In-person or virtual meeting? (video transcript)

Are you returning to the office in some kind of a hybrid format, with some days in the office and other days working remotely? If so, how do you decide what happens in-office and what gets left for the days you’re collaborating as a virtual team? I’ve outlined three categories to help you figure this out.


1) What are you interacting or collaborating on?

The type of project that is best suited to in-person work is:

  • something that you’ve never done before;
  • something very complex with a lot of moving parts;
  • something ambiguous where people might interpret the same thing in different ways; or
  • something contentious where people might get emotional or conflict is likely

These things are more well-suited to being together in person as you have the benefit of more body language and the possibility of some downtime together. All of that is really useful when your content is novel or complex or ambiguous, or if it’s contentious.

2) Who are you talking to?

Who you’re interacting has a big impact on whether you want do it in the office in person or virtually.

If it’s people that you don’t know very well, you don’t trust, people who don’t share a common language or jargon with you, then being in person together would be better. For example, different departments collaborating should be prioritized for time in the office.

If you’re just with your own team and people you know and you trust, then you can probably do that over a Zoom call.

3) Why are you interacting?

If you’re interacting to work on blue sky big-picture ideas, that really suits being in a physical situation where there’s more space and it’s a little more comfortable. Also, if the goal is about sharing or connecting or bonding, then again err on the side of in person.

We know that our biology is such that when we eat together, we strengthen connection and trust; as such, not only do you want to get out of your Zoom box when you’re trying to strengthen connection, but you also want to be together in person and if possible, break bread together.

Final Thoughts

To help you evaluate these three categories, I have made a helpful checklist which you can use for your next meeting or interaction.

If you’ve got more than a couple of things on that left-hand side, then it’s probably worth going into the office. Otherwise, I’m sure a Zoom call will be fine!

More on This: Return-to-Office Miniseries

We are botching the return-to-office transition. We need to talk less about individual productivity and talk more about the obligation to contribute to healthy teams and organizations. But leaders, the price of admission to that conversation is to give up some control so employees can optimize their experience and to reset how the workweek is used so we have less overflow into personal time.

More on this

Guide: Adapting to a Hybrid Workplace

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Teams

Building Trust in Remote and Hybrid Teams

How to Strengthen Connection on Remote and Hybrid Teams