Informal Communication Matters.
Virtual back to back meetings are now common place – ALL day long for some.
Most virtual meetings are formal communication and about pressing business matters. Folks log off one Zoom call and go directly to the next – not a minute to spare.
That could be seen as a result – if the objective is to do as much formal communication as possible.
But is all productivity founded in formal communication? No, of course it isn’t. We all know that.
What about the productive time in the (actual) office we used to have – between meetings. Normally, nobody went directly from one meeting to the next – like we now do in the virtual world.
We’d finish our meeting and hang out, often with the same colleagues that were in the last meeting. Chat over a cup of tea and reflect on what had just passed, in an informal, intuitive way, or just shoot the breeze, creating those informal connections and friendships. There is no room for friendship in a back to back meeting virtual world – (and most of us enjoy work so we can socialize with like minded people around a bigger Team goal right?).
Those conversations that we ‘used to have’ at the water cooler, in the tea room, or, even after work with a quick drink before heading home. For the moment those opportunities are sorely missing.
Informal communication is essential casual communication between coworkers in the workplace. It’s unofficial in nature and based on social relationships that are formed in a workplace – outside of the normal hierarchy of business. Its the soft glue that holds the hard stuff together one could say.
Informal communication is casual and liberating, we can pick up subtle cues about others and situations in this relaxed setting. Formal communication, whilst essential can seem cold and distant. However, both these types of communication are important for the workplace, but informal communication is extra beneficial because it can bridge gaps between departments and create a sense of belonging. Informal communication is friendly and engaging and is a great sign that someone has friends, not just colleagues in the company.
Informal communication is also an advantage to business because if employees have friends to communicate with they will enjoy their job more, which increases productivity.
(Caveat incoming! There is always a dark side… Unofficial or unconfirmed information can by spread by employees, leading to mass disinformation). If there is a gap – folks will fill it!
Finally, a great benefit to informal communication is that employees have someone to go to when they don’t understand an aspect of the business. It is a great way for employees to feel connected and to keep abreast with how the business works, its cultural norms.
Still being in a heavily imbalanced virtual world we need to consider how we build informal communications into our work days.
Step one is certainly breaking free from the back to back formal meeting mode. Step 2 is exploring possibilities and messaging the value of informal dialogue.
This has been a public service announcement on behalf of lonely and brain fried extroverts 😉