How to Maintain a Human Connection in a Digital Workplace

Chat courtesy 101, selective pinging, strategic emailing — these workplace communication strategies can help you learn how to human at work.

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Group of coworkers talking

The rise of the digital workplace has made the modern workforce more connected than ever before. But are you truly forging a real, human connection with your colleagues, or simply shooting off an endless series of pings, messages, and emails?

Constant communication does not necessarily equal quality communication.

Ask yourself this. How many times have you pinged a person that was sitting right next to you? How often have you seen half the office take a group conference call from their desks, when there was an open conference room available?

In order to truly communicate your vision and ideas effectively, it’s important to learn how to combine the transformative nature of technology with the power of face-to-face interaction. Learning the secret to balancing the two will help you build the ultimate digitally connected, yet still very human, workplace.

Here’s how to maintain that necessary element of genuine human connection in today’s ever ubiquitous digital workplace.

1) Common Chat Courtesy

Maybe you’ve seen it happen. Maybe you’ve been a victim. Maybe you’re guilty of it yourself. A group chat is not the time or place to call out another co-worker’s mistake. If you happen to notice a typo, a calculation error, or an incorrect date somewhere, don’t broadcast it in a public forum.

Instead, send the person a private message (or better yet give them a call) and let them know what you’ve found. Everybody makes mistakes. There’s no need for public shaming that could come back to haunt you later on down the road.

2) Practice Selective Pinging

We’ve all done it. Pinged someone that was sitting right next to us. Shot off a message about an important issue that really should have been communicated over a phone call. Just because you have the ability to ping your co-workers anytime, anywhere, doesn’t mean that you should.

In order to prevent misunderstandings and ultimately streamline communication between you and your co-workers, try to speak with your colleagues in-person whenever possible. While it’s tempting to go on a ping-happy spree every time you have a new idea you’re excited about, taking this extra step can actually save you time later on.

3) Know Your Colleagues’ Preferred Communication Channels

Want better response times from your co-workers? Get to know their preferred communication channels.

For example, the Millennials in the office might live completely inside their employee app, and they are perfectly content to chat the livelong day away.

On the other hand, other people might be email-only all the way, and if you send them a chat message, you’ll probably never hear back because well, they don’t check their chat notifications. Ever.

Then there are those colleagues who actually prefer face-to-face conversations over digital communication. They’re the ones who hang around the office kitchenette on Monday mornings trying to snatch five minutes of conversation with whoever wanders in for a cup of coffee. Give these folks the social stimulation they crave by setting some time aside on their calendar for a sync every now and then.

4) Discuss New Ideas and Initiatives in Person

To really convey a new concept, idea, or an action item to someone, try to do so face to face. If you’re limited by geography, then at the very least hop on a brief video call.

Complex topics are better discussed face to face, where there’s less room to misinterpret someone’s tone, or misunderstand what you’re supposed to do. Each year, companies lose $37 billion just from miscommunication in the workplace. Don’t waste time and money planning projects in an endless series of email chains. Just hop in an open conference room and hash it out.

When to Use Digital Communication in the Workplace

Digital communication should still be a major part of your workplace communication strategy, and learning the right time and place to use it will serve you well in the long run. Here are just a few ways you can leverage the power of a digital workplace in your daily work life.

Establish a Closer Connection with Your Team

Having a digital workplace can help reinforce the ties you have to the people you work with every day. While the foundation of your relationship with your co-workers will likely be built through face-to-face interactions, digital communication channels play an important role in workplace collaboration. Having a quick, easy way to touch base with your team can help reduce the number of meetings you have each week, prevent misunderstandings, and create accountability around deliverables.

Connect with Colleagues in Other Departments — and Cities

A digital workplace is also a great way to get to know colleagues you would normally never work directly with. Maybe you share the same taste in reality TV shows with a remote employee. Or perhaps a co-worker in another department has the same love for spicy Indian food as you do. You’ll never know unless you reach out and get to know your co-workers outside of your immediate world.

A digital workplace is the perfect, low stakes way to casually reach out and say “hi there” to someone in the office you wouldn’t normally get a chance to interact with.

Here are some ideal situations in which to use digital communication channels in the workplace.

  • Follow up with someone on a task
  • Send out a reminder
  • Automate employee recognition like Happy Birthday posts or company anniversary celebrations
  • Anonymous employee surveys
  • Ask a quick question
  • Top-down communication like company-wide announcements

Effective Communication Can Catapult Your Career

Practicing solid communication in the workplace is more than just a soft skill that you can pick up by watching a webinar. Truly effective communicators are able to get people to unite behind their ideas, and affect real change within their organizations. Great leadership requires highly orchestrated, strategic communication initiatives.

It’s important to remember that while the digital workplace has connected us like never before, never underestimate the power of a quick in-person conversation. When it comes to effective communication in the workplace, it’s all about finding the right balance.

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