Communication: What’s working in 2020?

- September 21, 2020 3 MIN READ

Business communications are undergoing a revolution, sparked by frustrations with technology and existing collaboration tools and accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. According to a Nextiva survey in early 2020, before the pandemic struck, 60 per cent of business professionals reported facing a communications crisis every month, writes James Ware, Senior Manager, Strategic Alliances, ANZ, Poly.

One in three businesses has lost a customer due to communication issues. 30 per cent have missed an important deadline. 10 per cent have lost a colleague or quit a job themselves over communication issues. And these figures have risen over the past few years despite more advanced technologies.

Why communication matters?

New communication mediums are changing the ways in which we communicate at work. These channels can greatly influence the quality of an organisation’s productivity and interpersonal exchanges. But voice is still king when it comes to resolving a complex issue or fixing a problem. A recent study found that over 75 per cent of respondents could not resolve their problem through self-service alone, and 98.5 per cent will call if their situation is serious or time-sensitive. We still need human touch.

With the acceleration in remote working as the result of the pandemic, that human touch can become all the more important. It’s technically possible for people to communicate solely through text-based platforms. But research shows that workers miss human contact. 80 per cent of Australian workers miss daily in-person interaction with their colleagues in an Asana survey. 71 per cent of employees in New Zealand prefer to have the camera on during video conferencing meetings according to the University of Otago.

Therefore it’s vital that workers – both remote and office-based – are given appropriate support, equipment and training to enable as rich interactions as possible. Particularly as we move to more complex hybrid environments, with a mix of remote and office-based workers, with some staff alternating between the two.

Different situations also call for different devices

Mobile and earbuds may be great while roaming, but a fully hands-free solution is more suitable at the desktop. Headset comfort and quality also become increasingly important the more hours a worker has to use them.

Conventional, professional-grade headphones with noise-cancelling technology are a much safer and more comfortable option than in-ear buds. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is often irreversible, but it’s also fully preventable with the correct use of audio equipment. As employers adapt workplace health and safety policies to accommodate increased hygiene standards and social distancing, safe audioconferencing guidelines should also be considered.

Likewise, there’s still a role for the “old fashioned” desk phone. These remain a valued tool for business users both in the office and while working from home. Many service providers report that users taken their device home to enable them to work more efficiently during the pandemic. Cloud device management also means that problems on a professional, desktop phone can be fixed more easily than trying to diagnose and resolve issues on personal mobile devices.

As lockdowns and remote working become our “normal”, we’re entering a phase in which companies are continuously experimenting with new ways of working and assessing what’s working and what’s not, including hybrid working. 74 per cent of CFOs interviewed by Gartner intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently and these staff will need special consideration to ensure they are able to fully participate.

What about communications tools?

That consideration needs to include whether the communications tools provided to employees are adequate and appropriate to keep them safely productive, engaged and effective. Businesses need to maintain open communication with individuals about which mediums are working for them and which are not. “Zoom fatigue” has become a real phenomenon in the pandemic, and some ways to combat it include higher quality video and audio, or even switching off video and just focusing on audio.

With many companies planning to permanently move staff to remote work even after the pandemic ends, deploying the best communications technology remains essential. With proper planning and equipment, communication doesn’t need to falter when employees are dispersed. By using the best combination of methods, whether videoconferencing, chat, email or phone calls, internal and external communication can be just as robust regardless of the location of your team.

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