With the rise of remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, seamless communication is more important than ever. Fewer and fewer face-to-face conversations are taking place on a day-to-day basis, leaving plenty of room for miscommunications and misunderstandings over chat and e-mail.
In person, misunderstandings can be addressed and rectified much faster than over chat, reducing the impact on productivity and strengthening workplace relations. Written miscommunications, however, often go unnoticed for hours or even days, causing tension and confusion between employees.
In fast-paced virtual environments, all it takes is one misworded email or text to spark a string of miscommunications that can set your team back and throw your organization off the ball. In this article, we’ll look at how workplace communications have changed over the past year, and how we can optimise remote working to prevent miscommunications for good.
What are the main communication barriers in the modern workplace?
Remote employees surveyed by Workplace Insight reported several key barriers to productive work from home, such as I) an over-reliance on emails and, II) inadequate or unclear communication with a lack of focus.
From these findings, we’ve identified three main communication barriers that can negatively affect virtual communications. They are – physical, emotional and language-based.
In today’s workplaces, physical barriers manifest in many ways – poor layouts, closed office doors, and now, socially distanced remote working. The mass migration to work-from-home has moved a number of physical barriers into the digital sphere, contributing to a rise in unproductive communication that could otherwise have been handled in person.
Emotional barriers typically manifest as insecurity and uncertainty. People are much less likely to reach out to colleagues via video or phone than they would be to make an impromptu trip to their desk. Why? Usually, for fear of disturbing one another. These fears are often unfounded, but it’s difficult to know when colleagues are busy or on a break when you’re not even in the same room. How often have you started a chat with a: ‘Sorry, is now a good time?’. Yeah – us too!
When communicating via email or text, it’s common to experience a few ‘lost in virtual translation’ moments. It can be hard (or even impossible) to deduce tone of voice through a computer screen, creating an environment ripe for misunderstandings and hurt feelings. In the same way reading a masked face can be difficult, written communications are frequently misread and misunderstood.
How have miscommunications affected the remote workplace?
Fierce Conversations and Quantum Workplace ran research on workplace miscommunications and found a number of worrying trends. Surveying more than 1,300 employees, they found that miscommunication is one of the driving forces behind lack of trust between colleagues, lower workplace satisfaction and reduced productivity.
More than 80% of respondents indicated that miscommunications occurred in their organization, yet only half admitted to being directly involved. Is it always someone else, or are we all falling into the same traps?
How can we improve communications to enhance workplace relationships?
Thankfully, there are several ways we can improve workplace communications – even when working remotely! Employee advocacy groups like Smarp have called for more engaging and personalized methods of communication to appeal to Millennials and Gen Z, who are projected to make up 75% of the US workforce by 2025. Moving from short-form, formal communications to a more personal tone of voice may just help to maintain employee satisfaction and maximize productivity for the next generation.
Secondly, companies should think about centralizing their communications in preparation for the long-term shift to remote and hybrid working. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic was so sudden that countless services sprung up at once to meet the overwhelming demand for communication tools. In the aftermath, the employees they once served have been left juggling conversations on e-mail, Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and beyond. Moving forward, companies should consolidate this web of communications and integrate their different streams into a single platform, with protocols in place to ensure communications stay clear and concise.
Maintaining strong workplace communications – even when working from home – is essential to make employees feel heard, understood and appreciated in their jobs. At Office Freedom, we help business owners create their perfect office spaces, offering in-person and online solutions to maintain healthy workplace relations even in these challenging times.
To read more of our blogs or receive personalized advice on creating your future-proof workplace, please visit our website!
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