March 5, 2023

Is It Better For Teams to Have Virtual or In-Person Meetings?

How — and whether — to get your work team together in person.

Asked if they preferred virtual or in-person meetings, executives in a Forbes Insights survey chose in-person meetings. Handily. 

They cited reasons such as the ability to build strong, more meaningful business relationships (85%), read body language and facial expressions (77%), and engage in more social interaction and bond with co-workers or clients (75%). About half of respondents (49%) said in-person meetings allow for more complex strategic thinking.

These numbers concretize something that many of us intuit: that in-person collaboration leads to higher-quality work outcomes and employee experiences. 

This is why, as leaders of a small firm in an industry that depends on strong colleague-to-colleague and firm-to-client interactions, we feel uneasy with 100% virtual work. It’s hard to connect under these circumstances. We’re feeling the limits of our collective isolation. 

And yet, we have to operate in the world as it is. Today, that means embracing remote work.

Because so many of us work remotely, our firm has started hiring people without ever meeting them in person. Soon after, we assign each new hire to a remote team. They get to know their team members from afar, working together through Teams and Zoom meetings and communicating through email. 

As leaders who orchestrate teams, we’re keenly aware that teams are expected to work together in harmony from the get-go. But what if they’re not harmonious from day one? What if they could do their work in a way that’s more gratifying, simply by spending some time together?

All-virtual-all-the-time isn’t the perfect setup. If our employees knew their team members as humans — their typical order at a coffee shop or deli, the kinds of shoes they like to wear, the little stories about their families, friends, pets, or vacations  — we believe they would be more able to empathize and work well with one another and would have a deeper understanding of how they can work together as a team. 

“I think it dehumanizes us to some extent,” Shelley says of remote work. “We have project teams that have never convened. I think it would be better if they could, at least once in a while. I think that when you have hugged someone or shared a meal and a cup of coffee, it solidifies the relationship. It’s very difficult to do over the platforms we’re relegated to right now.”

The remote work world has its benefits, of course. Though most of our employees are located in and around the Olympia area, we do have some consultants who work farther afield. We’ve been able to tap the expertise of people across a wider geographic area.

Many of our teams, however, don’t have to interact exclusively online. Our advice to our own teams is to meet in person regularly — at least at some interval — if they can.

We believe people need time with work colleagues to be satisfied at work, to deliver their best, and to enjoy improved mental health.

What to know

What’s the best approach when you’re considering a virtual or in-person meeting? Here are three areas to consider.

Know the benefits of the in-person meeting

As Indeed notes, “Face-to-face meetings are important because businesses are built on relationships.”

There are quite a few benefits, including more effective communication, a deeper approach to idea generation, the ability to read non-verbal cues, and developing trust.

There’s the obvious, too: When you meet in person, there are no tech glitches — at least not the kind that keep a team member from attending or fully participating.

Know when in-person is in order

Rae Ringel, in an article for Harvard Business Review, notes that it’s more when than whether to meet in person. 

Ringel suggests paying close attention to the goals of a team interaction and choosing in-person meetings for the most important ones. As leaders, she says we should “examin[e] the precise nature of the tasks in front of us, our specific objectives, and the weight we attach to the ones that compete, like efficiency, effectiveness, camaraderie, and mental health.”

To figure it out, she recommends asking a series of questions before you drop another Zoom invitation. Ask yourself, for instance: “Should this be a meeting?,” “Are my meeting goals relationship-based or task-based?,” and “How complex are my objectives?”

She also notes that seeing it as an either-or — virtual meeting or in-person meeting — is a limiting framework. We can break out of this pattern by using other technological tools. 

For example, she notes that one executive, in lieu of a monthly all-staff meeting, sends out a pre-recorded video to all staff members who then watch it on their own time.

We find this inspiring. By replacing a fairly straightforward meeting with a flexible task, this executive is giving her teams the permission to get creative themselves. She’s also freeing up valuable time — time that teams can use to meet in-person, if they see fit, to discuss, strategize, and bond. 

Know what employees really want

According to a 2021 poll of almost 2,000 employees, most identified a raft of positive benefits to remote work. Among them, they cited enough flexibility that they could consider moving to another city or country. (In fact, 62% of those who responded that they liked this option reported having already moved to a new city.)

Workers ages 25 and older said they didn’t want to work from home permanently. But younger workers, in the 18-24-year-old range, said they did. Workers across the board liked the ability to travel while working, flexible work hours, and the absence of a commute.

