What COVID-19 is Changing in Business Communication — And What Will Stay the Same
The day will come at some point in the next year when we start referring to COVID-19 in the past tense. The distribution of vaccines coupled with ongoing public health vigilance will give us the upper hand over the virus, and among other things, that means businesses will be able to resume their usual operations.
What we don’t know yet, however, is what COVID-19 will have changed permanently about how we communicate in business. Much has been made of this specific aspect of work, given how suddenly so many businesses had to transition to remote operations. But which changes will be permanent, and what will go back to normal remains to be seen. Here, we’ll take a few educated guesses.
What Will Change?
Prioritizing Social Contact
Naturally there are a lot of ongoing studies and academic discussions about how COVID may change our workplaces. And from a communication perspective, one of the most interesting ideas comes from the analysis of a psychologist and professor who predicts that “workplace friendships could flourish among colleagues who relied on each other during the pandemic and got to know each other on a more personal level.” This professor is suggesting that in businesses where people do return to physical workplaces, social contact will be a priority specifically because of how our social lives changed during the pandemic. The memory of isolation coupled with those strengthened virtual bonds may lead to more in-person socialization at work (and, as he also suggests, “fewer sad desk lunches”).
Messaging in Group Forums
Part of the transition to virtual offices, both in the contest of the pandemic and otherwise, has long involved finding the right communication tools for a given place of business. But moving forward, we expect to see a greater emphasis in particular on tools that facilitate group discussions (rather than just file sharing, one-on-one chat, etc.). Even if we successfully defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s widely expected that many will continue to work outside the office, at least intermittently. This makes it entirely necessary for companies to adopt and utilize reliable group communication tools. There won’t be a better way to ensure that employees remain on the same page.
Discussing Fluid Schedules
This is a smaller point, but discussion of schedules is about to become a much more essential and constant aspect of business communication also. As we just mentioned, some employees may well remain remote at least part of the time. It’s even been suggested that some offices may open only for a few days a week. Changes like these will make it important for there to be regular back-and-forth communication between employees and management about the fluidity of schedules. As an employee, it may well become normal to provide regular updates as to where and when you intend to be working.
What Will Stay as It Was?
Hiring of Communication Specialists
In recent years, the rapid expansion of online higher education geared towards communications has turned this into a growing field. The pursuit of an online bachelors in communication has become a popular endeavor among those seeking new professional qualifications. And this has specifically been because of existing work demand, with both job opportunities and salaries in communications on the rise. This is one pre-pandemic workplace change that e absolutely expect to continue, if not intensify. Because of everything we’ve experienced in 2020, the need for hired specialists to oversee communications, handle marketing and public relations, and so on is greater than ever before. Businesses will hire accordingly.
Emphasizing Web Chat
Another change we were beginning to see in the years before the pandemic was growing reliance on live web chat services. This has occurred for a few reasons, including the expanding importance of online retail and the growing understanding of the insights and benefits that can stem from customer interaction. And these factors are all the more important now. It’s widely expected that consumers will continue to demonstrate a preference for interacting with businesses online. Meanwhile, businesses will be looking for more and better ways to take advantage of consumer insights as they seek to rebound from COVID. Thus, the movement toward web chatting services will continue uninterrupted.
Employing Social Media
The importance of social media for marketing and consumer interaction has been evident for years now. But this is one more communications-related aspect of modern business that will essentially be unchanged post-COVID. The need to reach out and engage with consumers via social media has never been clearer, and savvy businesses will look to make use of this option to build their operations back up. In short, social media will continue to be one of the most effective and important ways of communicating with past and potential customers.
Among the changes and constants we can predict at this point, these are the ones that look clearest.