organizations’ offices, 62 percent said socializing with coworkers is a central benefit of being on premises, and nearly 54 percent said face-to-face collaboration was the top benefit.
On the other hand, a chart in this recent article from BusinessInsider.com shows just how much people have reduced their socializing time in an average day—and while the trend started well before the Covid pandemic, the trajectory continues. Specifically, the average number of minutes a person spends socializing each day has dropped from 29.5 in 2019 to 25 in 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ time-use survey.
Furthermore, a recent report from consulting firm BizWit Solutions on social skills in the modern workplace finds that the lack of engagement from working from home has “led to a decline in opportunities for social-skill development. With limited opportunities for water-cooler conversations and team-building activities, remote workers often feel isolated and disengaged from their colleagues. In a study conducted by Buffer, only 30 percent of remote workers feel connected to their team. ...The lack of face-to-face interaction has negative consequences for the development of social skills, particularly among young professionals.” In fact, the report cites a survey by OnePoll that finds 40 percent of millennials often feel awkward or uncomfortable in social situations, and a full 62 percent report “feeling dread” while simply speaking on the phone to clients and customers.
For meeting planners, the cost, time commitment, and effort to host in-person meetings requires a high quality of attendee interaction that might not be as easy to come by as in the past. In light of this, below are two links to MeetingsNet articles that address different ways to promote strong attendee interaction right from the start of a meeting, to get people back to being the social creatures they were just a few years ago.
13 Creative Icebreakers to Jump-Start Attendee Networking
Awesome Icebreakers to Help Attendees Warm Up to Each Other