Clearly, working remotely is a boon for employees. It’s up to us to make in-person time together — whether it’s for a performance review, a strategy meeting, or a social get-together — worth it.

What to do

So how do we, as leaders, do that? 

We’ve found that it’s simplest — and most fun — to lean into social time to help colleagues connect. As leaders, we take on the planning ourselves to make sure it doesn’t become another item on the to-do list for our employees. 

If you don’t have time to plan outings yourself, come up with a way to facilitate these kinds of get-togethers. Try delegating the task to an employee who’s naturally inclined to do so. We call this the leader of the “fun committee.”

Create a line item in your budget for social events. Set aside time on the company calendar, to ensure that team meet-ups or all-staff parties actually take place. Social times together won’t happen without some forethought and determination. 

Of course, you can’t mandate such things. As we learned in the wake of the pandemic, fancy bids to bring people back to the office fell flat. 

Instead, we’ve found that creating time and space for employees to come together, without making it a requirement, is an effective way to encourage connection while still honoring employees’ desire and preference for working from home.

Hope Youngs

Client executive and chief needle threader

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration; Business Architect certification; ScrumMaster certification.

 

Function and Specialization
​Hope is the Client Executive at FirstRule Group. She specializes in helping companies execute on strategic objectives and loves getting things done with a rousing “heck yes!”

 

About Hope

​When not working, you can find Hope sharing family time with her daughters, hiking in the mountains, or feeling the wind on her face sailing.

Jarius Rice

Jairus Rice

Consultant and Partnership Builder

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Public Administration; Bachelor’s in Political Science; Prosci Change Management Professional; LEAN Six Sigma Green Belt

 

Function and Specialization
Jairus is an executive leader specializing in designing and shepherding organizational change and process improvement strategies. He helps clients develop strong partnerships to achieve strategic goals, maximize performance, and increase value to their customers.

 

About Jairus
Jairus is a combat veteran who served five years in the United States Marine Corps. When he and his wife Jessica aren’t coaching their three kids’ sports teams, they enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. 

Shelley McDermott

Partner and Diplomatic Hostess

Education and Certifications
Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Shelley has more than 25 years of senior program leadership experience. She specializes in leading teams and optimizing high-risk, high-visibility projects.

About Shelley
Shelley enjoys cooking, remodeling projects, and spending time with family and friends. 

Stacy Steck

Stacy Steck

Partner and Illuminator

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration; Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Stacy is an expert in planning and executing transformational technology projects. She specializes in communication, facilitation, and getting things done. 

 

About Stacy
Stacy is passionate about fundraising and loves serving her community. She also enjoys traveling and writing.

Joanna Briese

Joanna Briese

Consultant and Project Manager

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Secondary Teaching; Applied Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Joanna is a skilled project manager and curriculum developer. She specializes in e-learning and training and has even been a trainer in the specialty coffee industry!

 

About Joanna
Joanna loves the outdoors, cooking, family, travel, coffee, and curling up with her cats and a book.

Nissa Burger

Nissa Burger

Consultant and Project Manager

Education and Certifications
20 years in elections managing statewide software implementations

 

Function and Specialization
Nissa is a seasoned project manager who specializes in all facets of software development.

 

About Nissa
Nissa loves summertime, cheering on her kids in their sports, and spending time with family.

Trish Coloma

Trish Coloma

Consultant and Transformation Specialist

Education and Certifications
Bachelor’s in Sociology; Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Trish is an adept project manager focused on designing and implementing governance and helping organizations manage change and improve processes. She specializes in turning vision into action.

 

About Trish
Trish is an avid hiker and backpacker. She’s found that just like project management, a great hike is all about the journey and good planning!

Heather Coughlin-Washburn

Consultant and Negotiator

Education and Certifications
Studied journalism and psychology; sixteen years in the IT field; Independent Validation and Verification (IV&V) certification

 

Function and Specialization
Heather is a senior consultant who specializes in managing complex IT projects and quality assurance. She is passionate about building successful teams and achieving positive outcomes for clients.

 

About Heather
Heather has a background as a professional journalist specializing in government, politics, and law enforcement. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, photography, and camping.

Lindsay Flye

People Operations Manager & Bringer of Energy

Education and Certifications
Masters of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology 

 

Function and Specialization
Lindsay is the People Operations Manager for FirstRule Group. She focuses on recruitment, onboarding and offboarding, candidate experience, and human resources policies and processes.

 

About Lindsay
Lindsay loves to read, cook, quilt, and be outside with her pup. She also enjoys traveling, time with friends and family, and game nights.

