A major new survey of UK business people reports that almost 70% of Brits who travel for business believe that it is easier to make decisions, solve problems, gauge reactions and ultimately trust someone if they have met them in person.

The effectiveness of face to face meetings is further underlined by respondents admitting that, during conference calls, almost half multi-task, one in three send other emails and 25% drift off into a day dream and lose focus.

Despite the value of meeting someone in person and the Virgin Trains report revealing 66% of respondents would like to go to more meetings, almost a third confirmed that since the recession kicked in the number of meetings they attend has decreased. This is due to not only having travel budgets cut and using more technology, but also because they are seeing fewer pitching opportunities. Those who have seen their meetings increase (17%) stated it is because their current clients are now demanding more and that they themselves are under more pressure to retain contracts.

Stuart Duff, business psychologist, says: “The research into remote leadership and communication has focused on two types of trust within teams. Cognitive trust, whether or not we believe a person to be factually correct, grows through sharing information. This is important in creating clarity and direction for employees. On the other hand, emotional trust, whether we believe in someone and want to work with them, grows through sharing values, personal understanding and support. Email and teleconference calls are fine for growing cognitive trust; emotional trust is rarely, if ever, developed through technology.

“This is because we rely on many non-verbal cues when making judgments about others. Most psychologists estimate that we interpret around 65% of a message’s meaning from tone of voice, facial expression and body language – things that are often lost through over reliance on technology, even if supported with video. Without these important face to face cues, team members can become vulnerable to misunderstanding messages, over-interpret negative communication tones and unwittingly creating a cycle of mistrust. The most successful leaders recognise the importance of face to face contact in building trust and commitment from their colleagues, and have strategies to ensure that they have face time with their colleagues, particularly early in the relationship.”

Face to face meetings have been deemed so valuable that you would presume Brits would make the most efficient use of their time, however, a third of survey respondents said that they spent between 11 and 20 plus hours every quarter driving to meetings – generating a total of 12,000** hours of ‘dead time’ in the last year driving to meetings.

Stuart commented: “We analysed the personality and skills of successful mobile workers. We thought we would see highly flexible, reactive individuals, dashing from one part of the country to another. Instead, we saw a high level of conscientious behaviours, such as personal organisation and planning. With this was an increasing trend of managers avoiding the roads to use public transport, including the rail network. Many highlighted that train journeys create important time and space where they can rest, plan ahead and catch up on often neglected tasks such as administration and calls.”

Jim Rowe, Senior Communications Manager at Virgin Trains added: “The results of our survey clearly demonstrate the value attached to a face to face meeting. Whilst technological advances mean that it is now easier than ever before to be contactable 24/7 it is reassuring to know that people still need to meet people in order to develop and nurture relationships.”