Let’s Meet – Don’t Shy Away!

‘Hi, can we discuss face-to-face?’

Upon hearing the request to discuss work assignments in person, Maria started becoming anxious. She would rather communicate via online platforms – Zoom, Discord, and Teams.

Working from home during the pandemic has made Maria more technology-savvy but completely disengaged from physical human interactions. Just like Maria, many may find it rather difficult to socialise and engage in face-to-face communication post-pandemic.

So, what is communication? Communication is beyond languages. It is a combination of verbal and non-verbal messages that one is trying to convey.

So, what has changed in these two years? The way people communicate has changed drastically. There is no longer the need to meet in person to exchange ideas. With the help of technology, one can now meet online thanks to the many online applications or tools that have mushroomed during the pandemic.  

Even with these changes, people should meet face-to-face rather than just online. Online communication should complement face-to-face communication when the need arises where one is enabled to observe the nonverbal cues, facial expressions, and body language.

Making Video Meets Work

But how then does one do better in remote settings?

In the endemic phase, many companies shifted to hybrid and remote operations. According to Gallup researchers, S.Lydia and W.Ben (2021), 91% of employees said they want to keep working remotely for some time. One can safely say that working remotely or working from home is surely here to stay.

Communicating with video technology is seen as beneficial rather than damaging as it has reinvented the way people communicate and create a whole new world of connections worldwide.

Video communication engages better than just audio communication and keeps everyone knitted and connected. These online meetings can also include lunches and tea breaks virtually which allows for casual talks and catching up with colleagues which replaces cafeteria and corridor chats of the past.

Besides, it promotes better understanding and reduces miscommunication and misconceptions rather as compared to e-mails.

Interestingly, a survey conducted by project.co on communication statistics in 2020 indicated that 63% of people have missed important information that has been stuck in an absent colleague’s inbox.

They suggested that email or audio calls are less reliable which could lead to miscommunication and loss of information. Thus, the best way to resolve a conflict and reduce misunderstanding is to have face-to-face communication.

If speed is a concern, face-to-face communication can provide a quicker and more efficient solution with regards to issues related to work that would normally take hours of communicating and resolving via email which could hamper the productivity of employees.

As an example of a scenario, while replying to an urgent email, a ping in the inbox indicating the arrival of a new email can distract one’s attention. As much as one would want to stay focused, it is hard to resist the temptation of opening a new email especially when the sender of the email is known. This leads to a loss of focus on the earlier email (B.Meredith, 2022).

Sometimes, the tone and intonation in written form cannot persuade and convince someone. Face-to-face communication allows one to assess their reactions through visible nonverbal cues and obtain feedback.

To create a sense of belonging in a community, frequent face-to-face communication empowers teams with the feeling of being heard. The more one interacts with someone, the more it enhances engagement. This eventually encourages them to speak without fear in any kind of setting.

Therefore, this empowerment leads to building trust with teams. Trust is the most crucial component when it comes to teamwork and face-to-face communication is just about promoting togetherness.

To conclude, listening is a crucial skill that requires observation of nonverbal cues coupled with the arts of giving constructive feedback in any form of face-to-face communication, be it physical or online. Hence, the radical change in communication and working to foster a meaningful relationship among members of the team should be embraced. 

 

Dr Padma Pillai
School of Arts
Email: padmap@sunway.edu.my

 

This article was first published in Business Today on 16 July 2022.