Videoconferencing has become more accepted as a technology. More people know how to do it. And peopled being ‘zoomed into a meeting’ are no longer the outsiders, only half in the meeting with people in a room.
Some business trips just aren’t necessary, doing business virtually has worked out better than many people thought and feared.
In-office visits are hard to coordinate. They can’t return until people are back in the office, but all people aren’t going back to the office all the time. If there are a quarter fewer in-office days overall, that makes coordinating business meetings harder and there will be fewer business trips.
Bill Gates thinks that “over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office will go away.”
In-person business meetings won’t be the “gold standard” anymore, Gates said, predicting that most companies will have a “very high threshold” for doing those types of business trips.
It will be awhile before large conferences return, because group indoor settings are ripe for superspreading Covid-19 and widespread vaccination remains a long way off. International business travel, too, will take awhile to recover because either borders won’t open until vaccines make the virus no longer a risk (not just for the U.S. and Europe but the rest of the world) or processes for entry will be cumbersome (proof of vaccination, testing).
Still I’m not an extreme pessimist on business travel people will go back on the road for business that matters. This 30 year old United Airlines commercial shows why a ‘phone call and a fax’ doesn’t replace face-to-face business meetings.
It will be harder to coordinate in-office meetings with fewer people in office less of the time, that won’t end business travel but it will represent a long-term marginal drag.