Effective communication skills have always been critical in the workplace. As more companies move to hybrid or fully remote models, they’re adopting new communication applications and platforms to keep dispersed teams connected. But having more channels to connect with coworkers and customers creates new challenges for professionals who need to constantly shift across these contexts—especially because those channels don’t always talk to one another.
New research from Grammarly shows that professionals have changed the way they communicate due to the pandemic. Nearly a quarter consider their communication with executives and managers to have become more “professional.” This trend toward formality could be the result of fewer in-person interactions and less familiarity with new coworkers.
This may be further complicated by the need to present oneself to many different audiences over a variety of communications platforms. From Slack exchanges to email threads to texts, each context demands varying levels of formality and depth of engagement—and can ultimately feel overwhelming.
Here are a few tips to ensure that your colleagues can understand what you say in the way you intend, along with some methods for staying empathetic when the occasional misunderstanding happens.
Shifting contexts and audiences sometimes means shifting your tone, too. Imagine that you’re talking to a coworker over a chat platform, writing with a casual tone, and using emojis, when suddenly you get an urgent email from your manager in need of an immediate response. The same casual tone you just used with your colleague likely won’t translate well to your email.
Here are a few things to consider when you need to shift your tone:
Remember that we’re all in this together. If you find it challenging to communicate in a virtual workplace, other colleagues are likely navigating through similar challenges. Setting the right tone early can lead to more successful outcomes.
How you communicate is largely determined by who you’re communicating with, so it’s critical to consider your audience. Emails are great for formal memos, like company-wide updates, while a messaging platform among colleagues can help build community and encourage real-time communication in a casual context.
With the number of available communication platforms rising, here are some considerations for thinking about your audience:
Finally, remember that details like sentence structure, the clarity of your message, and even grammatical correctness can make a big difference in how communication is perceived by your reader.
Great communication at work is consistent, clear, and engaging—and ensures your voice and work come across as you intend.
Here are a few tips for maintaining consistency from message to message:
Remaining consistent will also help streamline your writing between contexts and ultimately save you time in the long run. And while shifting contexts may require you to adjust your initial tone based on your audience and the formality of the conversation, it’s important to maintain your style within the new context through the duration of the communication.
It can feel like a big task to navigate all these communication channels while managing the switch between personal and professional communication. But small adjustments to tailor communication to fit each context and suit each recipient can go a long way.
If you’re still stuck, consider finding a digital communications tool that can help remote teams across multiple channels capture the appropriate tone and remain consistent in communication. It might help you and your colleagues to better reach your respective audiences and be understood as intended.
Regardless of whether you’re in an office or still working remotely, perfecting how to context shift efficiently will lead to better communication results.
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