One great hope for saving the planet from ecological catastrophe is that technology will enable business people to travel less, reducing aircraft emissions and the number of towels and sheets washed by hotels.

Meetings can be “virtual”, with teams collaborating via work rooms, instant messaging, video-conferencing and the like. I recently saw Adobe demonstrate its latest online meetings software, for example, and it looked perfectly feasible.

But a recent piece of research by occupational psychologists Pearn Kandola, carried out for Cisco Systems, suggests that computer-based communication is vastly inferior to face-to-face interaction between members of a team working together.

As someone who spends a good proportion of his time firing off e-mails, I can see the problem.

The researchers found that virtual teams neglect the need to socialise to establish trust and understanding. Which might be good news for anyone pricked by guilt for socialising in the office.

With non-verbal cues accounting for 63 per cent of meaning in face-to-face communication, the report (snappily titled “The Psychology of Effective Business Communications in Geographically Dispersed Teams”) says the main problems of virtual teams are an over-reliance on e-mail, a failure to respond to messages (“virtual silence”), and inappropriate modes of communication.

This is a topic Digital Business will be looking at in greater depth in a future issue. We will ask whether the solution is to get flying again or to get the technology to deliver a more all-encompassing package.

Among the issues examined in this edition are: women in IT and the worsening gender imbalance in the technology world; the growing importance of IT in mergers and acquisitions; and the contractual status of e-mail.

In each issue of Digital Business, we look at key topics of concern to business readers and investors, arming them for their dealings with the world of technology.

Each edition also includes updates on trends in security, SMEs, skills, and tools for the individual, along with news, columns and other regular features.

Digital Business podcast

And you can listen to Digital Business, too. Our podcasts feature interviews, debates and information that expand on and bring to life the articles in each print edition.

To hear the latest podcast, go to, where you will find instructions on how to listen, download or become a regular subscriber.

Peter Whitehead
Digital Business Editor

Get alerts on Front page when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article