Blog Image Meeting RoomIn the past, we never gave meeting rooms a second thought, unless one was already booked when we needed it. 2020 is the year Zoom became a buzzword and a verb in workplaces and schools due to public health concerns about COVID-19. What to do? Go virtual, of course. Here’s what we’ve learned the last six months.

As a hub of business activity for the Fairfield County community, HAYVN has seen it’s facilities used in a variety of ways for many kinds of socially distant meetings and events: meeting rooms for in-person meetings, high speed Wi-Fi for virtual calls, and the Yealink video conferencing, voice communications and collaboration. HAYVN is also a big support to businesses whose employees work-from-home during COVID-19 but still need a place to work quietly.

People who cowork here love using our REAL Zoom backgrounds provided by our beautifully designed meeting rooms. When you are on a call at HAYVN you have an amazing professional background (instead of your work-from-home background).

With social distancing, global adoption of web conferencing has increased by 87% in the last year vs. in-person meetings:

  • Companies gave work at home job options to full-time employees
  • What used to be weekly team meetings, monthly community meetups, and networking events have gone virtual.
  • People work-from-home but for extended hours or hold more frequent meetings for shorter periods of time.
Britton Taylor Chaves, Community Manager at HAYVN in Darien, CT

“Being a freelancer, many of my meetings pre-covid were in-person across CT and NYC or by phone – so I was traveling a lot more. Now, almost all my meetings are on Zoom. I find that daily back-to-back Zoom meetings are more draining but it is nice to be able to “see” people’s body language and facial expressions vs. audio phone calls. I do miss the days of meeting for coffee, going to events, and seeing people in person.”

Britton Taylor Chaves, HAYVN Member

87% Growth Since Start of 2020

Video web conferencing tools graph

Web conferencing has grown 87% since the beginning of 2020. The meeting industry is responding. A September 20, 2020 blog post by Meetup CEO, David Siegel says, “Over the past month, our team has built new technology and product features that allow organizers to share an online event link instead of a physical location. We’ve also changed our in-person event policy so our communities could access the support they need.”

The Big Disruption in Virtual and IRL Events

This pivot opened up new ways for the community to stay connected and to adapt to the new normal says Meetup.

Education and training sessions once done in-person have moved online. Schools and businesses are slowly re-opening. Many are students using virtual meeting setups to attend classes. Companies also build brand awareness using online training, workshops, and webinars on the platform.

One example of a company that has pivoted at HAYVN is Leadology, a consulting firm gives companies tools to build stronger leaders. Their focus is teaching “strengths-based tactics for mastering effective management—and leading results-oriented teams.” This involves hours and hours of virtual meetings in-place of travel and in-person meetings. 

Carrie Skowronski - Founder at Leadology photo

“On the one hand, we’ve become more flexible with one another. The funny backgrounds at home, kids and dogs, and all the very personal things in our spaces.  We’re all just trying to make do.

On the other hand, some meetings have become really casual. Some clients see that professionalism has dropped a couple of notches. The polish of their presentations isn’t quite there today and that’s concerning.”

Carrie Skowronski, Founder at Leadology – HAYVN member

Moving meetings online spans many business areas:

  • Entertainment and Events. The show must go on. Concert halls and theaters have dropped their curtains for an indefinite time. Crowd-drawing events are put on hold.

Artists found a new way to reach their fans and followers using virtual apps, like Facebook Live, LinkedIn Live, Instagram Stories, YouTube Live. Businesses are using these tools, too.

  • Demos and Tutorials. Screen sharing capabilities of apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Lark, etc. make conducting demos and recording How-To content more efficient.
  • Training and Development. Whether onboarding new hires, building new skills, or developing managers and leaders, getting the business of training done has massively moved online.
  • Sales Presentations. Businesses re-designed work processes. They adjusted their communication strategies.

Remote sales and marketing teams at their home offices use technology to stay on top of deals across time zones. This is one way to stay competitive with business relationships in the market.

  • Short Business Meetings. These are popular for internal communications, conducting interviews, weekly check-ins, project progress meetings, performance reviews. Meeting lengths vary but the lockdowns have shown that people attend more frequent but shorter meetings

Larger Meetings

According to a study by The Business Standard, “Larger meetings may be needed to get “everyone on the same page” and create what economists call “common knowledge…”

Many companies are already getting creative with these large virtual meetings. Recently, HAYVN Member, Marie Patel, founder of Girl On The Ball Solutions virtual marketing implementation assistance, was challenged to reimagine the experience of an in-person, annual meeting as a virtual event. In the past, her client invited all the employees to gather for a half-day for an interactive experience and pizza truck shindig afterward.

Marie Patel

“With so much Zoom fatigue, I knew the meeting needed to be different and ‘engagement’ became my planning mantra!”

