Will working remotely change how we communicate?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the blog of Dave Wendland, VP, strategic relations at Hamacher Resource Group. The article first appeared on Forbes.com.
“Are you there?”
Whether you’re conducting an internal meeting with fellow remote employees or with clients in multiple locations, we have all been answering this for the past month as the shape of the workplace has continued to evolve and previously existing social and business norms have been replaced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(In actuality, this question typically occurs throughout the meeting as video or audio lags or connections are abruptly lost.)
If you’re like me, you’ve also been asked: “Are you remote?”, “How are you?”, “Can you hear me?”, “Are you scared?”, “Did you just sneeze?”, “Did you hear?”, “Can you share your screen?”, “Are you wearing pajamas?” etc.
On the positive side, I have discovered that with fewer distractions, conference calls are more pointed and productive than face-to-face meetings. Sentences are shorter and more concise. Pauses seem longer but often provide a much-needed break in the discussion, and action items are summarized more effectively. Seems to me that we have adopted a Twitter-like mentality, where fewer words become more meaningful.
It is my hypothesis that conciseness has become the new standard during turbulent times such as we are facing. With so much information to impart, getting to the point quickly and simply has become paramount. Not to mention there’s a likely reality that human attention spans have decreased. A Microsoft study from 2015 found people generally lose concentration after eight seconds, behind even goldfish (nine seconds).
Sometimes, when in the midst of a storm, it is difficult to see what calm will look like. There are many predicting the aftermath of COVID-19 and what changes will remain following such an event. I believe that one long-lasting outcome and workplace change affecting everyday business will involve many more remote workers and expanded video conferencing.
More business being conducted remotely will demand concise exchanges of ideas, more purposeful and intentional conversations, and outcomes and actions determined more quickly and decisively. The comfort of interacting from afar will become second nature and feel normal over time.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you find are the advantages and shortcomings of remote communications versus face-to-face? Are remote communications equally efficient or is face-to-face more important for business partners versus fellow employees?