Communication is probably the aspect that has suffered the most since the onset of the pandemic. With people being forced to work remotely, company communication has moved online. But not only business communication has undergone the change. With the harsh anti-pandemic measures and lockdowns worldwide, even families and friends have been communicating online.
Online Communication: Pros and Cons
The shift in communication trends has deeper impacts than it seemed at first. According to Tim Levine, Ph.D., chair and professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, says that a notable impact is that “the less contact we have with other people, the more we become suspicious of other people.”
“This can make others more defensive and lead to a vicious spiral where isolation leads to suspicion, which begets defensiveness, which reinforces the suspicion and leads to further isolation as a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Levine adds.
Jean Kim, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, says that there’s a form of social anxiety disorder called phone anxiety. “It’s characterized by people feeling fear in social situations; they have a flood of automatic negative thoughts and are self-critical,” Kim says.
Judging by these analyses, are we to conclude that the lack of social contacts will make us more fearful and isolated?
There must be some benefits to the trend, too.
For one thing, many people originally unaccustomed to communication technologies are getting better. Let’s face it — with the rapid development of the digital revolution, this can only be beneficial.
While many people have been involved in taking online courses effectively long before the pandemic, the necessity to do so (at least for a time period) has shown that even those who strongly preferred in-person instruction are receiving benefits from using the education technologies available to us today.
Add to that the fact that many people have just realized the benefits of remote work and that an increasing number of countries worldwide are now issuing freelance visas, and you’ll understand how important being tech-savvy truly is these days.
Of course, that isn’t to say that we should abandon social activities for good. A healthy mixture of both is the way to go about things.
The Onset of Video Calls
For many employees used to office meetings, the volume of video calls may be overwhelming at first. Note, however, that this is the regular way remote teams operate in normal circumstances, with daily briefings, weekly meetings and so on.
Further out, the lockdown has unearthed some new trends out of necessity. With the pandemic entering its second year, everyone is now one year older and has quite possibly hosted/attended at least one online birthday party.
How will this trend affect us in the future? Will we be able to go back to office meetings and live venue socialization in the same way?
Back to Regular Socialization: Challenges
That is the real question. With psychologists warning that a whole slew of “modern world” mental disorders and conditions are on the rise, is it likely that depression and anxiety will change the way we communicate at work?
Clinical Psychologist Ami Rokach thinks otherwise. “Since we are having more meaningful, deeper conversations, we feel more connected to the person we are speaking to,” he says.
And, as is always the case, there is such a thing called individualism. Different people have different takes on the situation, and it is only natural to expect that they will respond differently.
However, the chief challenge is getting communication back on track once the world goes back to its pre-pandemic state. How can online communication improve office communication?
It’s reasonable to expect that meetings will be shorter because online communication often drags on. Perhaps the current trend will help people stop beating around the bush, which, in the long run, can bring forth positive changes to the office.
Time is money for many people, so this is probably a good thing.
As mentioned above, the pandemic has somehow brought us closer, probably because empathy comes easily when we’re all in the same boat. How great it would be if we could always be like that!
Maybe this is possible after the pandemic. If there’s one thing we’re reconnected with, it’s solidarity. Should the trend persist after we’re back in the office, we may expect dramatic changes to the way we communicate.
Empowering Client Communication
Let us not forget that many businesses have made stellar profits during the pandemic by shifting to online sales. Just like we have all learned to communicate remotely, so have the customers learned the benefits of online shopping.
Now, there are already some analyses predicting that the trend will continue. This means that the online communication skills obtained during the pandemic can be used to boost client communication.
We’re not talking only about IM and calls, but also about social media and other online sales funnels tools. In fact, it has become somewhat of a practice to post questions online before buying anything. Emails, social media, video calls and so on, can be used to boost sales in the long run, easily.
Virtual communication is really just a part of a much bigger trend: “hanging out” online. Many people tend to waste enormous amounts of time browsing social media feedback and obsessively checking incoming emails. Add the rise of mobile phone users to the equation, and the trend becomes a huge issue.
Whatever happened to organizing your time?
Bottom line, self-discipline is crucial. By dedicating fixed time slots for online activities, we can optimize our time and performance. The same should be applied when we’re back at the office. It’s easy to turn off notifications and adjust the settings so that you’ll never miss an important message or call.
Social interactions used to be taken for granted before the pandemic, but the perception is now changing, and it’s affecting all of our activities. Whether we will become more anxious or more empathetic once we’re back to “normal” greatly depends on our life philosophy.
But, that’s just how things are. People are different, and the world is rapidly changing. Adapting is a matter of survival; hopefully, we’ll manage to get the best out of the practice.
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