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Communication and Technology in the Workplace
by Kristen Hohman, Kim DeRose | Thursday, Feb 20, 2020 | Remote Work
Working remotely may sound like a dream to some employees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 26 million Americans (16% of the total workforce) now work remotely at least part of the time, an increase of 115% between 2005 and 2015. At Boxboat, we’ve embraced the digital life, with a remote-first approach to both our internal team and as a service provider.
But while remote work can benefit both employers and employees, it’s not without its challenges. Working remotely can make unplugging from work at a reasonable hour difficult, along with negatively impacting how employees communicate and collaborate with one another.
For a closer look at communication and technology in the workplace, we surveyed over 1,000 employees across the U.S. Continue reading as we uncover the most common forms of workplace communication, which employees prefer most, and what it’s like to work with remote employees and vendors.
Establishing effective communication is crucial to workplace success. In fact, building a strong culture of communication can help avoid conflict, cultivate collaboration and trust, provide opportunities for feedback, and reduce staff turnover.
Employees were most likely to utilize in-person communication (91%), emails (nearly 88%), and phone calls (around 84%). However, more than 2 in 5 employees used online video call services and company chat applications, but fewer engaged with work management software (almost 19%).
Overall, 42% of employees preferred in-person communication, followed by emails (35%) and company chat apps (9%). While slightly more fully remote workers preferred to communicate via email, nearly 1 in 3 of these same respondents preferred in-person communication. Despite being less prevalent, 22% of employees using a company chat application cited it as their preferred means of workplace communication.
Diversifying Your Tools
Like any good tool, communication can be an effective piece of equipment in the workplace. From co-workers to clients, communication can increase productivity by creating channels for staying organized, presenting new ideas, and encouraging conversations and collaboration.
Around 90% of employees who deemed themselves productive used collaborative software like Slack or CRM systems, phone calls, emails, in-person communication, online video call services, and company chatting applications.
Still, utilizing so much technology in day-to-day communication can impact more than just the job at hand. Sixty-two percent of employees indicated that digital communication increased their social life at work (including almost 68% of those in fully remote positions). However, 1 in 4 acknowledged that using technology to communicate decreased their social life at work, a phenomenon more common among those with in-office jobs (nearly 31%).
Communication’s Effect on Workplace Culture
Remote teams may have a disadvantage when it comes to workplace culture, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to foster the same kinds of relationships and collaborative environment online. Experts say the most important ingredient is effective and constant communication.
Seventy-seven percent of remote employees said they feel connected to their workplace, and the communication tools available to them may have a positive impact on their networking. Roughly 4 in 5 remote employees had six methods of communication at their disposal, ranging from work management software to phone calls, emails, and company chat applications.
For remote employees engaging with their co-workers at the office, 38% acknowledged communicating with their teams daily, followed by 30% who communicated with the office several times a week. Just 1 in 3 remote employees had more sporadic communication with their in-office counterparts, ranging from a couple of times a month (17%) to a couple of times a year (8%). As we found, remote employees who engaged with in-office colleagues daily (88%) or weekly (nearly 77%) were more likely to feel connected to their jobs.
Making an Effort
The most common form of communication with remote employees by in-office teams was email (83.9%), followed by phone calls (73%) and video call services (48%).
Half of in-office employees said they view their remote co-workers the same as a nonremote colleague, while more than 1 in 3 didn’t know all of the remote employees hired by their company. Meanwhile, roughly 1 in 4 senior-level or executive employees believed remote employees work less than they do, and another 17% saw the quality of their work as lesser.
Preference on Performance
Perhaps as a result of communication challenges or biases toward work quality, 40% of employees would prefer to work with vendors or contractors at their physical location, while 37% said it doesn’t make a difference.
Among those working in office, less than half (43%) preferred to work with vendors or contractors at a physical location. Less than 17% of employees overall preferred to work with remote vendors or contractors, including around 34% of those working remotely themselves.
Among the 56% of employees who had experience working with remote vendors or contractors, more than half didn’t notice a difference in the quality of their work or communication, although about 22% said remote vendors provided a better working experience, while another 19% said it was worse.
Interestingly, 45% said remote vendors or contractors provided greater flexibility, followed by easier communication (nearly 37%), and cheaper prices (about 26%).
Meeting the Future
Remote employment has quickly become the future of the American workforce. Creating a more flexible work environment may have a positive impact on work-life balance, but it isn’t without its own struggles. As we found, those working remotely were more likely to employ multiple methods of technology to stay in touch with their teams compared to in-office employees, even among those collaborating with remote vendors or co-workers. In some cases, in-office staff had a negative perception of their remote counterparts, believing they worked less or not as hard.
At BoxBoat, we believe that fully remote culture is advantageous and equitable. We know that with the right tools in place, your business can thrive in any environment. Technology is changing the business landscape, and we’ve got your back every step of the way. With modern solutions for building applications, cloud consulting, enterprise strategy, and Kubernetes adoption, we’ll help you engage and implement new strategies with expert support. Learn more by visiting us at BoxBoat.com today.
Methodology and Limitations
For this project, we surveyed 1,005 employees across the U.S. on digital communication in the workplace. 853 had worked with remote co-workers, and 367 worked either partially or fully remote. 565 respondents had worked with remote vendors or contractors. 481 respondents identified as women, 521 identified as men, and two respondents identified as nonbinary. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 76 with an average age of 37 and a standard deviation of 10.8.
These data are survey-based and depend on the self-reported recollections of respondents regarding their everyday life. Limitations with such data include telescoping, selective memory, and exaggeration. We did not statistically test our data, and our campaign is exploratory. The data were not weighted.
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