In the wake of lockdowns and the hybrid working revolution, certain unintended casualties are being swept up along with the morning commute and making small talk in the kitchenette.

While some may welcome the end of compulsory face-to-face meetings and interaction in the office, there is an unavoidable price to pay by replacing these things with Zoom calls and email chains. Namely, the quality and strength of the relationships you build.

Why do I need strong relationships?

If everybody performs their job roles or upholds their part of a contract, how and where do strong relationships factor in?

People who take the time to build bonds get to know one another better. This leads to more than just ease of conversation and ‘getting along’. It means:

  • Greater respect for how people work and the ways in which everybody’s work forms a greater whole.
  • Clearer and more honest communication that allows people to challenge confidently as well as be heard.
  • More confidence in your own contributions and wanting to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your colleagues.
  • Greater fulfilment in your professional life, working alongside people with whom you can identify and who you trust.

Why face-to-face?

Many professions can be seen to have lost aspects of the ‘personal touch’, leaning more on emails and video calls than face-to-face meetings to disseminate information and conduct various admin tasks. In some ways, this has introduced considerable benefits.

People are able to work together in ways they previously couldn’t, and many are now able to thrive in organisations that would have been inconvenient or impossible to consider as a workplace just a few years ago.

However, face-to-face communication has no equal when it comes to the benefits of positive interaction between people. Speaking face-to-face carries benefits from being perceived favourably and more ‘likeable’, to building trust, making you a more skilled communicator, and helping you to be a more influential person in general.

Face-to-face meetings aren’t contingent on technology, and you can see the people with whom you’re interacting without restriction. This means that you’re able to read body language and gestures, and pick up on the subtle cues of in-person conversation that are lost through the limited views of webcams.

Noticing these subtleties can lead to spontaneous conversations that offer more support to colleagues, or perhaps bring attention to their hard work. These small instances of genuine interaction, aided by the paralanguage we’ve evolved to notice and learn from, are ultimately what build stronger relationships.

They show people that we’re listening—sometimes to what is not being said as much as what is—and they can often be the jumping-off point to new opportunities and stronger bonds with colleagues.