As the COVID-19 pandemic began affecting lives everywhere just over a year ago, many businesses quickly shifted to remote work models. Soon more Americans were working away from an office than ever before. As time has passed, new habits and preferences have emerged, and the result is clear: The way people communicate at work has fundamentally changed.
At Grammarly, we know that communication is complex, especially at work. The complexity only deepens as professional communication happens more and more over digital channels. Boundaries have also blurred during our new remote work reality: People have invited colleagues into their personal spaces and shared glimpses of their lives through the lens of video conferences.
To better understand the impact of these changes, Grammarly explored the nuanced ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has changed workplace communication. By analyzing aggregate data from a survey of 1,000 currently employed US professionals between the ages of 18 and 65, we looked at how workers stay connected and how their relationship with workplace communication has shifted.
Here’s what we found out.
The pandemic fundamentally changed how people communicate—even as staying connected depended on people communicating.
Nearly half of the professionals we heard from agree that the pandemic changed the way they communicate. With 45% noting they are interacting face-to-face with colleagues less now than before the pandemic, it’s not surprising that they’re finding it challenging to stay connected in the virtual workplace. Still, an overwhelming majority agree that communication is the best way to connect with other people.
Professionals now are using communication technology—including more digital channels—more than before the pandemic.
With less happenstance face-to-face communication taking place during remote workdays, people are relying more on deliberate forms of communication technology than when they were more likely to see people casually around an office.
Professionals have shifted away from sharing personal information while remote—but miss informal conversation.
Over 40% of professionals say that they share less personal information with coworkers, and nearly a quarter of them consider their communication with executives and managers to be more “professional.”
This may be an outcome of the large-scale shift to digital communication channels, particularly text-heavy ones such as email or messaging services. Asynchronous forms of communication don’t always accommodate the physical cues (such as facial expressions or body language) that tend to soften in-person conversations, even tough ones that happen in professional contexts. Unlike face-to-face interactions, writing forces people to be mindful of the appropriate tone of their communication—including the level of formality.
Perhaps this is why over half of professionals we heard from believe in the importance of casual workplace communication.
Workplace communication has always been complex and challenging—even before so many workers had to work remotely. As professionals have been forced to reconcile work responsibilities with life at home, some boundaries collapsed while others rose. People switch communication contexts and channels rapidly while staying in the same place. There is far less casual, interpersonal conversation and far more focused professional communication over digital channels.
What does this amount to? Communication at work has never felt tougher.
As society navigates the latter phases of the pandemic—and as workplaces continue to evolve into new models—professionals must find the support they need to feel confident in how they communicate with colleagues and customers. Building relationships and achieving goals depend on it.
Grammarly’s writing assistant can help. With AI-powered feedback that helps with correctness, clarity, engagement, and delivery, you can write with confidence and feel secure that your audience will understand your emails, messages, and documents just the way you intend. Grammarly supports you in being effective whenever you communicate, so you can focus on conveying your ideas anywhere you write—no matter whether it’s from your kitchen table or back in an office.