Monthly Poll | Heading Back to the Office
Last month we asked you a couple of questions about how you use your break time at Annual Meetings and how you balance networking with catching up on work while away from the office. The short answer is that we’re doing it all like superheroes. While only 11% of respondents said they use their break time for emails without any of that time going towards networking, that leaves a staggering 89% of us that are focused on networking or taking advantage of the opportunity to network between emailing and holding our lunch plate as we move through the buffet line.
We also asked about your preferences for trying to replicate networking interactions that organically happen in person during a virtually held conference. This was a bit more of an even split between respondents. 42% of our members would like to see networking opportunities built into breakout sessions. While the majority of our membership would like to see dedicated networking time built into the virtual conference agenda. The clear majority would prefer to have virtual networking built in as a separate activity.
We also asked for your ideas on ways to include networking opportunities in the virtual environment. My favorite suggestion was from one member who recommended online scavenger hunts. I’ve actually seen this done with individuals in a session of about 20 people and in a large group where attendees were broken into teams. The challenge was to find a specific thing from around the house/office/lab (bathrobe, PPE, artwork, etc) and bring it to the camera. The teams were timed and the individuals were awarded points. Both formats were a ton of fun and definitely added some spice to the Zoom room.
One of our members also shared their experience with a virtual lobby at an NIH conference where your avatar could walk up to other avatars and strike up a conversation. There are a couple virtual meeting and online classroom platforms that use this organic replication of human interaction. I find it fascinating and look forward to seeing this new sector of our technological world grow. I’ve also had friends who received a snackbox in the mail ahead of their virtual conference. The snack box was sponsored by one (or a few) of the vendors and almost acted like an at-home exhibition hall.
There were a handful of responses to the open-ended question that focused on potential topics for networking groups, suggesting they go beyond the demographic, geographic, and research administration topics to include passions and hobbies. One member noted that many times networking events are included in the evenings, but they found that unappealing in the work-from-home environment.
With vaccination rates on the rise and infection rates slowing in most parts of the country, many of you are returning to your office. This month I’d love you to tell me some of the things that you’re looking forward to as you return to the office and what homey creature comforts you expect to miss the most. I know many of us are missing that face time with our colleagues. I also know that I’m not the only one that’s changed institutions since we left our offices for quarantine. Maybe you’re looking forward to finally meeting your colleagues face to face...well at least eye to eye above a mask. If I were going back to my old office in Seattle, I would say I was most excited about returning to the coffee shop in the lobby of my building and most sad to say goodbye to my work-from-home bare feet.
Let us know what you’re looking forward to and what you’ll miss!
Authored by Heather Brown, Grants and Contracts Administrator
Duke Human Vaccine Institute