The company holiday party, an event that often elicits feelings of embarrassment or dread—and at least a tepid appreciation for a free meal. The same can be said for office meetings: free donuts and coffee, served with a side of arguments or complaints.

Is it any wonder that virtual meetings are quickly replacing traditional face-to-face meetings? No more conference room conflicts, or complaints about cold coffee, or demonstrative interruptions from late arrivers — not to mention the cost savings.

But a better question might be: Why aren’t all workplace interactions virtual? There’s a valid reason why face-to-face meetings have staying power, and it lies in what makes us tick as humans.

Born to Bond, Even at Work

From the moment we come into this world, we seek validation through human contact. As children, parents are the source of that validation. As we mature, our need for meaningful interaction evolves to include friends and even coworkers.

Workplace bonding occurs naturally, a result of our desire for confirmation in the work that we do. Intuitive managers will try to encourage tight-knit workgroups that improve both morale and productivity. The terms “teamwork” and “team-spirit” are often used to describe the importance of everyone banding together for a common goal.

Communication: More Than Words

The digital age has seen an explosion in the ways people can communicate, but are we truly connecting when we interact virtually with our coworkers? Texting, emailing, social networking platforms, and web meeting apps have facilitated avenues of interaction that allow for instantaneous sharing of ideas and information like never before. Much of this has been a boon for many industries and has become a vital part of productivity today. However, business leaders should not forget the importance of traditional face-to-face meetings and our innate desire to look someone in the eye when speaking to them.

Nonverbal clues, including body language and tone of voice, play a big role in communication. The words we choose are a small piece of the communication puzzle. When we use text, online chat and email, there’s a risk that we can’t properly convey our intentions or meaning.

Business leaders should not forget the importance of traditional face-to-face meetings and our innate desire to look someone in the eye when speaking to them.

Business leaders should ask themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice the ability to express themselves properly — and to allow employees to do the same — by ditching face-to-face meetings.

The Highly Susceptible

The communication challenges that the field service industry faces aren’t unique. Anyone who works outside the office — truckers, law enforcement personal, telecommuters, labors in the building industry — might be asked to join conference calls or group text chats for instruction and company awareness. Office workers can also experience broken personal connections if they are not encouraged to venture beyond their cubicles regularly for meetings and social events.

Signs and Solutions

A dysfunctional workgroup is a sure sign that there’s been a communication breakdown, but there are many other ways a lack of articulation can manifest itself. Tardiness, apathy, poor attitudes, excessive complaining, among other undesirable behaviors, affect morale and cause employees to feel isolated or underappreciated.

It would be nice if all a field service manager had to do is bring back office meetings to right all the wrongs that inadequate employee interchanges foment. Unfortunately, once the signs I’ve laid out are detected, a manager will need to dig deep to root out the problems — and many managers are not equipped to do so. The best solution is to not give in to the temptation to skimp on face-to-face meetings. Using digital communication as an addition to ongoing personal interactions that old fashioned meetings bring will strengthen the bonds that lead to a vibrant team-spirit that makes a company strong. Neglecting the connection completely leaves too much up to interpretation.

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