For over a year, the corona pandemic is affecting our lives and the way we work. Working from home has become the standard, and meetings with colleagues and customers mainly take place digitally. Several studies by, for example, Nieuwsuur* and KPMG** show that large organizations are considering downsizing their office space after the corona pandemic. But isn't the value of physical contact drastically underestimated? We wanted to know the impact of the lack of physical contact on our performance, turnover, and company culture. Together with DVJ Insights, we researched this among 1,331 employees and managers. The results? A third of the respondents is struggling with a decline in sales due to corona. Also, an overwhelming majority indicate that this is partly due to the lack of physical contact.
Lack of physical contact causes sales decline
Impact of lack of physical contact
Almost half of Dutch employees and managers look back with negative feelings after a year of working in the pandemic. The limited social contact, the dropout of colleagues due to illness or stress, and the lack of events, in particular, weighs heavy on us. For a third of the respondents, corona resulted in a decline in sales. The lack of physical contact with colleagues and customers plays a role in this, according to 77% of the respondents. 43% of the respondents say it even plays a crucial part. A third of the managers say that the lack of physical contact makes the internal culture deteriorate.
Gerben Plasmeijer, owner of Obsession and initiator of the research:
This research shows how impactful physical encounters are. By seeing each other en speaking with each other, new ideas and insights arise. Physical encounters between colleagues, but also with customers and relations, ensure that organizations can develop.
83% of the Dutch look forward to going back to the office and physically meeting each other. We expect many activities to take place physically again. Including training colleagues, Christmas and New Year drinks, progress and evaluation meetings, and company events. Because digital events and activities also bring benefits, such as time savings, the Dutch are content if certain events will happen digitally or hybrid in the future. Respondents mention activities such as management announcements, knowledge sharing, and presentations.
Physical events restricted
In the past year, there were restrictions for both the organization and the attendance of physical events. The survey shows that 36% of the Dutch had to cancel business events. Due to the restrictions, only a quarter of the Dutch attended one or more physical events last year. Previously, this concerned 88%. To stay connected with colleagues, customers, and relations, physical meetings, were replaced with digital events. Half of the Dutch attended one or more digital events last year. Due to time savings, they are predominantly neutral (47%) to positive (38%), about digital events. Yet, a large majority (61%) miss personal contact during and after an event.
Hybrid events are the future
Hybrid events have become extremely popular in the past year. The term is known by 71% of the managers. Also, more than half of the employees are familiar with hybrid events. A majority of the executives (65%) already participated in one or more hybrid events. That is significantly more than the number of employees (54%) who attended a hybrid event. 78% of the people who are not familiar with hybrid events are positive about the new event format. In fact, 43% say they will definitely participate in hybrid events in the future.
Corporate events will return
Three-quarters of the Dutch expect business events to return. More than half (59%) expect events to return in hybrid form, 34% expect physical events, and only 7% expect events to be fully digital. A quarter of executives think business events will return faster than we think.
We spend the same or more time organizing digital events
Although digital events save time for participants, this is not the case for organizers. According to almost half of the respondents, digital events take as much time as physical events. 29% even say that they spend more time on digital events. Corona also has hardly any impact on the budget for events. 80% of event organizers state that their budget for events has remained the same or even increased last year.
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*** A representative survey was conducted by research agency DVJ Insights among 1,111 employees and 220 executives in the Netherlands between the ages of 18 and 65, period 17 March - 4 April 2021.