The pandemic and moving the job home for many of the employees has led to a change in the way communication is done during working hours. From the face-to-face communication that was basic in companies before the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a shift to predominantly virtual (online) communication. Online conference systems, online instant messaging services, the telephone have replaced traditional dialogues and meetings. What are the consequences of these changes on the way we work and communicate at work and how can we adapt to do as well online as in face-to-face reality – we find out through the answers from our colleague, Ciprian Bălan, Project Manager.
What are the main consequences (positive or negative) of the transition from direct to online communication?
Ciprian Bălan: Online communication can be a real challenge. Compared to our customers, we did not feel that many things changed. The adaptation had to occur in relation to our colleagues and teams. Because we can no longer benefit from direct communication, now the language seems simpler, more direct, and faster. It has become even easier to send messages, as virtual communication can be maintained and stopped much more easily.
Were people prepared for such a change?
Ciprian Bălan: I don’t feel that anyone was really, totally prepared. But we understood the situation and we adapted. I think that, after the first 2 weeks, which seemed more difficult to me, the world adjusted to this “new normal”.
What would be the main advantages / disadvantages of online communication versus face-to-face communication?
Ciprian Bălan: There were moments, in the past, when I did not imagine that the impact will be so strong, but I miss the direct interaction. Because we use online communication means, I think the most difficult thing is that we can no longer use non-verbal language. And the face-to-face group discussions seemed more productive. As positive consequences, I would mention the fact that now everything is more comfortable, and you have the advantage of creating your own space that has become an office.
How could online communication skills be improved? (tips & tricks)
Ciprian Bălan: With the loss of the advantages of face-to-face communication, I think that special importance should be given to avoiding misunderstandings. The interlocutors cannot see if we smile or nod, so it is important to give a confirmation of the understanding of the messages and to make them not feel ignored or discouraged from actively participating in the discussions. I also encourage the use of emoticons and emojis to reinforce certain messages or states.
How can the reduction of non-verbal communication elements, which, in ordinary communication, have an important role in “reading” the other, be categorized?
Ciprian Bălan: I see it as a small disadvantage. That’s why I use video calls as much as possible in online interactions as a way to streamline interpersonal relationships.
Does the work context (working from home) influence the way we currently communicate at work?
Ciprian Bălan: I consider that, inevitably, things have changed. Messages are now conveyed in a simpler, clearer, more concise way. At the same time, when working from home, I noticed a tendency to write more messages that are not necessarily related to the topic of discussion. It probably has to do with our need to socialize in these conditions of distancing.
After the crisis, will the way we communicate in the office change?
Ciprian Bălan: I think that the transition from work from home to office work and vice versa requires accommodation and is not necessarily an easy transition. Once we return to the office, we will probably look to keep this trend of using mainly instant media (Skype, Teams) to the detriment of email. At the office, it is easier to feel that you are aware of everything that is happening just because you are there, surrounded by colleagues, superiors. And because work from home will probably become more and more used, we will probably learn to adapt to a way of working that satisfies both situations: work from home and from the office.