Larry Holden

Larry Holden

Consultant and Creator of Big Hairy Spreadsheets

Education and Certifications
Bachelor’s in Chemistry

 

Function and Specialization
Larry is an experienced project manager and analyst with a focus on finance and IT projects. He specializes in process improvement. 

 

About Larry
Larry loves cooking, skiing, Christmas movies, and hanging out with his kids. He is also actively involved in his community Little League.

Pamela Johnston

Consultant and Puzzle Solver

Education and Certifications
Master’s of Education in Counseling Psychology; Bachelor’s in Management Science

 

Function and Specialization
Pamela is a senior business analyst with extensive technical IT experience. She specializes in system integration and implementation, data analysis, and reporting.  

 

About Pamela
Pamela is a proud Duke Blue Devil2 who loves ballet, orchids, bowling, and line dancing. She is the mother to fur babies Dash and Valentino. 

Jessica Larson

Consultant and Project Manager

Education and Certifications
Master’s of Public Health; Master’s of Health Administration

 

Function and Specialization

Jessica Larson is a seasoned project manager with demonstrated skill in all facets of project management. She specializes in helping teams identify and understand problems and develop impactful solutions.

 

About Jessica
Jessica has visited 7 countries and 39 U.S. states and is always planning her next trip. In between travels Jessica enjoys gardening, hiking, cooking and baking, rooting for Seattle sports teams, and spending as much time outdoors with family as possible.

Lori Luppino

Lori Luppino

Consultant and Intuitive Collaborator

Education and Certifications
Twenty years of experience in IT finance

 

Function and Specialization
Lori is a business analyst with an affinity for change management. She specializes in IT finance, budgeting, and business operations.

 

About Lori
Lori enjoys live music, the outdoors, traveling, painting, and her family.

Duncan McDermott

Finance Manager

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration; Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in finance

 

Function and Specialization
Duncan is the Finance Manager for FirstRule Group and oversees billing and contracts and supports other operational functions of the firm. He specializes in tall orders and a sunny delivery.

 

About Duncan
Duncan played basketball for Pacific University and enjoys boating, summer activities, and billiards.

Daisye Ore

Daisye Orr

Consultant and Creative Strategist

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Public Health with an emphasis in health communication

 

Function and Specialization
Daisye is an experienced program leader and systems thinker. She specializes in policy development, program planning, communication, partner engagement, and working from a place of equity and inclusion.

 

About Daisye
Daisye loves creating art, being in nature, searching for vintage treasures, reading, and spending time with her loved ones.

Ben Robinson

Ben Robinson

Consultant and Data Storyteller

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance

 

Function and Specialization
Ben is a management consultant specializing in business operations, financial forecasting, and data analysis and reporting.

 

About Ben
Ben is a lifelong learner. He enjoys backpacking, cycling, and adventuring with his family.

Eric Stout

Consultant and Technical Make-It-happener

Education and Certifications
Associate’s degree in Computer Science; Black Belt Candidate; Microsoft Product Specialist 

 

Function and Specialization
Eric is an accomplished consultant with deep technical knowledge. He specializes in cross-business partnerships, IT transformations, and program management.

 

About Eric

Eric is a father, musician, snow boarder, and boat captain.

Laura Scott

Consultant and Team Developer

Education and Certifications
Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a major in Information Systems; Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Laura is a project manager specializing in technology projects. She is also known for creating inclusive, empowered, and high-performing teams.

  

About Laura
Laura is from Seattle and enjoys all things outdoors, such as hiking, snowshoeing, sailing, and gardening.

Insert Name

Consultant and Tenacious Observer

Education and Certifications
additional text about education 

Function and Specialization
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About 

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Stephanie Telander

Stephanie Telander

Consultant and Insightful Connector

Education and Certifications
Project Management Professional certification; Prosci Change Management Professional certification; IT Service Management (ITIL) and International Standards Organization (ISO/20000) certifications

Function and Specialization
Stephanie is an experienced project manager and business analyst. She specializes in taking complex things and making them easier to consume through diagrams, flow charts, and plain speak documentation. 

About Stephanie
Stephanie loves gardening, travel, cooking, crafts, family, and a good mystery.  

Chi Underwood

Chi Underwood

Consultant and Strategic Improvement Specialist

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration; Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Finance; LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt 

 

Function and Specialization
Chi is an experienced consultant focused on process improvement using Six Sigma methodologies and data analytics. He specializes in business analysis, team development, budgeting and the organizational design of new processes.  

