When your inbox has hit the triple digits and your to-do list is overflowing, nothing feels more productive than whipping up a dozen well-crafted, concise emails and hitting "send."
But when you're working in a creative agency, this is often far from productive. In fact, after seven years of observation across 21 organizations, MIT's Human Dynamics Laboratory concluded that face-to-face interaction is the No. 1 most valuable form of communication there is.
Face-to-face interaction is so essential, in fact, that it can make or break a team. A full 35 percent of variation in team performance can be attributed to how many face-to-face interactions team members have. That's huge--and in many cases, it's the difference between success and failure.
For creative teams, these kinds of interactions aren't just essential in the workplace--they're also essential for keeping clients happy. Here are five ways face-to-face interactions can improve your productivity, company culture, and client satisfaction.
1. You'll accomplish more.
Requests that are made in person are 34 times more effective than those made via email. This isn't so hard to believe. How many times have you spent a whole afternoon sending email after email, trying to explain what you need to a colleague or client who doesn't understand what you mean--or worse, doesn't respond at all?
In my experience, it's proven much more effective in these cases to just pick up the phone. MIT confirms that, after face-to-face, communication via phone or video conference is the most effective means of connecting. Think about it: it's easy to ignore an email, but not so easy to ignore someone who's right in front of you, or speaking on the other end of the line.
2. You'll build stronger relationships.
Making a call instead of sending an email certainly helps. But after a while, our team at Killer Infographics started to re-imagine our communication process on a more fundamental level. In the last few years, we've overhauled our entire approach to interacting with clients to include face-to-face meetings whenever possible--even if we need to fly across the country. It's resulted in stronger, longer-lasting relationships.
Meanwhile, in the office, we meet in person whenever possible--not just because it's more efficient, but because it helps us feel connected. We organize out-of-office parties and activities on a regular basis, but building personal connections also happens during the day-to-day--it has to. Remembering that you're working alongside human beings also helps to build an atmosphere of mutual support and respect.
3. You'll retain employees and clients.
When a bank call center reorganized break time so that everyone would have their coffee break at the same time, employee satisfaction across all call centers increased, sometimes by 10 percent or more. Why? They were given time to be seen and treated as people, not just as employees.
Face-to-face time is humanizing. It not only encourages the respectful treatment of others, but increases personal levels of contentment in the workplace. The same holds true for clients: no one wants to be treated like just one more source of income. And people who feel seen, heard, and respected stick around.
4. You'll produce stronger work.
When you're trying to produce something new, you're always going to face plenty of obstacles. Don't add communication to that list. People can't work out complex problems via email nearly as well as they can in person, and that's why it's essential to get your entire creative team in a room together at the start of any project.
When Steve Jobs oversaw the design of the Pixar office building in 2000, he insisted upon placing an atrium in the middle--a space through which everyone needed to pass every day. He believed in the creative power of people simply bumping into each other, making eye contact. Pixar is one of the most successful movie studios in history, and one of the most productive creative teams. More face-to-face equals a better product.
5. You'll grow your business.
Eight in 10 executives report that they prefer face-to-face meetings over virtual connections. I do, too. To grow a business, you don't just need to acquire more clients--you also need to build a support network. Entrepreneurs who have been where you are now, fellow C-level execs, female leaders who have faced the same challenges--all of these people can give you the strength to keep moving and the insight to keep getting better.
That's why, in my experience, speaking at and attending conferences has been an essential part of being an entrepreneur. There, I can make face-to-face connections in the hopes that some of these could lead to lasting and meaningful mentorships and friendships. These will be essential to helping your business grow in a sustainable way--and they're just one more reason to incorporate more in-person interactions in your day-to-day.