Strolling downstairs and switching on the laptop along with the kettle has become a familiar and comfortable routine for remote workers, and one that many are reluctant to break.
However, MDs and CEOs are cranking up the pressure on staff to return to pre-pandemic levels of social interaction, leading many to consider– are most meetings really worth getting out of bed for?
Since exiting lockdown, the majority of employers expect to see colleagues on-site, even if this is only for a couple of days a week. This is of little consequence to the bulk of the workforce, who appear to appreciate the fresh air, conversation and need for personal hygiene that accompany a trip to the office.
Recent research supports this point, with the average capacity reached in UK offices steadily increasing from a low of 2% in January 2022, to a respectable 33% in May. On this basis, you’re unlikely to be the lone soul returning to work, but don’t expect to be jostling for desk space.
Your own workplace asking you to leave the comfort of your home is one thing– when a client requests the same, attitudes quickly change. Here are the pros and cons of venturing outside the front door and meeting clients in the big wide world.
Save time, energy and your social battery
The argument against meeting clients face-to-face comes down to one simple question– what can you achieve in a boardroom that can’t be done on Microsoft Teams? Virtual meetings have proven themselves to be a worthy substitute for face-to-face catch ups, with very few limitations.
This is backed up by research carried out at the end of last year, which found that meetings of fewer than 10 people were more productive when held online than in-person. If output is increasing thanks to the switch to digital communication, it’s hard to argue the case for disrupting a winning formula.
Also, travelling from home, to the office, to the client’s office and back home again is a serious time dump, time that could be spent on work that will actually service the client’s needs. Many will agree that clients actually get more bang for their buck if they leave PRs where they are comfortable, as time saved will be put to good use.
And what about the inevitable fifteen minutes spent exchanging unnecessary pleasantries? I’m sure everyone’s thrilled about your new baby Keith, but I’ve got a million and one things on my to-do list that are more important than hearing about how many nappies you’ve changed.
Show clients you still care
Attending an in-person meeting shows that a PR agency values its client’s business by making time to come and see them personally. Clients will know that they are one of many accounts on the agency’s books, but it is still important to make them feel special. In their minds, showing up in the boardroom often equates to showing up when it comes to getting results.
Face-to-face meetings also strengthen bonds with clients, building loyalty and ultimately encouraging them to stick with the agency no matter what. If a client has been on the agency’s books for a number of years, it is important to cultivate a personal relationship, so that if there are any hiccups, they know their PRs have their best interests at heart.
Don’t forget, there’s no better time to get content approved than when it’s right under the client’s nose. In-person meetings can be crucial for pinning down elusive clients and receiving their blessing to start pitching new content.
It’s the client’s world, we’re just living in it
The truth is, whether or not in-person meetings return to office schedules is in the hands of the client. They may seem like an inefficient use of time, but there is a lot to be gained from chatting face-to-face.
Clients must also understand that times have changed, and they can’t expect to meet with the same regularity as in the pre-pandemic era. Demanding weekly meetings will likely upset PRs and have adverse effect on the amount of work that actually gets done.
Balance is crucial, so both parties should respect each other’s time limitations while acknowledging that making space in schedules is a sign of mutual respect.
Anyway, it is always important to go into meetings with an open mind– even if you’d rather be elsewhere. It could help forge a relationship that will come in handy further down the line.