Last year changed the world forever, revolutionizing the ways in which we communicate with one another. Through countless crises including a volatile election year, social unrest due to racial injustice and the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals want to be heard, seen and reassured now more than any time in recent history.
In response to these needs, there has been a transition in the business world toward more empathetic, genuine workstyles and communication standards. The result: a new, relaxed perception of professionalism.
In the months since COVID-19 hit North America, business leaders and organizations have struggled to preserve work culture and productivity through heightened uncertainty. Previously held beliefs that informality and productivity in the workplace were mutually exclusive are now dissolved. Redefining professionalism is a healthy and necessary response to recent turmoil.
Professionalism is not solely encompassed in how we conduct business. Now, more than ever, we must take a deeper look at why we are working to deliver value to those we serve and let that mission drive strategy and communication. As we begin a new year, it is important to understand how this new age of organizational communication has and will continue to affect professional communities.
The most important thing, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, is ensuring that communication tactics are people-centric and true to not only one’s personal goals but also to professional and organizational values. The best way to portray one’s goals and oneself is authentically.
“In times of crisis, in great change, you have to focus on authenticity,” said Derek Pando, Zoom Video Communications head of international and partner marketing. “There’s a lot of me-too marketing that happens in difficult times. People try to jump on to the bandwagon. Participating in broader trends is totally OK, but you need to do [it] your way, which is [being] true to yourself, relevant and [providing] something different and unique. Otherwise, it’s going to fall flat and be boring.”
Remember that there is a human being behind the screen – someone who, like you, has personal and professional goals. The new limits imposed as a necessary reaction to the pandemic seem to leave little room for building human relationships. Remote or virtual working can make it easy to forget that there is still an aspect of social interaction behind every email, Zoom call, and teleconference.
Forming meaningful authentic virtual connections is vital to professional success. To do so, one must remember to appeal to a person’s basic human nature, which can be as simple as showing understanding for the complicated times we are in and offering support in any way. As we reassess our professional communication, our apparoach must reflect “real people get real results.”
Effective and meaningful communication would not be possible if not for the accelerated advancements in workplace technology. Symphony Communication Services Workplace Confidential Survey, which polled over 1,500 workers in the U.S. and U.K., examined the growth of new collaboration tools and platforms entering the workplace. “The way we work is changing,” states Jonathan Christensen, Chief Experience Officer at Symphony. “Collaboration platforms and other innovations bring positive improvements that enable more flexibility and better work-life balance.”
Technology in the workplace has become an integral part of day-to-day operations and has played a key role in normalizing informal communication. Applications like Zoom and Skype allow for even a small resemblance to face-to-face meetings. In-person conference meetings and a “straight to business” attitude are fading.
Now, video calls give us a glimpse into another person’s reality that previously remained sheltered. Remember the BBC dad? Not only is it now acceptable, but it is encouraged to acknowledge what is going on in people’s lives outside of work.
Emails and instant messaging allow for almost constant feedback and availability, breaking down socially constructed barriers of typical working hours and appropriate amounts of communication. Encouraging constant internal and external communication allows all parties to feel acknowledged, engaged, and prioritized.
2020 gave way to a great transition in how business is conducted, but it also gave us a gift that we can carry well into 2021: the freedom to shift away from stiff and flat communication and move toward a more humanized approach.
Victoria Evans is an Account Coordinator at Flackable, an award-winning public relations agency representing financial and professional services brands nationwide. To learn more about Flackable, please visit flackable.com. Follow Victoria on Twitter at @vlevans101.