Are face to face meetings a dying trend?

There’s nothing subtle in the way COVID-19 hit us. It struck before many of us saw it coming, and, seemingly overnight, we found ourselves in a whole new world.

It’s a world some of us had visited in the past. For example, we might have used Skype or Facetime to chat with distant family and friends. When only a relative few of us worked from home (WFH) we might have used Microsoft Teams or Zoom to stay in touch with colleagues.

Most weren’t previously familiar with the online communication facilities that so quickly became our new norm. Who would have envisioned that we would ‘invite’ friends to a dinner party where they cooked in their own kitchens, and we cooked in ours, then we came together to eat, drink and share conversation, all via video link?

No designated driver in this brave new world! And what a world; look how we’ve embraced it!

Grandparents read bedtime stories to grandchildren thousands of miles away. Friends meet for a glass of wine, yoga teachers conduct classes, doctors consult with patients, and shopping…where to begin?

We’ve taken to online communication with such enthusiasm that it’s difficult to imagine going back to the ‘old ways’. Unsurprising as we Australians are a tech-savvy lot with a willingness to accommodate new technology.

A large portion of the workforce made a seamless shift to WFH during the COVID-19 crisis. Along the way, businesses realised that they could operate remotely and employees really could be productive at home.

Which begs the question, is face-to-face communication gone for good?

On the one hand, WFH offers a true work/life balance which unarguably has advantages like, no commuting, more family time, availability for tradespeople, etc.

The advantages for business are economic: floor-space and utility costs are major expenses, therefore, businesses with fewer employees in the office and more personnel WFH could reinvest in the business.

On the other hand, after months of mandatory WFH, the novelty is wearing off. Challenges around technical support, work-space and home-life distractions see many people long to return to the office.

Then there’s the human element. We’re pack animals, actively seeking interaction with one-another. It’s why lock-down feels so unnatural.

But as lockdown eases and we emerge from our bunkers, blinking and vaguely bewildered, will we continue to conduct online get-togethers or will we form a Conga-line back to the office, restaurants or friends’ houses?

Online communication enabled ‘contact’ with loved ones through lockdown, and doubtless it saved many businesses from ruin. But humans need physical interaction.

We’ve embraced remote communication. We’ve learned its capability; how it transports us anywhere – no borders, no restrictions, no hand sanitiser. It has embedded itself in our new world.

But can it truly replace face-to-face interactions? Is that what we want? A flat-screen world with no touch?

It’s doubtful – we are human after all.

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