Let’s talk: the current state of workplace communications
We’re in a world of building almost all of our professional relationships through a screen, sometimes via video, but most times through the written word. We’ve gone from remote work being a novel idea to it permeating every facet of our business lives, bringing on tools like Slack, Teams, WeChat, and Zoom in a here-to-stay format rather than a temporary fix.
There are two paths to walk in our changing business world: reject this new reality and insist on business as usual (you must come into the office, never write to me, only call) or embrace it and figure out how to thrive. This series is going to be about embracing it because, honestly, the first path is doomed to fail.
Forbes reports that the percentage of people working from home is expected to double in 2021. Furthermore, a recent Gartner survey of CFOs revealed that 74% of respondents plan to make remote work permanent for some employees even after the COVID crisis ends. CNBC reports, “Vaccinated or not, more than half of employees said that, given the option, they would want to keep working from home even after the coronavirus crisis subsides.”
So, what risks do we need to consider now that we’re moving toward, at minimum, a hybrid in-office and work-from-anywhere environment?
4 New Risks For Workplace Communications
The trap many businesses and employees fall into is trying to fully recreate the physical office environment, digitally. The problem here is that when we’re leaning on IM and email, we lose tone and body language, which removes an enormous amount of context. Watercooler chats, what used to be innocent lamenting over lunch, and emotional outbursts are now happening in forums that can lack what in-person conversations once provided.
We must also consider how workplace communications tools are increasingly similar to social media apps that billions of people use daily (example: the email productivity app, Superhuman, which threads email conversations to look like text messages. It’s easy to forget it’s for work.) A quick sarcastic reply with emojis on Slack with a co-worker or boss feels as natural as the banter we’re engaging in with a good friend over text. Not to mention, these forums push people into operating with a sense of urgency, not taking time to think about what they’re writing, and then keeping those potentially damaging communications stored permanently. This poses a risk for employees, HR and compliance teams, and our overall experience of workplace culture.
While 2020 may have forced us to quickly adapt to digital communications, we’re now at a point where the risks are revealed and we need to find ways to address our communication with intention.
The four key digital communications risks that we’re seeing are:
Blurred language boundaries
Accounting for today’s cultural and political realities
The business cost of miscommunication
Risks and remedies for toxic digital workplaces
We’ll spend this series diving deep into each of these risks providing an overview of our new landscape, as well as suggestions for how to manage these risks in your workplace to uphold strong employee connections and healthy cultures, whether you’re in the office, fully remote, or a combination of the two.