Less business travel in the future - sure, but ...

25. Mar. 2020

Lessons (to be) learnt from living with Covid-19 (#2)

by Klaus Schuch

The Covid-19-quarantine forces (almost) everyone who works in the office area, or - as we do - in the knowledge-generating and knowledge-processing industries, to work from home and to use teleconferencing tools. These serve the internal as well as external communication, coordination and reconcilement. This new experience also includes stragglers who have so far preferred to work analogue rather than digital. Most of us learn that teleconferencing works. Acceptance is currently experiencing a boost from the Covid 19 crisis and this will also have a lasting impact.

Changes in communication behavior and restrictions are of course inevitable. It shows - perhaps even more clearly than at physical meetings - that good preparation, a clear agenda and strict moderation bring a clear gain in quality. But it also shows
  • that native speakers have an even greater advantage in the transnational telecontext,
  • teleconferencing has a faster fatigue curve,
  • that teleconferencing slots should be better chosen and planned in advance (the telephone is still unbeatable for ad hoc exchange),
  • but among others also that creative exchange is more restricted.
Of course, the relevant digital infrastructure must also be in place. Past mistakes in expanding them are now showing up drastically. Rural areas in particular need to be upgraded quickly.
With regard to international meetings, I suspect that some of them will continue to be substituted by teleconferences. This applies in particular to meetings that
  • are more formalized (e.g. decision-making meetings) (that have already been well prepared in advance)
  • are rather informative (few to many) or even have a lecturing character (one to many) (for which webinars are particularly suitable)
  • have clear processing agendas (e.g. project monitoring meetings)
  • or would otherwise consume a large amount of travel time (than it is better to hold two to three delimitable tele-meetings instead in smaller units).
I suspect that in the medium term (after an immediate catch-up boom in the first post-quarantine year due to postponed conferences and workshops) the collective practice of teleconferencing tools will result in an additional 10-15% reduction in business trips. This is good for the environment and, given the stressful business travel realities, also good for us. There are still many physical meetings left, where we can then use their specific advantages, such as informal exchange, getting to know each other, building trust, creative exchange (can also be supported by alternative online tools), etc.


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Tags: Corona Virus

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