This has been happening for a year or so now and people, it is fair to say, have got pretty used to it.
But for how much longer will it go on?
Is there an end to it, or will it become the norm for millions of people?
Will it be something we have to live with and just get on with it forever?
I’m talking, of course, about virtual meetings, those multi-person, on-screen gatherings which have become such a huge part of working life during this pandemic.
That’s not just because one can keep one’s pyjama bottoms and slippers on while retaining a little sense of decorum on the top half.
No, it’s because it just saves an awful lot of time and effort which would have otherwise been expended in getting a group of people together in one place at one time.
And while it might be thought preferable to meet person-to-person, there is no doubt that the time and money saved by conducting meetings online is considerable.
For example, in crude terms, say you have eight people meeting for an hour is the office and each takes an hour to get to and from the meeting.
That’s 16 hours of total travel time for a one-hour meeting – 16 hours of fee-earning capacity down the drain and never to be seen again.
The beauty of Zoom is that the length of any meeting is the total amount of time you need to dedicate to it – work can continue either side without interruption.
For those of us lucky enough to be in a job where we can work from home, the virtual meeting has been a godsend.
A quick group chat can save dozens of emails or individual calls which clog up the working day.
It’s no wonder that millions of workers know Zoom as a hi-tech videoconferencing company, rather than a 1970s ice lolly.
And it is little surprise that Zoom’s astronomical growth continues to rocket upwards unabated – quadrupling revenue quarter on quarter during 2020.
Third quarter 2020 figures show Zoom to have 433,700 subscribers with more than 10 employees and something like 350 million daily meeting participants.
But will it last? What will happen when the vaccines kick in and people return to an office-based existence?
I’m not so sure they will completely return. Although a flattening out of Zoom calls is bound to happen, cost-conscious businesses have seen the benefit of staff working from home.
The need for extensive office provision may well be questioned.
And the days of the lengthy, office-based meetings may be numbered.
While there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, videoconferencing is therefore here to stay.
However, there is another side to this. We have clients who have taken us on during lockdown that we have never met – the tender process was conducted entirely online.
And while the working arrangement functions perfectly successfully, this hands-off approach is not one I would wish to last in perpetuity.
I just want to get out and meet people again, have a coffee with them, chew the fat, do a bit of networking…anything!
Thus, as with anything, a balance is needed.
But don’t be surprised if working practices have changed for all time once we get back to whatever normal may turn out to be.
Our troubled times are set to continue and the struggle for survival is very real in the business world, with a shrinking economy, retail in tatters and the effects of Covid-19 with us for years.
Some dinosaur firms may go back to the old ways of costly in-person meetings – sometimes it’s unavoidable – but the more fleet-footed businesses will have embraced change and will incorporated a bit of both.
We have the technology – the glitches of last year now appear to be well sorted – and we will use it or we will stand still, then probably wither and die.
Videoconferencing is one small way we can manage change for the better.
It’s just a shame that the old excuse for non-attendance at meetings of getting stuck in traffic no longer applies…