Why Face-To-Face Communication is Still Important in the Digital Age
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic and developments in technology have radically transformed the ways 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 still limitations, and it would be a mistake to assume that face-to-face communication in the workplace is no longer important.
The benefits of face-to-face communication in the workplace
Like many other soft skills, communication can be undervalued in organisations because it iss difficult to measure. However, 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
Despite the prevalence of Zoom meetings and communications tools like Slack, by now it is very clear that workers who are not physically present the workplace are not as connected with their colleagues as those who understand the importance of face time.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re working from home, or you keep yourself locked away in your office, or you choose email to communicate over phone and face-to-face interactions, the lack of face time could leave you at a disadvantage compared to your peers who are physically present.. What’s more, a sense of community comes with the ability to interact and socialise, and this sets the foundation for trust, and ultimately better working relationships.
Better emotional intelligence
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. Particularly for anyone who wants to build a high-performing and engaged team, being able to understand the emotional contexts and dynamics at play is a valuable skill.
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. Making the effort to engage in-person 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, potentially negative conversation into a trust-building and positive 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.
Create opportunities for positive face-to-face communication
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.
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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This article was written by 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; Fast Company; The Grossman Group