November 17, 2020 | 3-minute read (591 words)
There’s a lot that can be said about no longer having to go to the office. Employees save on commute time, can work in comfortable clothes and no longer have to eat their lunch at the desk. However, the workplace isn’t just about artificial lighting, sad desk lunches and forced small talk. It’s about building human connections with colleagues, learning from one another and having the chance to go out for business lunch meetings.
These are the things that motivate human beings and help them find happiness in going to work, as they provide an opportunity to forge crucial real-life relationships and make deals that subsequently help advance their careers.
Pandemic Shifts the Landscape
Sit-down meals at restaurants have long been essential for building professional connections and making the workday more engaging and enjoyable. In the past, executives booked fancy restaurants to woo clients and/or sign off on business deals. In fact, a number of massive business deals have been confirmed over lunch and golf meetings.
Yet, with a large number of employees still working from home — with some tech giants including Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft having decided to let their employees work remotely for the long term — and social distancing measures still in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, the future of the traditional business working lunch remains a mystery. Even restaurant owners have shared projected fears about a slump in the demand for business lunches.
This brings up concerns about the future of golf or lunch meetings in light of COVID-19. Are they being replaced by Skype or Zoom calls? Is the practice sustainable?
Business lunches allow people to interact more efficiently than they might be able to over a video or the phone. They play an important role when it comes to sensitive conversations, such as performance evaluation conversations, creative collaborations or business acquisitions.
Bike Rides, Park Walks Now on the Radar Screen
With lockdown restrictions still in place in several countries, leading to most restaurants remaining closed and employees still working from home, some employees have found creative, interim alternates to the business lunch, including lunches where the meals are bring-your-own, park meetings, quick coffee meetups or even getting on a bike with a mask on and cruising on a trail. These substitutions can still serve the purpose, even if they are not as leisurely or luxurious.
That said, work culture as we know it could be over. Earlier this year, Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said that the traditional greeting of shaking hands may have to stop even when the pandemic ends (or is under control) — and other experts agreed.
The business or golf lunch will definitely make a comeback at some point. Humans need contact in order to thrive. However, due to changing regulations, it’s difficult to predict when and in what way that will actually happen. And even when it does return, it could be much less frequent because, according to the latest HR trends, employees are more likely to continue working remotely and spend less time in their workplaces.
As your business begins to ponder what operations might look like without golf or business lunches, take a look at the activities you can perform safely while still bonding with staff. Use this list as a springboard to propose a new type of meeting that will allow you to stay in touch with clients, prospective customers and your core team.