Changing dynamics of communication in a virtual workplace


Man is a social animal who identified the need for communication and developed languages. Communication is integral to our daily lives and is used to express, share, inform, exchange or describe thoughts, information, and emotions.

Communication at home, in a public place, or the office, is different. This difference is due to the environment, the relationship we share with the person we are communicating with, the appropriateness of the place, etc. 

A few questions such as who, why, what, where, and how are crucial in communication.

  • Who is the person – our manager, colleague, junior, or office help
  • Why is the reason or purpose of communication
  • What focuses on what we wish to convey to the concerned person
  • Where shows the place – a meeting, personal interview, a virtual call, in a seminar or conference, on stage, or a brainstorming session
  • How refers to the tone, volume, pitch, formality, sentence structure, etc.

Forms of communication are verbal and non-verbal. Verbal communication refers to the words we speak to express ourselves. Non-verbal, on the other hand, refers to physical cues such as gestures, eye contact, posture, and facial expressions.

The communication process is conveying an encoded message by the sender to the receiver, who decodes it to understand its meaning. 

During the pandemic, when in-person interaction was a privilege, virtual conversation was what connected the world. Virtual offices were a matter of ingenuity for many, and yet the world successfully adapted to the new normal. 

Virtual offices gained popularity during the pandemic, but many companies around the globe have decided to retain the office set or develop a hybrid model. A virtual office benefits the organization by saving its overhead costs, increasing productivity, and convenience, saving time of daily commute, and increasing work-life balance. Thus, leading to employee satisfaction and retention.

In the online mode, the daily coordination between teams, managers, and clients are heavily dependent on software like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Outlook, and Skype.

The advantages of the online work mode are- 

  • Quick interaction – Conducting meetings, interviews, follow-ups, and even sale pitches became faster and easier due to virtual tools & software. 
  • Software – Due to advancements in the virtual videoconference tools that provide many features to enhance the experience. Tools such as AI chatbots that record the chats, whiteboards, scheduling meetings through calendar sync-ups, screen sharing facility, etc.
  • Flexibility – The online work mode has provided a certain amount of flexibility to the employees to schedule meetings as per convenience that may extend beyond office hours.
  • Ease of working from home – Due to easy accessibility and connectivity, work from home has become easy to manage and control. The workforce has realized the convenience of working from home and hence takes accountability and communication with renewed vigour and understanding.

Being confined to homes has disadvantages too – 

  • Physical cues – Many physical or non-verbal cues that impart crucial information from the sender to the receiver are lost in virtual conversations, leading to a communication gap.
  • Infrastructure – Lack of proper infrastructure, connectivity, and internet issues caused lags in the communication process leading to information getting lost in the process.
  • Language barrier – One of the oldest and most often reported communication barriers is the language gap. In any office having age, gender, and ethnic diversity, the language barrier often becomes a hindrance in conversations. For example – Gen Z may skip the salutations in an official email or resort to an informal tone in official communication, which could be construed as rude or disrespecting to a Boomer. 
  • Limited communication – As against an offline work scenario, in a virtual work mode the interaction is limited to work, thus losing the human touch in an office environment.
  • Lack of employee contribution in the team meeting
  • Employees may lack the know-how of using the videoconferencing software or tools, thus rendering them frustrated and decreasing team productivity.

Remote working or online work setup has altered the communication process. Resilience and adaptability have propelled companies to adopt such virtual or hybrid work models and implement them successfully.

Managers faced difficulty in managing the workload in such models and worked hard to update their knowledge and skills that make managing and leading a team efficient and effective.

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