 

About Chi
Chi is an avid fisherman chasing salmon in the Pacific Northwest. He is also a judge for the First Robotics competition. 

Sheri Anderson

Consultant and Chaos Controller

Education and Certifications
Project Management Professional Certification

Function and Specialization
Sheri is an experienced consultant and an effective liaison between business and technical teams. She specializes in process improvement, business analysis, team leadership, implementations, data warehousing, user training, and testing.

About Sheri

Sheri splits her time between Utah and Arizona and prefers to relax around water and in the mountains.  She enjoys traveling with her husband and spending time with her two adult boys and grandson.

Christy Anna Gerber

Consultant and change advisor

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration

 

Function and Specialization
Christy Anna is consultant with a unique ability to see beyond challenges. She specializes in  creating pathways for opportunities, learnings, and desired outcomes.

 

About Christy Anna

Christy Anna loves spending time with family and friends especially if that time is spent outdoors. She loves skiing, mountain biking, and fly-fishing across the West. She’s also a fan of a great book and enjoys live music.

Malcolm Hooper

Consultant and Trusted advisor

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Education; Bachelor’s in Economics

 

Function and Specialization
Malcolm is an accomplished consultant with many years of experience managing operations, IT, and cybersecurity. He specializes in partnering with senior leadership to advise, develop, and implement strategic and effective IT initiatives.   

 

About Malcolm

Malcolm loves baking sourdough bread, perfecting recipes, traveling with his family, and training for his next ultimate tournament in his free time.  

Karen Langehough

Consultant and force multiplier

Education and Certifications
Bachelor’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in psychology; Certified Master Project Manager; Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources  

 

Function and Specialization
Karen is an accomplished senior leader and business-focused practitioner. She specializes in human resources consulting, change management, coaching, and development.

 

About Karen

Karen enjoys cooking, gardening, coffee, watching Seattle Mariners and Seahawks games, volunteering through her church, and spending time with friends and family.

Susan Meenk

Consultant and Mind Reader

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in organizational development; Bachelor’s in psychology

 

Function and Specialization
Susan is an executive leader with expertise in Human Resources. She specializes in strategic planning, leadership development, succession planning, conflict resolution, and team building. 

 

About Susan

When Susan is not spending time with her family, she can be found outside working in the garden, running, or paddle boarding. She is also an active community volunteer. 

Shawn Milligan

Consultant and Project Manager

Education and Certifications
Doctorate in Business Administration; Project Management Professional certification; ScrumMaster certification

 

Function and Specialization
Shawn is an accomplished project manager with extensive business experience. She specializes in bringing people together to make things better. 

 

About Shawn

Shawn is an avid international traveler and has visited all seven continents. She is also a nature and travel photographer.

Lindsey Phillips

Consultant and Intuituve Facilitator

Education and Certifications
Associates of Art’s in Liberal Arts & Sciences 

 

Function and Specialization
Lindsey is an experienced and versatile project coordinator known for her adept management and relationship-building skills. She specializes in spearheading projects, optimizing operational productivity, and providing excellent client service. 

 

About Lindsey

​Lindsey enjoys spending time with her wonderful family and two dogs, as well as expanding her skills through gardening, pottery classes, and other creative pursuits.​ 

Anne Shields

Consultant and Business Strategist

Education and Certifications
Project Management Professional certification; PMI Agile Certified Practitioner 

 

Function and Specialization
Anne is project manager who creates simple solutions while providing transparency into complex environments. She specializes in cross functional team coordination with multiple disciplinary dependencies.

 

About Anne

Anne enjoys traveling, yoga, gardening, cooking, and entertaining. She shares her Lake Tapps home with an 80-pound German shepherd-husky mix with adorably crooked ears.

Steve Smith

Consultant and Alchemist-in-residence

Education and Certifications
​Masters in Business Administration 

 

Function and Specialization
Steve is a distinguished consultant with experience in human services delivery, financing, policy development, and executive leadership in the government and non-profit sectors. He specializes in “How did he do that?” problem solving outcomes. 

 

About 

In addition to his standing as a top-ranked volleyball dad, Steve is known for his commitment to his fellow veterans, especially as an advocate for expanded veteran housing options. He is a member of the Orlando Housing Authority board of commissioners and the managing board of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida.

Wendy Ld Helling

Wendy LD Helling

Partner and Thought Leader

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration

 

Function and Specialization
Wendy has deep experience in bringing complex, multi-year projects to life. She specializes in IT project management, data management, and strategic planning.   

 

About Wendy
Wendy loves traveling and hanging out in warm climates.