The Importance of Face-To-Face Communication in the Digital Age
In this modern-day digital age, technology has changed the way we work and communicate. Colleagues can collaborate regardless of their location, employees can work from home, and leaders can get important messages out to staff efficiently. Yet despite the clear advantages of digital communication and telecommuting, there are many restrictions that still exist, and it would be a mistake to assume that face-to-face communication in the workplace could lose its worth. Like many other soft skills, communication can be undervalued in organisations because it’s difficult to measure, but its power in shaping business outcomes, company culture and staff engagement should not be underestimated. See below for the top benefits of face-to-face communication, and scenarios where digital should be the last choice.
Stronger working relationships
There is no doubt that if you’re not physically in the workplace, you keep yourself locked away in your office, or you choose email to communicate over phone and face-to-face interactions, you’re not going to be as connected with your colleagues as those who understand the importance of face time. A sense of community comes with the ability to interact and socialise, and this sets the foundation for trust, and ultimately better working relationships.
Perception of thoughts and feelings
Non-verbal cues are just as crucial when communicating as the words we say. Everything from body language and facial expressions to attentiveness and engagement can indicate different thoughts and feelings – each of which can only truly be observed through face-to-face communication.
Engagement and innovation
Face-to-face communication also helps to build collaborative environments that inspire and energise employees to participate in meetings, brainstorming sessions and more. These environments foster engagement and innovation, which is important for employee satisfaction as well as company culture and growth.
Addressing sensitive issues
When addressing sensitive issues, put down the phone, move away from the keyboard, and make the effort to engage in-person – it will be crucial to a successful outcome. Whether you are providing specific feedback to a staff member or addressing an issue with a colleague, much can be misinterpreted or lost when communicating via technology. Focus on your desired outcome and prepare by considering the mindset and possible reactions of the one you will be communicating with. This can help to turn a challenging conversation into a trust-building interaction.
Clear and concise communication
How many times has an email been misunderstood, misread or perceived by another party to be rude when that wasn’t the intention? Face-to-face conversations minimise the risk of miscommunication, promoting more effective communication practices in the workplace. Face-to-face communication is still possible while working from home, with a variety of different platforms allowing video and audio calls. This will negate misunderstanding and continue to build relationships.
Sometimes encouraging face-to-face interactions can be as simple as persuading others to walk down the corridor, or jump on a zoom call, rather than sending an email. The importance of real conversations, in real time and real rooms, should never be underestimated.
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What do you think?
Today’s technology makes communication faster and easier than ever before. But it shouldn’t be the only way we communicate. And for all our innovation, nothing can quite replace the impact of face-to-face communication. How has your organisation handled its face-to-face communications in the digital age? Comment your views below and join the conversation.
This article was written by Megan Baker and Jelena Milutinovic on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Mercola; Hays; Fast Company; The Grossman Group