Face-to-face communication in business remains important. While we increasingly rely on the convenience of emails, text messages, web casting and social media, we need to balance these online interactions with physical engagement. However digitally enabled we become, we still want to do business with people we know and trust and, in this endeavour, half an hour in someone’s company is worth a hundred emails.

That killer combination of research and common sense continues to support the power of face-to-face meetings. Consider the value of non-verbal cues, the comfort of judging other people’s skills while in the same room and the unexpected upside of off-piste discussions which arise simply because personal rapport and common ground have been established.

There is undoubtedly a compelling commercial temptation to prioritise virtual meetings but they can vary widely in accurately substituting human presence and, for more complex conversations, can often cause participants to misread the tone or the message. In short, virtual meetings never entirely compensate for the benefits of the real thing.

Reassuringly, too, this would appear to be the view of the much-vaunted Millennials (birth years early 1980s to early 2000s). A study from last year indicated that 80% of this group actually prefer in-person communication with their colleagues.

So the future is well set then, in business communication, for a happy combination between leading edge technology and classic human verities? Not necessarily. There are a couple of worrying signs.

Radio Four’s Today Programme on April 21st featured a short interview with psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist. This formed part of a piece on Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter and arguably the first ever computer programmer, and how she was deliberately fed a diet of maths and more maths to prevent her from becoming ‘poetical’ (a euphemism for mentally unstable) like her father, at least in the eyes of her mother.

This successful attempt at cerebral engineering became known as the ‘Ada experiment’ and contemporary experts confirm the potential to increase the size of structures within the brain to favour certain faculties.

Dr McGilchrist went on, however, to cite a more concerning example of changing brains in this way. In a meeting he attended, reflecting, in the view of the programme, the predominantly “indoor, solitary and disembodied” world of children today, a teacher of five to seven year olds reported that she and her colleagues were now needing to explain to their pupils how to read the human face, something which had never been required in the past.

According to McGilchrist, there is solid evidence that children are less empathic than they were 40 years ago and, to quote him: “As a society, we are replicating more and more aspects of what we might call autism”.

This phenomenon is supported by a UCLA psychology study, published in 2014, which suggests that children’s social skills are declining as they have less face-to-face interaction due to increased use of digital media.

The senior author of the study describes “decreased sensitivity to emotional cues – losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people” as a cost of digital communication among this age group. Another of the team added: “You can’t learn non-verbal emotional cues for a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication…We are social creatures. We need device-free time.”

Therefore, while young adults still recognise the value of face-to-face communication, younger children may be struggling with the social skills to conduct it effectively. Do we have an emerging problem here, especially when the pressure on resources within the workplace is taken into account?

Imagine a post-Millennial generation with neither the ability to participate fully in face-to-face interaction nor the time or support within the working day to develop, practise and perfect the skills.

This needs to be considered in good time before unwelcome consequences reveal themselves. And all the more reason for senior and HR management within enlightened companies to provide the opportunities and the training to enable appropriate and rewarding face-to-face communication to take place as much as possible.

This is not just a nostalgic plea. It is how business gets done, now and always.