Do Virtual Meetings Burden Creativity? - Docket

The number of businesses implementing a remote working model has greatly increased in the past several years, and many employees have expressed their preference for the remote and hybrid models. In fact, a recent study published by Nature reported that 75% of US employees would like to work from home at least one day a week.

The reasons for this are understandable; the virtual setup gives people flexibility, more control over their work-life balance, and more freedom to work in a way that benefits them as individuals.

However, the question of whether this new working model spells success for everyone—employees and businesses alike—remains largely unanswered. Some believe that giving employees freedom and autonomy is good for the company, while others think that it makes people more detached from their work and less interested in improving professionally. 

Today, we will discuss one particular challenge associated with remote work, and that’s virtual meetings. Are they much the same as in-person meetings? Are they more effective, or do they kill creativity and cooperation? Keep reading to learn more.

The Virtual Model’s Impact on Creativity 

The new study (referenced above) published by Melanie Brucks of Columbia Business School and Jonathan Levav of the Stanford Graduate School of Business shows that in-person meetings tend to generate better ideas than video conferencing. The two researchers started an experiment that required a group of people to work both in-person and then through virtual meetings. They found that in-person meetings generate more ideas among collaborators and team members.

Axios succinctly described some of the study’s findings, stating that “an often overlooked ingredient in the secret sauce of collaboration is that, in person, team members typically share visual cues from their environment—and each other—that can spur ideas.” In other words, the non-verbal aspects of meetings seem to be vital when it comes to successful brainstorming.

Why a Virtual Environment Can Be a Burden

Unfortunately, when people are in virtual meetings, they often miss out on these non-verbal cues because they are focused on their screens—open tabs with half-finished work, their own images, and so on. 

Additionally, people tend to move less when conducting meetings virtually, and “staying still hinders creativity”, Axios quoted Jeremy Bailenson, a Stanford professor known for his research in virtual interaction. Typically, during in-person meetings or even on phone calls, we walk, multitask, use our hands, etc., and that type of movement encourages creativity and expression. 

Virtual Meetings Still Have Their Place

It should be noted that virtual meetings also have a lot of advantages! Based on Brucks and Levav’s study in Nature, people seem to be just as efficient at choosing between ideas on a virtual platform as they are in person, if not more so. Some other advantages of the virtual meeting might include reduced costs and more physical freedom for team members (no travel time, no location restrictions).

The bottom line is that the benefits and drawbacks of virtual meetings depend on the kind of meeting you are holding. For example, short check-ins and daily standups can work well on a virtual platform, but brainstorming sessions and group thinks might be better suited for in-person meetings to maximize creativity.
The meeting productivity platform, Docket, was created specifically to help virtual and hybrid teams manage their schedules and make the most of the virtual working model. Not every meeting can be in-person (and not every meeting should be), but that doesn’t mean they can’t be productive and organized!