Marie Patel, founder of Girl On The Ball Solutions

The result? She took all forty employees on a virtual trip to Hawaii – complete with an imaginary plane trip to the fiftieth state. She also sent out lLeis, macadamia nuts, pineapple-shaped cookies from Honolulu cookie company, Hawaiian kettle potato chips, and an individual Mai Tai.

After ‘landing” in Hawaii,” the main professional development topics were interspersed with a series of small group discussions, interactive games, and raffles. At the end of the day, they held a Happy Half Hour Finale consisting of three virtual sessions where all enjoyed Mai Tai’s while shuffling between small group breakout rooms.

“It was a big hit, to say the least!” she added.

Goodie bags given out by Marie Patel

The Sweet Spot in Virtual and IRL Meeting Rooms

Co-working gets a boost as professionals seek workspaces away from home, as seen in National Real Estate Investor, Nov 5, 2020.

  • 80% percent of office workers only want to go to an office two to three days a week, and contends that this trend or preference will continue for years to come and boost demand for flex space near where they live.
  • “Americans hate commuting—length of commute has been inversely correlated with happiness.”

“Two to three days a week seems to be the sweet spot that allows for a balance of concentrative work (at home) and collaborative work (at the office)” – [Global Workplace Analytics, 2020]. There are many benefits:

  • improved employee productivity
  • efficient and easy technical setup
  • budget-friendly and flexible (can be used on-demand)
  • minimal event costs: meals, hotel, travel/transportation
  • better employee experience
  • flexible customer service representative scheduling / virtual call centers
  • increased employee engagement
  • better employee retention
  • improved collaboration team members

It is still a wait-and-see game to see when offices can get up to a healthy balance of in-person and virtual meetings.

“I am definitely getting a lot more done because of less travel time. Having the ability to share my screen has been equally as helpful in brainstorming meetings vs. in-person meetings. I also like that it keeps everyone on task a little bit more – if you are on a video call vs. a phone call.”

Britton Taylor Chaves, HAYVN Member

Challenges to Full Adoption

In light of COVID, it is rare for companies not to implement some form of remote work policies. Giant firms like Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook have made remote work part of their employment policy.

However, no matter how convenient virtual meetings sound, they are not without their challenges.

“You have to be extra sensitive because this idea of working from home and having cameras on has made the inequities of how people live even more obvious, especially in urban areas like New York City, Chicago, or L.A.”

Carrie Skowronski, Founder at Leadology – HAYVN member

Virtual meetings are also the great equalizer, as people all are dealing with their own unique circumstances.

According to Owl Labs, 2019 survey, some of the biggest hurdles faced by remote workers are:

  • interruptions/being talked over (67%)
  • IT issues during meetings (59%)
  • lack of participant preparation (28%)
  • risky of being too casual/loss of professionalism
  • poor employee communications (20%)
  • time allocated is not observed (17%)
  • no follow-up on tasks (25%)
  • no meeting minutes (13%)

A recurring feeling is that people are ‘exhausted’ from online meetings. They want a balance between online and face-to-face meetings.

“There are too many online meetings. People are so exhausted. There is something draining about staring at that screen. You’re not looking into another human’s eyes and you can’t really see their reaction.”

Carrie Skowronski, Founder at Leadology – HAYVN member

What is Next for Virtual and IRL Events?

There is a reason why ‘real-life’ interactions make people feel happier than virtual. And while more complicated in the world of the pandemic, that doesn’t make interactions that elicit positive intellectual and emotional responses impossible. Certainly, during a time when that type of interaction is dearly missed by many and the importance of face-to-face is reminisced.

The way we work and communicate has changed. Both virtual and ‘IRL’ meetings, when planned well with clear objectives, can steer us in the direction of a healthy balance between work and life.

We’ve adapted.

Virtual communication has helped the world cope with a pandemic. Virtual events and social-distancing “IRL” events will be part of the new normal for the foreseeable future. Yet, we’ve found that given the tools, people will naturally find new ways to stay in touch, do business and stay safe.

We all need options to stay connected. Companies that use digital communications tools to empower customers and employees to work together in a multichannel world as seamlessly as possible will have an edge. And yet, there are times you need to meet in person.

Fortunately, there are places like HAYVN to provide the perfect meeting room when you need a safe place to collaborate. Please let us know if you need a meeting room or if we can ever be of service.

Happy Coworking!

HAYVN Coworking

Founded in 2018, HAYVN is a flexible workspace for enterprising women (and men) to connect, create and grow. Along with a vibrant & engaged coworking community of entrepreneurs, HAYVN is a business HUB, offering short & long term office space leases, meeting rooms rentals, and events to support local businesses. Visit our beautiful safe ‘HAYVN’  at 320 Boston Post Road, Darien, CT, 06820.