The business landscape was one of the many elements of everyday life that was turned utterly upside down in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus forced nearly every member of the workforce to go remote for the foreseeable future. This unknowingly created a number of business communication issues.
Many workplaces that previously had strict policies in place regarding employees working from home had to forgo those previous rules. This put them in completely unknown territory, which meant that companies had to learn to communicate in a way they were previously not familiar with. In this article, we’ll go over some common business problems brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and how to solve them:
- Lack of Standardization
- Misinterpretation and Ambiguity
- Lack of Non-Verbal Cues in Written Communication
- Being Overly Connected
- Lack of Feedback
For the foreseeable future, in-person meetings are a thing of the past. Technology has given us a plethora of options for where those communications can go, but now the issue is what sort of communication should go where. You need to decide when and where you communicate about different topics. Lack of standardization can lead to communication silos and confusion amongst your employees. Overall, it will hurt your business’s day-to-day operations.
The best way to solve this problem is to standardize workplace communication processes for every channel. Create clear guidelines for what type of communications should go in which channels. For example, important tasks should be documented in an email to the appropriate team members.
Your interoffice instant messaging system, such as Slack, should be reserved for project-specific conversations and watercooler talk. Comments on client interactions should be reserved for your team’s customer relationship management solution.
Firmly standardizing internal communications will bring a plethora of advantages to your organization. For one, you’ll have a formal paper trail on all interactions. Need to check in on your direct report’s comments on their latest project? Check Slack. Looking to review necessary information before a client meeting? Take a look at your CRM.
Implementing standardization of your office’s internal communication will just generally keep things organized as well. If your team is spamming slack or email with anything from pertinent customer information to the latest meme trending on Twitter, people are likely to begin to ignore messages that come through. By outlining what kind of messages should go where, your employees will know exactly what to expect with every notification that comes through.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of in-person meetings is that the context and motivations behind words exchanged in conversations are usually fairly clear. That’s because people can ask follow-up clarifying questions at the moment if they need them. With written conversation, that opportunity is lost and miscommunication and communication breakdowns happen.
But since in-person communications have been severely limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, more people are opting for intranet communication channels like Slack and email to communicate with colleagues. It’s simply quicker and more efficient than needing to coordinate video or phone calls. But those on the receiving end of slack or email may not receive it in real-time. That can lead to some issues in communicating clearly and potentially difficult conversations.
The convenience of those channels is great for a busy employee but comes with a number of disadvantages. It’s easy to misinterpret someone’s thoughts through written communication. People may be too intimidated or lack the time to send a follow-up message and wait for a response. So this means that sometimes employees operate under an ambiguous or misunderstood idea of what their task is supposed to be.
The solution to this is simple — sit with an important message for a few moments before sending it to a colleague. It’s mutually beneficial to all parties involved to make sure that all organizational communications are clear. That’s especially important during the coronavirus pandemic, as people are working with different schedules across different timezones.
Sending vague and unclear messages to colleagues can set you back on important projects, as they may end up requiring additional follow-up. In order to avoid this, make sure to proofread messages, and potentially have a third party proofread as well if it’s appropriate.
Just as with unintentionally sending ambiguous messages, solely relying on written communications channels is bound to cause some communication issues. Without being able to leverage body cues, facial expression, or tone, it’s incredibly easy for communicators to misinterpret someone’s intentions. Lack of verbal cues can be especially confusing in conversations in which cultural differences are a factor. The friendliest person may come off differently in written conversation, which can be incredibly jarring to some people.
You can utilize multiple communication methods to ensure your message is being sent with the same tone you meant to convey. If you want to send a more light-hearted message, throw in an emoji or exclamation point. More businesses are beginning to leverage emojis as an innovative business communication tool. This will transform a message from stern-sounding to one that is positive and encouraging. It will save you from unintentionally forcing a colleague to wonder if you’re displeased with them.
Of course, you can always simply include what you’re trying to convey in the message in plain words. It’s one of the most straightforward ways to ensure the person you’re sending a message to knows exactly what you’re trying to say.
But the most effective way to avoid issues related to this is to jump on a video call. With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to ravage the globe, in-person meetings aren’t an option at the moment. Video conferences are the next best thing. They’re the best way to effectively collaborate with colleagues. Facial expressions and tone are clearly expressed on a video call.
As we previously reported, “87% of remote employees say they feel more connected and involved with teams and projects when using video conferencing.” Video calls undoubtedly boost the efficiency of business communications.
With nearly every member of the workforce working from home for the foreseeable future, the lines between office hours and employees’ personal lives have been blurred. It’s been regularly reported throughout the pandemic that an overwhelming majority of people are spending more time in the office, as it’s now located within their home. That means employees risk being overconnected.
The ability to so easily be overconnected leads to people overworking. With the flexibility offered by a work from home schedule, many people feel the pressure to be “on” all the time. That means that they may be sending messages in off-hours.
That can lead to people who previously had boundaries set to feel the pressure to do the same. Working far beyond normal business hours can lead to burnout, causing employees to underperform. This can ultimately negatively impact your business and your employee engagement will suffer as well.
The best way to avoid this from happening to your employees is by setting ground rules. Make it clear that no one is expected to work beyond their normal hours. Encourage employees to log off work devices once they’re done for the night — most messages can wait until the next day.
A great way to enforce this message is for upper management to follow these rules. Employees will be less likely to work after hours if they don’t see their supervisors doing the same things. Keeping your organization refreshed will ensure it operates to the best of its capabilities. It will overall promote healthy teamwork.
A healthy and thriving business needs to examine itself from all sides. If management doesn’t solicit feedback from its employees, interoffice employee communication will become ineffective. It needs to flow both ways in order to work in favor of your company. Gathering feedback from employees through methods like sending surveys shows how your employees are faring at the moment.
Feedback from your employees is important now more than ever. While the coronavirus pandemic has torn across the globe for the better part of a year now, different people have different reactions to it. Some people may only just be feeling the stress and anxiety of the situation now. Your employees’ reactions to the pandemic will constantly be evolving.
Regular feedback is the only way to get insight into how your employees are doing given the circumstances and what you can do to support them. This information can help you to get ahead of employees losing motivation to work hard.
Feedback also gives you insight into how management is doing as well. You may not be aware that something you’re doing isn’t working unless your employees inform you. Acting on that feedback and adjusting processes moving forward is the only way to improve your operations.
Conclusion: Good Communication Will Make for Happier Employees
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the face of the office for the foreseeable future. Working in an office environment may never be the same again. The fluid situation at hand means your company will constantly have to pivot to avoid major communication challenges. There will be bumps along the way, but taking the time to solve common communication issues that may arise.
Just because the face of your office looks different these days doesn’t mean that your remote workers can’t be happy. As we previously reported, 90% of remote employees want to continue to work a flexible schedule for the rest of their careers. By catering to your employees’ needs, you’ll make sure they’re happy, which will massively benefit your business in the long run.