When COVID hit, everything shifted to virtual – conferences, business meetings, catchups – even job interviews. But as we reassess our business procedures, many of us realise going back to in-person communication is essential for building meaningful business relationships – but when will that be?
Face-to-face meetings help us interpret the body language and non-verbal cues of others – we’re social beings – and discussing important projects and closing deals is never easy to master virtually.
But as the months under social restrictions continue, many companies have fully embraced the digital transition – with some companies extending their remote working policy to summer 2021. It’s easy to see why so many have embraced digital communication. There are lots of advantages – no commute, calls are more relaxed and quicker to reschedule, you can sit in your jogging bottoms – and, of course, you can roll straight out of bed to a meeting in less than 10 minutes! Adopting digitisation has never been more critical.
If you’re eager to get back to ‘normal’ business, what steps can you take toward conducting face-to-face meetings again?
Firstly, when will we transition back to in-person communication?
According to a report published by Business Travel News, confidence in ‘normal’ meetings resuming shortly has dwindled over the last few months. The report states that:
“The percentage of respondents who expected to restart face-to-face meetings during the fourth quarter fell from 38 per cent on May 18 to 25 per cent for the week ending June 21. The percentage of surveyed organisers who predicted events wouldn’t return until 2021 jumped from 38 per cent to 61 per cent during this period.”
Confidence plays an essential role in face-to-face meetings since COVID. Confidence is key across the board – from business to leisure – health and safety measures are paramount – without communication, firms and consumers lose confidence, which could mean a delay in getting back to ‘normality’.
Taking the steps toward hosting offline meetings once again
Although virtual events have earnt their place in the business world, we’re all itching to get back to some form of normality – and for many of us, normality means offline meetings. If corporate travel plays a significant role in your organisation, we’ve got some steps you can start taking to get a little closer to in-person meetings.
Communicate with employees and clients
Excellent communication is vital – that’s pretty much the foundation of any good business. Communicating honestly and openly with staff and customers is imperative – particularly when everything is so uncertain at the moment.
Everyone will want to know your plans for getting back into the office and/or corporate travel. Keep everyone informed at every step. Take time to check in with clients and employees to see how they’re doing. Are they confident about meeting up with clients? How can you make them feel more comfortable?
Make sure you follow all necessary guidelines – with immediate effect
It’s hard to plan for the unexpected, but you’ll have to place travel policies in place should anything like this happen again. The Government guidelines are fluid and are subject to rapid change. As the pandemic situation develops, so too, should your travel and company policies.
Communicating all changes when necessary to staff and stakeholders can help combat anxiety and worry about returning to work. If you can show them your plans for the future, they’ll feel happier and more comfortable about returning to the road.
The business landscape has dramatically changed, but health and safety should be the number one priority for all businesses; employees need to feel safe and secure to start corporate travel once again.
Make sure your travel policy is robust
As a travel manager, you should already have a travel policy in place. A travel policy means everyone is singing of the same hymn sheet – you’re all aware of what is acceptable, what isn’t, how to go about booking corporate travel, when you’re allowed to travel etc. It is important more than ever to have a robust travel policy.
Have you defined what permissible travel looks like for your business post-COVID? In what circumstances can employees start to resume business travel? What steps does your organisation have in place to protect travelling employees?
Although you might review your travel policy on an annual basis – it’s crucial your reviewing process adopts a more agile approach. With the Coronavirus situation changing every day, it’s imperative that as the travel manager you’re able to proactively amend these policies as you see fit.