Effective communication in the workplace is more important than ever. With the rise of distributed and remote workplaces, people must adapt to new ways of receiving and dispersing business-critical information.
There are advantages and disadvantages to a dispersed workforce; however, communication arises as one of the top challenges for employers today. The issue is much more complex than the lack of communication or too much of it.
We’re talking about effective communication in the workplace, but what does that even include in a virtual environment? Where does it take place, and how can leaders support it?
How to make sure you communicate effectively
In essence, effective team communication in the workplace means that thoughts, ideas, and data are exchanged in a clear way. The recipient of the message understands what the sender said.
But, it gets more complex than that in an online environment where casual conversations about work during a break don’t happen, and you cannot pop over to your colleague to ask a question and get an answer immediately.
Instead, there are a few questions to ask to achieve effective communication in a hybrid environment.
Is my message clear? What am I trying to say?
This seems simple, but it takes another meaning in a hybrid workplace.
Written communication in the form of asynchronous and instant messaging is great, but it’s also not rich in communication cues. You miss out on all the verbal signals you get when talking face-to-face.
For example, check twice before just posting a link in one of your company chat channels. Clarify why you believe that link is important.
Also, re-read your messages. Will the recipient, considering their previous knowledge and context, understand it? Double check!
Who needs to know and who can benefit from knowing?
When you learn a piece of information, for example, your product team has decided to develop a new feature that will help users in a certain position or industry.
It feels like the easiest thing to do is to just notify everybody. But that’s the perfect ground for overcrowding certain channels in a way that messages aren’t taken with the same weight in the future.
Instead, disperse the information to the people who absolutely need to know and whose work this could affect. Discuss how it could change the course of their work in the future. But also, don’t withhold this information from the rest of the team. Some might find it useful contextual knowledge — and they can learn about it in a team-wide meeting or similar event.
Are there takeaways from a meeting that needs to be shared with others?
If you feel like you’ve learned important information in a meeting, try to summarize what you’ve learned and share it with those who might find it helpful. Don’t just copy/paste the meeting recording and say “Hey, there’s something useful for you there”.
In a remote work environment, communication isn’t as easy as in a live workspace. We all need to think twice about what we’re saying, how we’re shaping our messages, and who needs to hear what.
Make it easier for your colleagues to digest information coming from you.
What does effective communication look like?
There is more than one way to effectively communicate in a dispersed workplace, even though it might seem like you use one of the channels most of the time.
What does effective communication include?
Everyday communication on chat apps
Grammarly’s research shows that time spent on written communication has grown 18% since last year. This includes mostly chat apps where you can communicate in direct messages, channels, threads, teams, and more.
Organizations should make their instant messaging apps a central hub of their communication. They’re easy to use, and their features make them especially useful in a remote environment.
Effective communication in the workplace includes effective top-down organizational communication. This means that the important information coming from leadership is effectively disseminated directly to employees or to managers and leaders who then report it to their team members.
In any case, this means that important top-down communication is consumed and understood by everyone, especially if there are action points following (for example, everybody needs to take an online security test by a certain date).
Effective workplace communication also includes successful bottom-top communication. In order to make decisions, leadership must know how employees are thinking.
After all, employees in direct communication with customers should be able to voice their concerns, suggestions, or opinions to their superiors. Effective upward communication is a good recipe for staying attuned to your market and customers.
Everybody needs to know where they stand — are they doing a good job and how can it be even better?
Frequent feedback is a cornerstone of effective communication in the workplace. When employees feel confident in their work, they’re more likely to be engaged. In fact, 69% of employees who receive feedback are more likely to do their work better.
Being engaged is a positive factor in any workplace since it can lead to improved business success overall. On the opposite, disengaged employees who don’t receive feedback are costing businesses millions of dollars every year.
Video conferencing is the next best thing to live meetings. Information can get exchanged much faster, you can easily get context, and you can connect with your coworkers on a different level while talking to them over video.
Video meetings can take many forms, from topic-based 1:1s to company-wide meetings. As such, they will have a different purpose and should take a different form.
Social interactions are responsible for building communication patterns among employees in the company. It’s easier to approach someone for help when you’ve already talked about your dog or that basketball game last Saturday.
In a dispersed workplace, it’s not easy to facilitate non-work communication. That’s why company or team retreats and channels on a group chat app dedicated to hobbies are important.
Team collaboration apps
Team collaboration apps, or in a more narrow sense, project management software, is a central place to organize everybody’s work and connect it to the broader company goals.
Even though it’s not the first thing you’d imagine when discussing communication per se, collaboration apps should entail an employee's clear KPI plan. In that way, employees can more easily track their work, as their managers can too. In that way, you have sort of a communal notebook of tasks you can go back to to discuss priorities, challenges, and other.
Benefits of optimized workplace communication
Why, after all, is it vital to improve workplace communication and make it more effective?
For a start, optimized workplace communication leads to more engagement. Disengaged employees' costs amount to an unbelievable $8.8 trillion in lost productivity, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report.
Let’s break it down:
First and foremost, optimized workplace communication means that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be working on and what should the outcome of their work be.
How many times did you have to double-check if you got something correct or scan through messages to learn what is expected of you?
Effective workplace communication should eliminate confusion and put everyone on the same page.
Knowing what you need to do and by when you should strive to do it propels your work. When you have all the data you need to do your work (or you know where you can get it), it creates a good starting point for improved productivity.
Again, putting everyone on the same page regarding tasks and responsibilities, which is done thanks to effective communication, helps to minimize workplace conflicts.
Healthy workplace and job satisfaction
The same Grammarly report we already quoted claims that 34% of employees said that poor communication decreases their job satisfaction. Indeed, when employees feel disconnected, unappreciated, and like their voice doesn’t matter, it leads to an unhealthy workplace atmosphere.
You’ve heard it many times before: business success starts with employees. In a world that never seems to stop, communication and collaboration are key to innovation, growth, and business success.
It doesn’t mean that every workplace that communicates effectively will be successful, but effective communication leads to increased productivity, engagement, goal alignment, and job satisfaction, which all in turn contribute to business success.
Start communicating effectively by using the right communication tools
Hybrid and dispersed workplaces call for effective yet secure communication channels across industries and organization sizes.
Rocket.Chat delivers both: designed with heavily regulated industries in mind, it allows employees in Government, Defense, and Healthcare to achieve effective collaboration between their employees and external collaborators. All this is done through secure communication channels that rely on encryption, on-premise hosting, and other security methods.
Make sure to reach out to our team to see how Rocket.Chat can help you optimize communication in your workplace.
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