Let's Fix Post-COVID Communication Shift

We analysed dozens of articles and our own coaching experience to uncover practices that can help to achieve those improvements.
Progressive leaders and recent researches understand the importance of fostering empathy within their teams and creating an environment that encourages valuable informal communication. It helps to boost shared productivity, has positive impact on a mental state of the team and helps to reduce costs on internal education. But the reality brings new challenges that makes creating this environment not an easy task.

Post-covid Communication Shift

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant changes to the way we work, including the shift to remote or hybrid work environments. While many people have enjoyed the benefits of working from home, the new normal has also brought new communication trends that can impact team productivity and engagement.

According to statistics in remote or partly remote teams the amount of communication has increased and its quality has taken a nosedive. With the disappearance of informal communication that often takes place in the office, it's easy for teams to lose touch with each other and miss out on the benefits of informal interactions.

What exactly has changed?

  • The increase in the amount of communication is a result of the need to keep everyone looped in. While this may seem helpful, it can be overwhelming for participants who need to constantly switch between different contexts. The frequency of meetings has also increased, which can lead to a decrease in the time spent on each meeting. This can result in meetings that lack substance and are less productive.
  • The quality of communication has also taken a nosedive. After the shift to remote work, the communication style has changed completely. But we usually approach it as if nothing happened, as if everything is the same as it was before. We almost exclusively engage in a scheduled meetings. In an on-line environment they demand a careful preparation due to decreased focus we have not being in the same room. This change can cause meetings to seem meaningless, boring, or excessive.

Why is the lack of informal communication dangerous for businesses?

Finally, one of the biggest reasons for the decrease in communication quality is the loss of coolers from our lives! Who would have known? We lost almost all elements of random, surprise, or informality from our communication within the teams. These small moments of informal interaction may seem insignificant, but they can have a major impact on team productivity and engagement. Surprisingly, those family stories you used to hear from your coworker might have influenced your productivity.

What exactly did we lost?

  • The decrease in informal communication led to an increase in isolation, which can cause anxiety, a decrease in productivity, and a higher risk of professional burnout. Virtual meetings can make us feel insignificant and lonely, and without small interactions in between work, we lose a significant social part of having coworkers. We do not see our coworkers as humans. Which can cause more interpersonal conflicts and forming of a more hostile work environment.
  • Furthermore, the absence of informal communication led to a decrease in informal education. After the shift to remote work, it turned out that many employees received significant informal education through informal connections. People shared their knowledge, answered questions when someone got to their desks, and gave their advice while overhearing someone discussing a problem they had on a previous project. All those benefits were lost when our communication got scripted by scheduled calls, emails, and Slack messages. Therefore, it now becomes necessary to spend more on formal education with similar or even poorer results.

How to Turn Things Around

If you agree that informality must be returned to our workflow, you might wonder about the best strategy to make it happen. It will be different for hybrid or fully remote teams. We will now share principles and instruments to implement in both scenarios.

Build empathy and trust:

The easiest way to build a friendly communication environment is to treat critiques nicely. If everyone sees that even opposite opinions are welcomed, feelings of safety and cooperation grow.

Don’t just let it be:

Now we can’t just let informal communication happen. It is necessary to create a new environment for it to build up.

Support informal leaders and bottom-up initiatives:

Don’t be afraid to share some credibility. If a person is already noticed by the rest of the team, let them take a part in bringing this team together, even if that won’t be your idea. By the way, any formal responsibility given to an informal opinion leader makes them much more involved in a management process and reduces the possibility of them being in strong opposition to your other management ideas.

Now here are some instruments that will help you to implement those principles in your team, whether it’s fully remote or hybrid.

Fully Remote

Since you do not have a physical space to get together, we suggest using various online solutions and practices to embrace informality.

1) Mood tracking

Many remote teams have a daily communication of sorts. You might text your plans to the chat or have a daily standup zoom meeting. Use a simple questionnaire to track the mood of the team. And leave a space for a short emotional explanation.

E.g.: Alex is stressed today. He has an important client meeting. He will text his colleagues: Stressed. This client meeting is getting me off.

If you have a large team, you might use tools like Kona to take it to the next level. With this instrument, you’ll be able to track the mood changes of your team and respond more quickly to extreme cases.

2) Scheduled informal meetings

It might sound counterintuitive but in a new reality informal communication should be sometimes scripted. We got two ideas for you.
a) Schedule a team coffee. Once a week or a month your team might get together with no agenda, no facilitator, and no dress code. Just get your coffee and a sandwich, get to the kitchen, and spend an hour chatting. The conversation is not kicking off? Don’t worry, let the silence be there for a moment, and then be surprised how it will develop after one person will suddenly break it. We’ve been there, trust us, it happens!

b) Schedule random coffee meetings – 30 minutes with a random person from the company is a nice way to emulate coffeehouse creativity where people randomly share ideas and feel connected. Since one 2 one communication might be a bit intimidating, you might create a couple of questions to kick off the talk.

You can use Slack integrations like Donut to automate this process for your company.
Gregory Balon, BEsmart Partner, Public Communications and Speaking Trainer
Gregory Balon
BEsmart Partner, Public Communications and Speaking Trainer

3) Play sessions, trivia, and edutainment

Having a structured activity is always a nice way of getting teammates to know each other. Being taken off the traditional work set up coworkers might express themselves more openly and establish a closer emotional connection. Nobody says you are a family now, god forbid. But lots of remote teams got together during the pandemic and operate as a bunch of strangers. That creates tons of problems.
You might build trivia about teammates or on an unrelated topic yourself using Kahoot. Or outsource it completely using MysteryTrip or similar software.

Another nice activity is edutainment programs. You might use services like Homa to order ready-made workshops on mindfulness, sports, and storytelling. Or contact us at BEsmart to organize a debate club or PowerPoint night for the team. That way you will also give your team a chance to know each other better, learning some useful skills in the process.
Gregory Balon, BEsmart Partner, Public Communications and Speaking Trainer
Gregory Balon
BEsmart Partner, Public Communications and Speaking Trainer


It still might be difficult to set up interactions while you are on a hybrid team. Though at least you get people talking in the office. And that is half of success. To make it even better you can try introducing those ideas to your team:

1) Mutual office days

If you have people coming in some time make sure to use this benefit. Let teams choose the exact dates for themselves but if teammates will be in the office at the same time it will boost productivity even if there will be no scheduled activities.

2) Pay more attention to meetings

You can learn facilitation techniques or ask an external consultant to help you set up more engaging and meaningful in-person meetings that will drive your employees to the office out of interest, not necessity.
The most fascinating meetings are usually the ones that are focused on solving a creative task. But a regular brainstorm will probably cheer up nobody. So try using some creative thinking framework to make this session something special.
Gregory Balon, BEsmart Partner, Public Communications and Speaking Trainer
Gregory Balon
BEsmart Partner, Public Communications and Speaking Trainer

Put Your Team First

No matter how good your ideas are, it’s always a bad idea to just force them into an application. Focus on what your team is agreeing with, listen carefully to their feedback, and be agile. It’s the only way to affect such a difficult matter as team communication.

And if you think to build a plan for enhancing your team’s communication or just want to check if you are doing all the right things to keep your team productive, set up a consultation with us and we’ll find out together.

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