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Directors return to the boardroom

Paul DeNicola Principal, Governance Insights Center, PwC US June 30, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic forced most corporate boards to pause in-person meetings. But with cases falling throughout the US and vaccines now widely available, directors say their boards are meeting face-to-face again. In mid-June, we polled board members, executives, and governance professionals about their plans. It’s clear that the return to the boardroom is well underway—and will accelerate as 2021 continues.

In fact, virtually all respondents (93%) say they’ve already resumed face-to-face meetings, or intend to do so by year-end. Even so, some virtual meeting practices will continue. More than half (54%) of those surveyed told us their boards or committees will continue to meet virtually some of the time. And 34% said directors will have greater flexibility to choose their preferred method of participation, a sign that many boards are open to hybrid models mixing in-person and virtual.

Key findings

  • Face-to-face by fall. Boards aren’t wasting time when it comes to resuming in-person meetings. A significant share of respondents (43%) say they’re already meeting face to face again (and an additional 3% never stopped). But most of those who aren’t, plan to resume in-person meetings by the end of September.
  • Video meetings are here to stay. More than half of respondents say they plan to keep at least some board/committee meetings virtual (54%). And over a third (34%) plan to give directors the flexibility to choose their method of participation.
  • Boards get back to socializing. Just 8% of respondents said their boards plan to curtail the social element of board meetings, such as dinners or outings.
  • For most, board meetings are looking different. Only about 10% said their boards have not adopted any changes going forward.

Looking ahead

The pandemic forced boards to change how they work. Some of these changes are proving to be temporary, but others look to be more durable. If thoughtfully executed, keeping a portion of meetings virtual and granting directors greater flexibility in how they participate in meetings may help foster a healthy board culture. It could allow for greater participation in important boardroom conversations and make board service more attractive to a more diverse group of people.