Many companies today are spread out across different cities, states, and even countries; with a majority of their employees working from home. Thanks to technology and collaborative tools, it has never been easier for professionals to work from any location. In 2017, nearly 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the entire U.S. workforce) worked from home at least half of the time.

As the leading marketing executive search firm, we see the benefits and disadvantages of remote employees. Telecommuting and remote communication are a necessity for most organizations. While it works well for certain functions of a business, the convenience of screen-to-screen communication can come at a cost – especially in marketing.

Physical meetings and conversations are key to keeping your marketers ingrained in the company culture. Direct interaction is still the most effective way of keeping your employees engaged and dedicated to productive collaboration. Marketing leaders who keep their team on-site in order to enhance collaboration via face-to-face interaction see better results in connecting with their audience and driving ROI.

As executive search professionals, we see what works and what does not across many organizations. The dependence on virtual interaction has removed an important level of connection that comes with person-to-person contact. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) stated, “For all of the beauty of technology and all the things we’ve helped facilitate over the years, nothing yet replaces human interaction… And I don’t think it will ever happen.”

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A Marketing Talent Agency Explains What Matters Most About On-Site Teams

Although you may be able to have certain employees working remote, having a majority of your marketing team work off-site makes it more difficult to build trust and collaboration, and makes it easier for misunderstandings to occur. In general, the 80/20 rule applies here; if you have 80% of your team in one place, you are off to a solid start. The key is accountability for the ones who are virtual. Let’s discuss the impact face-to-face interaction has on your company culture and team.

Accurate Understanding

A major challenge with remote workers is a lack of communication, making it more challenging to discuss and address issues in real-time. Additionally, not seeing someone in person and missing out on non-verbal cues increases the chances for miscommunication.

Physical interaction is information-rich in that we interpret and understand what people are saying to us not only from the words they use, but their body language. Physical signals and facial expressions help us interpret the context of verbal statements more clearly and accurately, but can easily be misunderstood through video conferences or phone calls.

Collaboration for Innovation

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Remote workers may be efficient with individual efforts, but nothing encourages creativity and innovation more than physical collaboration. Since humans are social creatures, any high-level collaboration requires well-developed personal relationships and is the most successful through physical interaction.

Being able to discuss new ideas is more effective in person, as you can gauge reactions through body language – something you can’t do through computer screens. Face-to-face communication is also where innovative ideas come to fruition; often outside of formal team meetings, but through casual encounters and conversations between members.

Inclusion

When you only see and interact with team members online, it’s difficult to establish strong connections with them. Video conferencing helps to combat this but doesn’t completely restore the value of face-to-face interaction.

For many people, work is a place to socialize. It’s where they develop relationships and connect with others on a personal level.

Remote workers don’t get the true sense of the company culture and team when working from home full-time. From missing out on casual small talk in the hallway to social outings after work, it’s easy for them to feel left out or isolated. When team members connect and socialize outside of the office, it helps build relationships for successful teamwork back inside the office. According to a recent study, over half of remote employees are more likely to “report feeling that colleagues mistreat them and leave them out and feel left out.”

A physical workplace allows your marketers to gain the value of employee interaction, and feel like they’re a part of a community and culture.

Stronger Commitment and Team Morale

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Remote workers have the freedom and convenience to work wherever they want, but encounter the challenges of connecting with their team and working with others. Remote work makes it harder for leaders to manage accountability from employees, and evaluate their productivity.

It’s challenging for marketing teams to feel like a cohesive unit when tackling critical marketing functions remotely. That’s why face-to-face engagement is critical when developing campaigns and strategies for growth.

The right workplace environment helps employees feel more engaged and connected. Being physically present and on-site helps your team stay aware of important changes that occur during projects because they’re involved at every stage in the process.

When it comes to building trust, there’s no replacement for face-to-face connections. They allow employees to feel connected to their team members and more motivated to be productive. Direct interaction is necessary for building a strong team spirit, morale and synergy so that productive collaboration is enhanced. These elements contribute to an employee’s enthusiasm and commitment to your company.

Conclusion

Remote workers and virtual interaction are part of today’s business reality. However, overlooking the value of physical teamwork and collaboration can cause your marketing to lose its competitive advantage.

As an experienced digital marketing executive search firm, we know there is no other function in a business that calls for such collaborative engagement as marketing does. Enabling a culture and environment that encourages face-to-face engagement for effective collaboration is necessary for companies to stay competitive. It fosters feelings of trust and a shared purpose within your team.

Simply put, nothing replaces human interaction.

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